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Caricom scolds OAS head over Guaido support

Organisation of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro talks to Venezuelan migrants at the Divina Providencia migrant shelter, in La Parada, Colombia on September 14, 2018. FILE PHOTO
Organisation of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro talks to Venezuelan migrants at the Divina Providencia migrant shelter, in La Parada, Colombia on September 14, 2018. FILE PHOTO

Caricom has written the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, chastising him about his “unilateral” stance in accepting Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

“(We write to you to) express our disapproval and grave concern with regard to the position that you, in your capacity as Secretary General, have adopted, by recognising the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido as interim president of (Venezuela). This action on your part, without the authority of the member states of the organisation, is considered inappropriate,” Caricom chairman and St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris said, in a letter dated January 31. The decision to send the sternly-worded missive was taken at an emergency Caricom Heads of Government meeting a week before, that had been convened to discuss the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela.

“The Heads of Government consider it imperative that you publicly clarify that you did not speak on behalf of all member states. We are aware this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the (OAS) without authority. This type of unilateral action by a head of an international organisation, whose membership comprises sovereign states, is a clear departure from normal practice and cause for great concern,” Caricom said.

Guaido has challenged incumbent President Nicolas Maduro’s power, declaring himself interim president of Venezuela, according to the constitution. Maduro’s presidency was illegitimate, he said, because the elections were not legal and fraudulent.

Almagro has given no indication, at least on the organisation’s social media profiles and website, that he has received the letter. Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dennis Moses, in a brief phone conversation with Sunday Newsday, said he was not aware if Almagro had responded, but acknowledged that the letter had only been recently dispatched – though that was not to say a response could not have been sent, just that he did not know.

This is not the first time the outspoken Almagro, a Uruguayan, has spoken out about the Maduro regime. In 2017, after Almagro denounced Maduro’s tenure, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was quick to respond with a “strong objection to the OAS leadership.”

Questioned about the letter yesterday while at the passing out parade of municipal police, Police Academy, St James, Communications and National Security Minister Stuart Young said Almagro needed to clarify his position that he came out “quite boldly and gave” when Guaido assumed the role of interim president.

“That needed to be clarified that that is not the position of the OAS and there was no consultation with members before that was articulated. This was quite stunning as an observer that a public servant would step so far out of his crease and his mandate to take the bold move that he did,” Young said.

He said the Caricom membership is leading the international conversation regarding Venezuela and “doing what is right as members of the OAS” by insisting that Almagro could not use his office in the way he had and needed to clarify that it was and individual position.

Caricom was also taking a leading role in brokering peaceful dialogue in Venezuela, he said, in light of the recent delegation to the United Nations, headed by Harris and including Rowley and Barbados PM Mia Mottley. That delegation will also be heading to Uruguay for multilateral talks with that country and Mexico, as well as representatives from various international organisations.

“We all believe at this time the best thing for the people of Venezuela for them to resolve their own internal affairs are for the parties to sit down and have dialogue so I think these countries and these bodies are calling for the parties in Venezuela to have dialogue and that’s as far as we can go. So, it’s just to get that going and put things in place and hopefully the parties will come around and have that dialogue,” he said.
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