A former diplomat and a political analyst have criticised the Opposition’s support of Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas said yesterday he was taken aback by the Opposition’s position in the wake of ongoing tensions in Venezuela to remove controversial President Nicolas Maduro.
“I am very surprised and disappointed with the position of the Opposition Leader (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) and I do not think that this is in our best interest because just as we have taken sides, someone can interfere in our internal affairs and we won’t be able to open our mouths at that point,” Dumas told Sunday Newsday.
During her contribution in the Parliament on Friday to debate on a private members’ motion about the Prime Minister’s two-part Mind Your Business lecture, Persad-Bissessar described the Maduro administration as “dictatorial,” and said the Opposition supported interim president Guaido.
Persad-Bissessar also said a country’s foreign policy must be guided by the values and principles that were held there. She said the days of non-intervention in the global environment were gone.
However, Dumas said in openly supporting Guaido, Persad-Bissessar has departed from the traditional position of TT and Caricom, generally, of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of other countries.
“We have over the decades taken the position of non-intervention and non-interference in other people’s affairs. That is not a new position for TT. It was started by Eric Williams and it has been continued by successive governments,” he said.
“That has now been confirmed by the Caricom statement and they have reaffirmed their position of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states and since coordination of foreign policy is one of the main planks of Caricom, that statement has to be taken very seriously.”
Noting Caricom has agreed to mediate, Dumas said: “Therefore, the position of TT on non-intervention and non-interference is fully supported by Caricom. So, we can now say we have a Caricom position, not merely a TT position.”
Dumas said he supported Caricom’s position.
Asked if such a position was practical, given TT’s proximity to Venezuela, Dumas said: “It is because we are seven miles away from Venezuela that we have to be careful.
“That is why I have said that were I in a position to have any input into our foreign policy affairs, I would long ago have recommended that we send special envoys quietly to Washington and to Caracas to talk to not only Maduro but to the Opposition as well and to Washington to talk to the United States, not necessarily (Donald) Trump (President) but the administration to say what our position is - that we are not hostile to anybody.”
Dumas recalled Persad-Bissessar also flew in the face of Caricom in Jamaica when she made the ATM comment at her first Heads of Government summit after becoming TT’s first female prime minister in 2010.
Persad-Bissessar had warned regional governments that TT did not operate like “an ATM card,” saying the country was not prepared to fund the regional security budget.
Political scientist Derek Ramsamooj described Persad-Bissessar’s position to support Guaido as “myopic.”
“At best, it is a myopic position without a full understanding and appreciation of the consequences, not just to Venezuela but to Trinidad.”
He said the problem in Venezuela was much more complexed, “beyond individuals.
“And as such, a simplistic approach is not an appropriate statement by as political leader.”
Ramsamooj also supported the decision of Caricom, to stay away from the internal conflict in Venezuela.
He said: “TT, in most of its international relations practices, adhered to democratic processes of electing governments and sought non-interference in the internal political affairs.”
Ramsamooj recalled TT has practised non-interference in several regional territories, including Grenada, Guyana and Haiti.
He said: “The prime minister of TT (Dr Keith Rowley), in this instance, is indeed correct. TT, in the Caricom context, has taken a position of no-interference. But that does not mean they are not concerned about what is happening in Venezuela.
“What it indicates is there that is respect for a governance structure in Venezuela. And, it is imperative that this matter in Venezuela is resolved by the Venezuelan people using their Venezuelan institutions,” Ramsamooj added.