Caribbean foreign ministers meeting for two days in Barbados from Thursday are to examine why countries did not vote as a bloc at the Organization of American States (OAS) to support or reject proddings from the United States for regime change in Venezuela and at least one prime minister has formally complained about the unusual breakdown of voting unity officials said this week.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves has written colleague leaders complaining about the extent to which “a small group of powerful nations” within the hemispheric body was able to manipulate Caribbean member countries and break up their usual voting as a bloc when they were asked to support or reject a vote for the permanent council to meet to discuss ongoing political and economic upheaval in Venezuela.
CARICOM officials have acknowledged receiving the complaint from Gonsalves.
He did not call any names but officials said that the United States, Canada and a few in Latin American which are unfriendly to Venezuela, were part of the efforts to ensure that the OAS ramped up efforts to push regime change in the South American nation.
Gonsalves said in his three-page letter that “a handful of powerful countries with an agenda of naked self interest has strategically invited select CARICOM countries to their meetings and ignored the others. In the result, they have succeeded in disuniting and weakening CARICOM countries whose only strength lies in our solidarity. This worrying development has been particularly manifest in matters relating to Venezuela.”
“We are all sufficiently seasoned political leaders to know that toppling a government will not end those conditions, particularly when there is no viable, electable single alternative to replace it.”
Colin Graderson, an assistant secretary general at bloc headquarters in Guyana confirmed that the issue will be discussed at the foreign ministers meeting in Barbados starting on Thursday as usual foreign policy coordination efforts broke down at the OAS this time.
“We always try as a body to coordinate our positions. That is usually the case but some of the countries in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States voted in their own way. Others voted for, some against, some abstained and one was absent,” Granderson said. CARICOM has 14 of the 34 votes at the OAS and is widely respected as a powerful bloc because it usually votes as a group.
Gonsalves also attacked Secretary General Luis Almagro calling him “a chosen and willing tool” of the rich and powerful in efforts to topple the Venezuelan government.
St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua , Grenada, St. Kitts and St. Lucia are all members of the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and usually side with things Venezuela.
Some members of this same group were reluctant to support fellow Caribbean bloc member Guyana when ExxonMobil said that it had found oil off the Guyana coast. Venezuela immediately claimed the area, sparking a rearguard effort from Barbados and Jamaica to pull the region in line behind Guyana as the smaller states were hinting at either supporting Venezuela or by giving lukewarm diplomatic support for Guyana.
The letter was dated May 10 and is just being released as foreign ministers gather.
Wrapping up his missive, Gonsalves said suggested that colleague leaders not “be ambushed into breaking our solidarity and aligning ourselves with fair-weather friends,” noting that these same countries are the ones which “lure our nations into supporting their agenda are the ones that are neglectful of our situation and who worsen them by their actions on matters such as the withdrawal of correspondent banking and branding our countries as money launderers, and drugs and firearms traffickers. When they have accomplished their objectives by breaking our solidarity through having some of us side with them, we will all be relegated to the margins of their concerns-only weaker than we were before.”