Threat of a lockdown in Venezuela this weekend has forced journalists from Barbados and five other Caribbean countries to return home early from what was a fact-finding mission of sorts in the Spanish-speaking nation.
The group arrived in Caracas on Wednesday and were due to leave tomorrow.
However, Barbados TODAY understands that due to pending protest action that could be a tipping point for the country, as well as the possibility that there will be no flights in or out of the country, the journalists from St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago were whisked away following a lunch meeting today.
The trip had been organized by the Venezuelan Embassy to help the media workers ascertain the facts regarding the situation in the South American country, where President Nicolás Maduro has been under increased pressure from the United States to step down since opposition leader Juan Guaidó last month declared himself interim leader.
During a press briefing today, officials said the socialist government acknowledged the country was faced with economic and political challenges but insisted that those problems have been caused by US sanctions and other pressure from Washington.
They also alleged that the international media has not been fair in reporting on the issues facing the country, insisting that the challenges are not as severe as being stated.
Against that background, Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister for the Caribbean, Raúl Licausi lauded Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries for not intervening in Caracas’ affairs.
While expressing grave concern about the situation in Venezuela, CARICOM leaders have insisted on peaceful resolution, while maintaining a principle of non-interference and non-intervention.
Speaking with the journalists at the Foreign Ministry’s office yesterday, Licausi said the stance taken by the 15-member regional bloc was an example of “respect for the rule of law and respect for international law”.
“So we want to keep encouraging and to keep applauding this initiative that the chairman of CARICOM and all the leaders of CARICOM – with the exception, sadly, of our brothers
from Haiti and Bahamas – are working [on] to bring dialogue and to solve this equation,” he said.
“CARICOM is today an example of respect and shows the path of how to solve crisis. So a lot of respect to your leaders; we are completely grateful.”
Stressing that that stance had nothing to do with the various agreements Caracas has with some regional countries, Licausi gave the assurance that any existing deals are “still a reality” despite the uncertainties facing Venezuela.
He also said he was confident things would not escalate to the point where Venezuela would need to defend itself from any military or other intrusion.
The senior official also sought to put to rest fears that there would be an influx of Venezuelans into the Caribbean as a result of the crisis in their homeland.
Licausi said while he was aware of the situation in Trinidad and Tobago where an increased number of Venezuelans have travelled in recent times, he said that was not unusual as many people visited there to shop but then returned home.
He also alleged that many Venezuelans were being trafficked or promised a better life in the twin-island republic “but when they get there that is not the reality”.
“These are problems that our countries have to work on government to government,” he said.
As for the Eastern Caribbean islands, Licausi contended that the cost of living there was simple too “expensive for us” and that discouraged Venezuelans from heading that far north.
He suggested that the wider Caribbean would only have to worry if there was a deepened humanitarian crisis.
“Of course, if something happens in Venezuela – an invasion, a war, something that puts Venezuela at crisis –, yes, the Caribbean should be worried because then you would be seeing . . . people going abroad and doing whatever they can to get there,” he said. “This is not the problem today. We have an economic problem and we have economic migration and this is the same economic migration that the Caribbean has had for many years.”