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OUR CARIBBEAN: Venezuela crisis – Caricom challenge

Rickey Singh, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: Venezuela crisis – Caricom challenge

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OUR CARICOM governments have managed to do well in maintaining their public silence in the face of the spreading crisis involving refugees from Syria and other Middle East states seeking asylum in Europe.

After all, our Community governments have practised the art of dodging any moral responsibility – with some exceptions to Cuba and Jamaica? – in reaching out to the so-called “boat people”, from Haiti in particular, in earlier years.

Currently, however, the  hour of challenge for hard, practical collective decisions seems to have arrived for the 14 independent member states of the Community to face up to the harsh reality that we may soon be faced with very challenging social and economic problems.

We may first have to cope with the urgent needs of Venezuelans fleeing their homeland, which is in a survival crisis, in addition to keeping watch on the continuing race-based discrimination and other indignities that continue to confront Haitians in the Dominican Republic – a country with observer status in CARICOM.

Amid the deafening silence and disturbing failure by President Barack Obama’s administration to offer any publicly known goodwill gesture to help influence a dignified resolution  to the prolonged political confrontation between the government and parliamentary opposition, in Caracas, Venezuela’s spreading crisis now threatens to spawn a refugee problem with serious implications for some member states in CARICOM.

Given geographical proximity and cultural factors, Trinidad and Tobago seems destined to be Venezuelan “refugees” first option of choice. But comparatively stable, tourism economy-based Barbados and even Jamaica and Caracas’ next-door neighbour, Guyana, could also be affected by a sudden rush of Venezuelans.

Informed watchers of this spiralling crisis would be aware that whatever the mix of today’s political, social and economic challenges, are located within the parliamentary opposition’s original refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the re-elected government of President  Nicolas Maduro.

The Obama administration cannot  plead ignorance to this fact. Nor for that matter, the governments of our Caribbean Community and the much wider and stronger Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Creative initiative

Alas, like CARICOM governments, those of CELAC are yet to come forward with any creative initiative for a resolution of the current political crisis in Venezuela.

Surely it cannot be beyond the collective initiatives of our comparatively small Community and the better placed – economically and politically – wider 33-member CELAC to co-operate in rising to the challenges for a resolution to the widening crisis in Venezuela.

For example, CARICOM could ask CELAC to assume a goodwill role in promoting an end to the prevailing political confrontation between the elected government and parliamentary opposition parties in Caracas.

After all, they are our neighbours and fellow citizens with a proud, admirable political and cultural history who have been quite economically helpful and friendly with the people of CARICOM and the wider region.    

• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.