WASHINGTON, District of Columbia March 21, 2019 (CMC) – United States President, Donald Trump, is to meet with a select group of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, as his administration, openly and strongly, supports Venezuela’s Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó, in the on-going crisis in the South American country.
The White House announced that President Trump will meet with the leaders of The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic, tomorrow, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The White House statement announced that “President Trump’s meeting with the Caribbean leaders will reaffirm our strong friendship with, and commitment to, these countries, and signal the importance of the Caribbean to the hemisphere.”
“The president will discuss his vision for our diverse relationships in the Caribbean and the potential opportunities for energy investment,” said the statement, adding that “The President looks forward to working with countries in the region to strengthen our security cooperation and counter China’s predatory economic practices.”
The White House statement added, “The President will use this meeting as an opportunity to thank these countries for their support for peace and democracy in Venezuela,” noting that the United States “remains a good friend to the Caribbean and seeks to build on a proud legacy as the region’s partner of choice”.
The exclusion of Guyana from the select group of Caribbean leaders meeting with President Trump on Friday, March 22 — a day after the expiration of the Constitutionally-mandated 90-day period, in which elections should have been held in Guyana, due to the successful passage of the No-confidence Motion — was noted in the South American republic.
Some Guyanese commentators, including media, are insinuatingly-wondering if the snub had anything to do with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s appeal to the international community to not recognise the government as legal, after March 21.
Guyana’s new-found prominence as a potential world-leading, oil-producing nation, should have, surely, qualified it to be a participant in a meeting with the US to discuss “the potential opportunities for energy investment”, some argued.
And, pointing to Guyana’s support, in January, of the US resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) to not recognize Venezuela President Maduro’s second five-year term, they pondered, why President Trump would not want to “thank” their country for its “support for peace and democracy in Venezuela”?
A leading Guyanese newspaper, The Guyana Times, approached Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, and asked him if the country was invited.
“I have not seen a letter… sometimes we hear things and we respond to it, but you don’t see the actual what you call the cargadge, that is the paper work that says this is so. I haven’t heard about it,” the newspaper quoted Harmon as replying.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis, last month, reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis, where Guaidó, with the support of Washington, is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term, earlier this year.
In late January, regional leaders met with the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.
CARICOM Chairman and St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris, led a delegation, which included his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Dr. Keith Rowley, and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley.
“We believe in the coming days, there will be work towards dialogue, so that the internal difficulties in Venezuela can be approached without intervention and interference from those who may have a different approach,” said Rowley in a statement then.
Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim leader of Venezuela, has also been recognised by several countries, including, Canada and some Latin American states, while Russia, China and Cuba remained supportive of President Maduro.
The Trump administration and its allies have accused Maduro of suppressing democratic rights in Venezuela and have called for his removal.
The 15-member CARICOM grouping has been divided on the Venezuela issue.
In January, Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, Guyana and St. Lucia supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognizing Maduro’s second five-year term, while Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname voted against the measure.
St. Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Belize abstained during the vote; while Grenada was not present.
But since then the regional leaders have adopted a united position on Venezuela reaffirming ‘their guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy.
“Heads of Government reiterated that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy,” they said in a statement.
However, political analysts here say Trump is using CARICOM leaders’ division on Venezuela to further drive a wedge among them on the issue, and will use Friday’s scheduled meeting as a subterfuge to further intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs.