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CARICOM asks OAS Secretary-General to clarify ‘unilateral positon’

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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Heads of Government in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have called on the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General, His Excellency Luis Almagro Lemes, to publicly clarify his “unilateral” position on the present ongoing political imbroglio in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

In a Jan. 31 letter to Lemes, CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, outlined the position of the small regional bloc.

“Heads of Government mandated me as Chairman of the Conference to write to you,” Dr. Harris said in the letter. “to express our disapproval and grave concern with regard to the position that you, in your capacity as Secretary-General, has adopted, by recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This is not the first time that Secretary-General had taken such “unilateral” position. This action on your part, without the authority of the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), is considered inappropriate.”

The letter went on further to state: “The Heads of Government consider it imperative that you publicly clarify that you did not speak on behalf of all Member States of the Organization of American States. We are aware that this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the Organization without authority. This unilateral action by a Head of an International Organization, whose membership comprises sovereign States, is a clear departure from normal practice and cause for great concern.”

Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes is a Uruguayan lawyer, diplomatic and politician, who has been Secretary-General of the OAS since May 25, 2015. He is currently serving as the 10th Secretary-General of the OAS.

On Jan. 24 Heads of Government of CARICOM held a special Emergency Meeting to discuss the political crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The meeting was attended by Heads of Government of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Foreign Ministers of Grenada and Suriname.

During that meeting, it was decided that Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Harris, lead a delegation to the United Nations (UN) to have an audience with Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, which took place.

The CARICOM delegation to the UN led by Dr. Harris comprised the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Peter David, Foreign Minister of Grenada, His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General, as well as the Permanent Representatives of these countries. In “shuttle diplomacy” engagements, the delegation also met with President of the United Nations General Assembly, Her Excellency Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés and with the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of Nicaragua, Australia, Uruguay, Brazil and South Africa.

Following those diplomatic engagements, CARICOM issued a statement saying “The Prime Ministers, along with the entire delegation, reaffirmed the guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention. They called on states to refrain from threat or the use of force, and for respect for sovereignty and adherence to the rule of law. The Prime Ministers underlined that it is never too late for dialogue and posited that there was clearly an urgent need for contending parties in Venezuela to come together to find a peaceful solution. The Community restated its willingness to provide its good offices and to work with like minded countries to this end. In this regard, it welcomed the initiative of Mexico and Uruguay seeking to facilitate a dialogue among the parties.”

Since then, CARICOM Heads of Government held a second emergency meeting on Venezuela on Feb. 1, on the ongoing political entanglement in Venezuela via videoconference, which was chaired by Prime Minister Harris from Government Headquarters in Basseterre, St. Kitts.

On Feb. 7 Dr. Harris, will lead a delegation to an international conference in Uruguay, which will convene in the capital of Montevideo to further try and broker peaceful negotiations and find resolution of the political conflict in the oil-rich South American country, which borders Colombia, Guyana, and Brazil, and a stone’s throw away from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

35-year-old Opposition Leader, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim head of state and has called for fresh elections, claiming that President Nicolás Maduro Moros is illegitimate President of Venezuela because of alleged irregularities including vote rigging in the General Elections of 2018.

President Maduro was sworn in before the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) to begin a six-year term on Jan. 10, with delegations from 94 countries in attendance. Since his inauguration, there have been mass demonstrations in the country led by Guaidó and Maduro. Countries including the US, France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and several Latin American countries have thrown their support behind Guaidó. Other countries including China, Russia and Cuba have remained steadfast with President Maduro.

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