FORMER foreign affairs minister Dr Surujrattan Ramabachan on Wednesday said TT should have played a greater role in de-escalating the crisis in Venezuela.
Rambachan said historically, Venezuela had shown itself to be amenable to discussions. He recalled during his ministerial tenure that TT provided a venue for Venezuelan and Guyanese negotiators to discuss border issues. While a Caricom delegation met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on Monday to discuss a peaceful resolution to the crisis, Rambachan said Caricom was too slow and that move was too late.
Rambachan said the situation had been allowed to escalate to the position where some countries were taking hardline positions about the crisis. He said some of these countries were interpreting the Venezuelan constituion in different ways. Rambachan warned the conditions for civil strife or a Cold War scenario were very real in Venezuela. Saying that creates an unpredictable situation for TT, Rambachan said one effect of that could be an increased number of Venezuelans seeking refuge in TT.
He said Government did not have a clear policy to deal with refugees or economic migrants. Rambachan was concerned that Government was operating in "a loose structure" when it came to dealing with any category of asylum seekers. While Dr Rowley and National Security Minister Stuart Young have said TT has adopted a non-intervention stance on Venezuela, Rambachan questioned whether that was so. He said it was important for the situation in Venezuela to be de-escalated to the benefit of all parties. Rambachan claimed TT might be trying to do so in favour of one side.
He did not believe that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was afraid to move against Venezuelan National Assembly president Juan Guaido. Rambachan said reports that Guaido's assets had been frozen and that he could not leave Venezuela were evidence of this. He said the role of the Venezuelan military in that developing situation remained unclear. Rambachan hoped they would not be used against the Venezuelan people. On Tuesday, former foreign affairs minister Ralph Maraj said Maduro could not remain in power if he lost the military's support.
He said the best thing would be for Maduro to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible. Rambachan defended the Opposition Leader's support for Guaido. He said as a constitutional lawyer, Kamla Persad-Bissessar would have carefully studied the law before making such a statement. Rambachan said Persad-Bissessar demonstrated "courageous leadership" by taking her position.
In a BBC report, Maduro dismissed calls for fresh presidential elections. But he said he was open to early parliamentary elections as "a good political discussion." Maduro said people calling for new presidential elections would have to wait until 2025, when those elections were due. There were no media reports of increased numbers of Venezuelans fleeing the country