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St. Lucia seeks to defend vote at OAS on Venezuela


St. Lucia seeks to defend vote at OAS on Venezuela

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CASTRIES,– The St. Lucia government Friday defended its decision at the Organization of American States (OAS) to vote to accept the nomination of a candidate supported by the Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro as head of state in the South American country.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Sarah Flood Beaubrun, in a statement confirmed that St. Lucia had joined with Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas in “accepting the appointment of Mr. Gustavo Tarre as the National Assembly of Venezuela’s designated permanent representative to the Organization of American States” pending fresh elections and the appointment of a democratically-elected government.

“St. Lucia has been on the record stating that the National Assembly is the only democratic institution presently in Venezuela.

“While St. Lucia continues to advocate for a peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-owned solution to the crisis that grips that country – a solution that includes dialogue and excludes the use of force, and one that includes the holding of free, transparent and credible elections – the government is concerned that the regime in Venezuela continues to stifle democracy.

“The recent effort to “disqualify” the President of the National Assembly from holding public office for 15 years – this without regard to due process – is an example cited of the lack of an open and transparent judicial process,” Beaubrun said.

“We should not be quiet to unconstitutional efforts to maintain an illegitimate grip on power – despite the loud clamouring of a country’s people and the international community for new and open elections. Importantly, the government is concerned that the people of Venezuela will be denied the access to the protections of the Inter-American system, if that country is to depart the OAS,” she added.

Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, joined Venezuela in voting against the measure, while Barbados, Guyana, St. Kitts- Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Belize was the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country absent when the vote was taken on Tuesday.

The OAS Permanent Council is chaired by the United States, which is at the forefront of efforts to remove Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year, from power.

For the third time so far this year, the four CARICOM countries have voted in favour of a resolution against Venezuela at the OAS. The four countries have supported the so-called Lima Group that is seeking Maduro’s removal and last month met with United States President Donald Trump on Venezuela.

The 15-member CARICOM grouping, including St. Lucia, Haiti, Jamaica and The Bahamas, in February adopted a united position on the Venezuelan matter and at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The regional countries said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

In her statement, Flood-Beaubrun said while the St. Lucia government’s position “is that there must always be an openness to dialogue, we lament that the regime in Caracas has chosen to ignore all serious efforts at outreach, including those by the Caribbean.

“There is particular concern at the increase of external actors being welcomed into the region’s zone of peace,” she said, noting that the OAS vote “highlights that taking a stance in support of the people of Venezuela is important and inaction is not an option for St. Lucia within international fora.

“St. Lucia’s recent vote at the OAS carries the message that St. Lucia will not be complicit in efforts by regimes to keep their people repressed,” she added.