In his recent article, Will CARICOM Survive the Jamaica Summit, Earl Bousquet, in referring to the OAS upcoming elections stated “that VOTES ALWAYS MATTER!” From my experience as the Barbados Ambassador to the US and the OAS, I learned in dealing with the US Congress that one should never bother to speak with a Senator or Congressman unless you somehow can show that whatever you wish to accomplish can also directly or indirectly assist the Senator/Congressman to raise money and/or gain votes for his personal interest. It is similar to Sparrow’s No Money, No Love calypso. However, our politicians in the Caribbean are probably no different.
For seven and a half years I sat at the Permanent Council (PC) of the OAS and saw on numerous occasions that whenever Venezuela had an item that they wanted to resolve by a vote count at the PC that Maduro and/or his Foreign Minister would call CARICOM PMs or the Foreign Ministers to request their support. Invariably, all of CARICOM members (with the exception of Barbados who decided on the issue and not on the country involved) condescended to vote with Venezuela. Often many CARICOM Ambassadors would privately tell me that they wished they could vote differently, but that they received instructions from their Capital. There is no doubt that Venezuela applied pressure on CARICOM countries in the same way as big countries like US, China and Russia do in other ways. Many CARICOM members no doubt felt obliged to support Venezuela because of the very attractive oil deal they got with Petro Caribe. This oil supply deal would have bought this automatic support.
Errol Barrow once said that he would not join a club if he could not afford the annual subscriptions. Venezuela obviously has a different perspective because during my tenure at the PC of the OAS, Venezuela never paid their annual quota. Furthermore, they never contributed to the OAS office in Caracas. On the other hand, Venezuela took up more time at deliberations in the PC than any other country, and they still have the right to vote! In many institutions a member is not entitled to vote if they are not paying their fair share. At the OAS the policy is one country, one vote. While this is beneficial to CARICOM, it must be a bit difficult to swallow if you are the US that contributes about 60 per cent of the annual quotas. No wonder powerful countries prefer bilateral negotiations over multilateral ones.
CARICOM firmly believes in no military intervention in affairs of nations and seeks solutions through dialogue. This is very commendable, but in life sometimes a situation requires an exception. We have a dilemma in that Juan Guiado is not the elected leader of Venezuela, and we also should not be seen supporting the corrupt dictatorship of Maduro. If we have to choose, we should choose the people of Venezuela. Closing the Barbados Embassy in Venezuela would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, it could lead to us establishing an Embassy in Panama which offers us superior prospects.
Mr Bousquet mentioned that the US, UK and Canada will be lobbying CARICOM at the Heads meeting this week in Barbados.
The UK will be lobbying support for the early resignation of former UK Attorney General, Baroness Scotland as SG of The Commonwealth. My only comment is that had CARICOM supported Sir Ron Sanders, this problem would not have occurred.
Canada will be seeking full backing from CARICOM for their bid to serve on the UN Security Council in 2021 and 2022. It is expected that Canada will be successful in gaining CARICOM support.
The US will be seeking reassurance of Caribbean support for the US-backed OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s re-election. The backing of Luis Almagro is linked to his strong views against the corrupt dictatorship of President Maduro and the associated human rights abuse as well as the obliteration of the economy and the exodus of over 4.5 million Venezuelan refugees.
In the final analysis, the African saying that “when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers”, is very appropriate for CARICOM/US relations. Surely we must be aware that the US cannot and will not tolerate the recent inroads being made by Russia in Venezuela and in particular by China. Such a power struggle could work to CARICOM’s advantage provided good judgment is used!
John Beale is a former Barbados Ambassador to the US and the OAS and a financial consultant to the OAS.