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Saturday 23 March 2019
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Rowley heads to peace talks

Uruguay meeting on Venezuela

Venezuelans show their support for Juan Guaido as interim president during a rally at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE
Venezuelans show their support for Juan Guaido as interim president during a rally at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE

Caricom is once again set to take part in multilateral discussions aimed at finding a peaceful solution to political tensions in Venezuela. The same delegation, headed by Caricom chairman and St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, and including Barbados PM Mia Mottley and TT PM Dr Keith Rowley, will head to Uruguay on Thursday to take part in multilateral talks with that country and Mexico in the hope of being able to broker dialogue between embattled incumbent Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his challenger, the leader of the National Assembly and self-declared interim president of the country, Juan Guaido.

Guaido has gained the support and recognition of most Western countries, including the United States (US) and most South American nations, including Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Maduro, meanwhile, has secured the support of China and Russia.

This Caricom team is the same delegation that went last week to the UN to ask for assistance in mitigating any fallout.

The regional leaders were reportedly invited to the meeting, to be held in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, late Thursday, and called an emergency Heads of Government meeting on Friday, which Rowley and Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses attended via video call.

“The governments of Mexico and Uruguay have called for the conference with representatives from the main countries and international organisations that hold a neutral position towards Venezuela. The purpose of the conference is to lay the foundation for establishing a new mechanism for dialogue that, with the inclusion of all Venezuelan forces, will contribute to restoring stability and peace in that country,” the Office of the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Mexico, Uruguay and Caricom have all maintained a neutral stance since the Guaido’s proclamation, which many, including Guaido himself, have suggested implicitly supports Maduro.

The success of these talks, then, remains to be seen, since Guaido has said, in a letter to both the Mexican and Uruguayan leaders, that he declined to attend any meeting that promotes anything other than free and fair election in Venezuela. Anything else, he said, will only serve to prolong the suffering of millions of Venezuelans. He also had strong words for those who remained neutral in the current impasse.

“In this historic moment that (Venezuela) is going through, being neutral means being on the side of a regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, to hunger, to exile, and even to death, to side with a few who have sequestered power for their own benefit, and who have proved themselves capable of persecuting , torture and even murder to maintain those privileges,” Guaido said in his letter.

He has also reached out to Venezuela’s main debt holders, China and Russia, offering an olive branch to talk about the best way to move forward for Venezuela.

Maduro, for his part, in a video recorded and posted to his official social media pages, directly addressed the US, imploring them to avoid another Viet-Nam war in Venezuela. He also accused Western media of perpetuating a fake news narrative intent to justify a “coup d’etat in Venezuela that has been set, financed and actively supported by (US President) Donald Trump.” The US on Wednesday sanctioned Venezuela state oil company, PDVSA’s nearly US$18 billion in assets, effectively starving the Maduro regime of income.

Last Monday, Maduro also said he would be open to mediation “in TT or wherever” and said he spoke at length to the Caricom delegation that had gone to the UN, which was later confirmed by Rowley at a press conference on Wednesday.

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