General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) Dr Luis Almargo is not concerned about the apparent split among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states over the crisis in Venezuela.
In fact, Almargo told Barbados TODAY the OAS valued CARICOM’s contribution so far, but said a lot more work had to be done to bring an end to the situation in Caracas.
Violence erupted in Venezuela earlier this year leaving at least 70 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, as the opposition there increased pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to call overdue elections.
Since then the Washington-based OAS has been engaged in a fight with the embattled Maduro, criticizing the administration for a lack of democracy and the need to free political prisoners.
In April, Barbados joined 18 other countries, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, St Lucia and Guyana, in approving a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the deteriorating political and economic situation in Venezuela.
However, during an OAS meeting in June to discuss the crisis, some countries voted against the declaration put forward by the OAS. It was reported that the declaration failed to get the support of two-thirds of the OAS countries present, as Caribbean nations, many of which depend on cheap oil from Caracas, put forward their own softer declaration.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has warned that a wedge was being driven through CARICOM over a plan for regime change in Venezuela.
In a letter to CARICOM leaders and heads of states, Gonsalves complained that the 15-member grouping was allowing a small group of powerful nations within the OAS to dilute CARICOM’s collective strength by dividing the regional states in a bid to overthrow the Venezuela government.
And CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque has made it clear that the regional bloc would not interfere in the sovereign affairs of the Latin American country.
Asked to address the seeming lack of cohesion among CARICOM states and the likely impact on the OAS agenda, Almargo said he did not see an issue.
“Different positions exist practically in every regional group. They exist in sub-regional groups . . . So it is quite natural that the same kind of difference reflects also in Caribbean countries, but it doesn’t affect their common purpose of working together in order to fix the situation. You don’t need to have a common political position. You need to have a purpose that is to fix the crisis in Venezuela and I think in that way the Caribbean countries have been very supportive of the process,” he said.
At the end of July the Maduro-led administration went ahead with its all-powerful national constituent assembly vote.
The OAS chief said the situation in Caracas had since worsened and he would be pressing ahead with plans to have the humanitarian crisis resolved as quickly as possible.
“So far the crisis has gone deeper. The situation is much worse and of course there should be answers from the Inter-American system and from every sub-regional organization that exist on the continent. We highly appreciate the work of CARICOM, the work of Caribbean countries, their offer to mediate and to facilitate dialogue in Venezuela. I think that was quite an important offer and we need to keep working. We need to overcome the Venezuelan denial and resolve the situation. We believe in a way of peace to achieve peace and a democratic way to achieve democracy in Venezuela,” Almargo said, adding that he did not have a timeframe for the situation to be resolved.
Almargo also told Barbados TODAY it was imperative that answers “based on the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”, were found to the situation in Venezuela.
“Basically what we talk about is the independence and autonomy of the different branches of government, the respect of fundamental freedoms, the respect of the political parties, to free the political prisoners . . . and of course support the country because of the humanitarian crisis they are facing. Those are the main issues that we need to address, that we need to resolve,” the OAS chief insisted.