‘Fool­ish­ness!’ Golding slams Gon­salves over Venezuela cri­sis

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

JA­MAICA’S DE­CI­SION to par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions at the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) – whose gen­eral as­sem­bly starts to­day – over the Venezuela sit­u­a­tion is “cor­rect”, for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Bruce Golding has said, as he chides op­pos­ing CARICOM lead­ers for their “fool­ish” po­si­tion. “It can’t be sup­port for Venezuela ab­so­lutely be­cause they’ve been good to us,” Golding told The Gleaner. “Venezuela has been good to us, but the gov­ern­ment of Venezuela has pro­ceeded in a di­rec­tion that we can­not con­done.” “I think that this ar­gu­ment that is be­ing ad­vanced by Dr Ralph Gon­salves (prime min­is­ter of St Vincent and the Gre­nadines) and the prime min­is­ter of An­tigua and Bar­buda, Gas­ton Browne, about non-in­ter­fer­ence, is fool­ish­ness. And, I say it’s fool­ish­ness be­cause the same ar­gu­ment could have been ad­vanced for apartheid South Africa – ‘Why are you in­ter­fer­ing in our do­mes­tic af­fairs?’ And, we (Ja­maica) jolly well had to in­ter­fere.”

Dozens of peo­ple have died in re­cent months in vi­o­lence re­lated to anti-gov­ern­ment protests in Venezuela that is bat­tling deep­en­ing eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. A re­call ref­er­en­dum for Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro, as well as elec­tions for state gov­er­nors in 2016, sus­pended.

The sit­u­a­tion wors­ened in March when the Supreme Court, though tem­po­rar­ily, stripped the Par­lia­ment of its pow­ers and trans­ferred that au­thor­ity to the court.

Maduro has al­leged that the

United States has been try­ing to desta­bilise the so­cial­ist coun­try since the death of Hugo Chavéz, whom he re­placed.

The OAS, a group­ing of 35 in­de­pen­dent coun­tries of the Americas, in­clud­ing Venezuela, has been work­ing on an ap­proach to re­spond to the sit­u­a­tion, but per­ceived US in­flu­ence over the or­gan­i­sa­tion has proved un­set­tling for Maduro and seem­ingly for some CARICOM mem­bers.

In May, CARICOM’s se­cret strife over the ap­proach to Venezuela spilled over into the pub­lic do­main when Gon­salves warned, in a let­ter to The

Gleaner, of a “di­vide-and-rule tac­tic” be­ing used at the OAS by an undis­closed “hand­ful of pow­er­ful coun­tries with an agenda of naked in­ter­est” to achieve regime change.

Hol­ness hit back, say­ing Ja­maica’s view of things “is some­what dif­fer­ent”, adding that the OAS was the “ap­pro­pri­ate fo­rum” when mem­ber states do not ad­here to “the es­sen­tial el­e­ments of democ­racy”.

Bruce Golding says Hol­ness is right. “I think that CARICOM was ide­ally placed to be the me­di­a­tor. But, that pos­si­bil­ity does not ex­ist given the sharply con­flict­ing po­si­tions that have been taken within CARICOM.

Mean­while, Golding said he sup­ports Trinidad and Tobago Prime Min­is­ter Dr Keith Row­ley’s call for OAS Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Luis Al­ma­gro to be re­moved. “I think he has com­pro­mised him­self and he’s in dan­ger now of com­pris­ing the OAS.”

Writ­ing in The Gleaner, as well as The New York Times in March, Al­ma­gro threat­ened Venezuela with sus­pen­sion if a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was not called. He said then that “Pres­i­dent Maduro’s gov­ern­ment is an in­ef­fi­cient and cor­rupt” au­thor­i­tar­ian regime.

State­ments like those, the for­mer Ja­maican prime min­is­ter said, are work­ing against the ef­forts to help re­solve the Venezue­lan cri­sis. Venezuela has served no­tice it will be with­draw­ing from the OAS.

“He (Al­ma­gro) can­not lead or co­or­di­nate the OAS’s in­ter­ven­tion in the mat­ter,” Golding said. “He has acted im­prop­erly, where he has taken a very hos­tile po­si­tion [to­wards] Venezuela. I be­lieve the OAS Coun­cil of Min­is­ters should call him and say, ‘Look, you can’t carry this ball and, there­fore, let’s look at the terms of your con­tract and see how we can re­place you’.”

“That is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary,” he in­sisted.

GON­SALVES GOLDING

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