By Nelson A. King / CMC
WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump is to meet with a select group of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders as his administration openly and strongly supports Venezuela’s Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó in the on-going crisis in the South American country.
The White House announced that President Trump will meet with the leaders of The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic on Friday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The White House statement that Trump will reaffirm Washington’s “strong friendship with and commitment to these countries, and signal the importance of the Caribbean to the hemisphere.
“The president will discuss his vision for our diverse relationships in the Caribbean and the potential opportunities for energy investment,” said the statement, adding that Trump and the Caribbean leaders will also discuss Chinese economic intervention in the region and the extant political and economic crisis in Venezuela.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis last month reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis where Guaidó with the support of Washington is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year.
In late January, regional leaders met with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.
CARICOM chairman and St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris, led a delegation, which included his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Dr. Keith Rowley and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
“We believe in the coming days there will be work towards dialogue, so that the internal difficulties in Venezuela can be approached without intervention and interference from those who may have a different approach,” said Rowley in a statement then.
Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim leader of Venezuela, has also been recognised by several countries, including, Canada and some Latin American states, while Russia, China and Cuba remained supportive of President Maduro.
The Trump administration and its allies have accused Maduro of suppressing democratic rights in Venezuela and have called for his removal.
The 15-member CARICOM grouping has been divided on the Venezuela issue.
In January, Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, Guyana and St. Lucia supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognizing Maduro’s second five-year term , while Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname voted against the measure.
St. Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Belize abstained during the vote; while Grenada was not present.
But since then the regional leaders have adopted a united position on Venezuela reaffirming ‘their guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy.
“Heads of Government reiterated that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy,” they said in a statement.
However, political analysts here say Trump is using CARICOM leaders’ division on Venezuela to further drive a wedge among them on the issue, and will use Friday’s scheduled meeting as a subterfuge to further intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs. – CMC