Editorial

Resolving the Venezuelan crisis

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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THE deepening crisis in Venezuela has divided Caricom, Latin America, the Western Hemisphere and the world.

Even the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is a development institution supposedly immune to politics, has been drawn in by deciding to allow a delegation representing Mr Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, to attend its annual meeting scheduled to be held in China.

The Government of China, which supports disputed President Nicholas Maduro, refused to grant visas and the IDB cancelled its annual meeting in China, a new date and place to be decided.

Two approaches to how the crisis in Venezuela should be resolved have emerged — a bilateral and a multilateral. Many governments have adopted the bilateral approach, some supporting President Maduro and others recognising Opposition Leader Guaido.

There are two variants of the bilateral approach. First, there are those countries which believe that Mr Maduro should be forced to step down and are willing to pressure him to do so by escalating sanctions.

The United States has taken the lead in this approach and is seeking to build a regional, hemispheric and international coalition in support of this approach. The latest effort in this regard was the invitation of five Caribbean countries to meet with President Donald Trump and Mr John Bolton in Miami last Friday.

The meeting attended by the Caribbean leaders, including Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is an indication of the division in Caricom, with Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda frowning on it.

Second, there should be some negotiated way forward — preferably among the internal players, Mr Maduro and Mr Guaido, but possibly with outside mediation and involving new elections. The question is, who would be acceptable to both Messrs Maduro and Guaido?

The Organization of American States (OAS) would be the logical institution, but its secretary general is no longer seen by several governments as impartial and its membership is split about the appropriate role of the OAS in handling the situation.

Those advocating the multinational approach are arguing that given that this issue has split the international community, the only suitable forum would be the United Nations. Indeed, such a process was started in the United Nations after a US resolution was vetoed by China and Russia. Caricom's official position is in support of this approach.

Caricom has formulated a joint policy on resolving the political situation in Venezuela which has focused on promoting and supporting a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The last meeting of the regional heads of government stated:

“The Community maintains that the solution must come from among the Venezuelan people, and abides by the internationally recognised and accepted 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.”

At this stage, who caused the crisis and who is right or who is wrong must not stand in the way of a solution. This will have to involve the international community, and therefore the appropriate institution is the United Nations.


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