Venezuelans in Barbados stage a peaceful protest at Accra Beach against the situation in their homeland. (Picture by Reco Moore)
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SILENCE IS GOLDEN.
This approach has come to be used by many people, including those in leadership positions, who believe that in some circumstances saying nothing is preferable to speaking.
Of course, there are people who take this proverbial saying too seriously.
However, the situation which has developed in Venezuela requires all our political leaders in Barbados – Government, Opposition, newcomers and rights activists – to speak to the issue.
There is an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty across Venezuela that cannot and must not be covered up in rhetoric from a few progressives who claim that imperialist forces and capitalist media are trying to overthrow the socialist democratic representatives of the masses – the Maduro administration.
The rising death toll on the streets of Caracas and elsewhere across our Spanish-speaking neighbour is a matter of grave concern. The clashes between the people and the security forces are not good and the face-off between pro-Maduro supporters and those opposed to him only creates more problems.
This is why the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party need to address this matter by letting the public know where they stand. The businessman’s party, Solutions Barbados, should use the situation to show that it is not just about the bottom line, but understands and has an interest in hemispheric events beyond mere trade deals.
The United Progressive Party should use the volatile situation in Venezuela to speak to issues beyond education and finance to let the Barbadian public know that it understands the interlocking relationship between domestic priorities and foreign policy.
Of course the Citizens Action Partnership and the Barbados Integrity Movement should both also join in this discussion on Venezuela.
But perhaps the loudest voice of reason should come from David Comissiong, a long-time supporter of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela once led by the late Hugo Chavez and now by Nicolas Maduro. After all Comissiong and some other Barbadian pan-Africanists and political activists have been staunch defenders of the administration in Caracas.
Cuban ambassador Francisco Pena (left) and Venezuelan charge d’affaires Francisco Perez (right) listening to Barbadian activist and ardent supporter of Venezuela’s government, David Comissiong during a press conference.
No one can deny things in oil-rich Venezuela have gotten out of hand. The economy is in trouble and inflation is out of control, with estimates suggest will reach 720.5 per cent this year.
Demonstrations are taking place on a daily basis, some of which have turned deadly with at least 28 people being killed in political unrest during April. All the while the opposition is demanding fresh elections, the release of jailed activists and autonomy for the opposition-led congress.
What really has Venezuelans at home and abroad uneasy is the shortage of basic food items and the deterioration of the public health system which has seen hospitals being crippled because of a severe lack of medicine and equipment.
As with politics everywhere, many people are as distrustful of the alternative political force as they are of the authorities. In Venezuela it’s the Democratic Unity Roundtables, a coalition of centrists, centre-left, left-wing and centre-right parties.
This collection has not only been affected by internal power struggles and ideological and policy disagreements, but also represents some of the old guard the majority of people no longer want as their political leaders.
Riot police fire tear gas during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela April 10, 2017. (Reuters)
This situation highlights why there must be some noise on the situation locally, but more importantly from across the Caribbean.
Yes, Venezuela has extended an economic lifeline to many Caribbean nations through its Petrocaribe oil deal. Understandably many of our CARICOM partners which have been beneficiaries will not want to offend Maduro and his administration.
But Caribbean political leaders have a greater responsibility and it is not to let down the people of Venezuela who count on their support.
Speaking out on the issue and taking a stand based on decency and what is right can send a strong message to the Maduro government.
Yes, there is that other proverb which states that empty vessels make the most noise.
Undeniably there is truth in this saying as well, as is evident almost every day.
In the case of Venezuela and the Venezuelan people, we want leaders across the Caribbean to make some noise in support of a worthwhile cause.