Diplo­matic schizophre­nia

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE JA­MAICAN Gov­ern­ment must be acutely aware that the tor­rent of crit­i­cism it has re­ceived for what some ob­servers deem for­eign-pol­icy ag­gres­sion against the Maduro ad­min­is­tra­tion has been made worse by diplo­matic schizophre­nia.

Un­like oth­ers who be­lieve that Ja­maica’s long so­cio-po­lit­i­cal kin­ship and oil-based bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship with its South Amer­i­can ally shields it from dis­ap­proval, this news­pa­per un­der­stands the nu­ances of diplo­macy and the ten­u­ous bal­ance be­tween na­tional and in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ests.

Cara­cas has been in­dif­fer­ent, or worse, re­sis­tant, to its con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions to re­tool and up­grade the an­te­dilu­vian in­fra­struc­ture of Kingston’s Petrojam oil re­fin­ery in which Venezuela’s PDV Caribe has a 49 per cent stake. With Petrojam’s largest client, the Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­pany, on the cusp of mi­grat­ing from its ac­count be­cause of new sources of power, the re­fin­ery is in an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis.

Venezuela has been rocked by eco­nomic dis­as­ter and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro has sti­fled op­po­si­tion par­ties and wrested a sec­ond term amid do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion.

Time is not on Ja­maica’s side, but we would have pre­ferred that the for­eign min­istry had pressed for a speedy res­o­lu­tion through ex­ter­nal ar­bi­tra­tion. Es­ca­la­tion of the im­passe into di­rect con­fronta­tion might not bear fruit.

DISIN­GEN­U­OUS AND IN­DE­CI­SIVE

But the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to play hop­scotch be­tween the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of its diplo­matic ac­tions is as disin­gen­u­ous as it is in­de­ci­sive.

For we do not be­lieve that the Ja­maican Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to forcibly take pos­ses­sion of Venezuela’s stake in Petrojam, and the vote, at the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) on Thurs­day, chal­leng­ing the le­git­i­macy of the Maduro ad­min­is­tra­tion, are co­in­ci­den­tal or ex­clu­sive. In­deed, Kam­ina John­son Smith, Ja­maica’s chief en­voy, knows that for­eign-pol­icy ac­tions can­not be dis­missed as im­mis­ci­ble.

Mrs John­son Smith owes Ja­maicans the as­sur­ance that its de­fin­i­tive ac­tions against Venezuela last week are not ev­i­dence that it has di­vested its for­eign pol­icy to the United States, which has over­size in­flu­ence at the OAS, and that it has sur­ren­dered it­self as a diplo­matic pawn in Washington’s broader chess game.

Ratch­et­ing up the rhetoric on the United So­cial­ist Party regime, and alien­ation of Venezuela from its allies, has been viewed by po­lit­i­cal ob­servers as the pre­cur­sors to the United States’ endgame: in­va­sion and the ouster of the bom­bas­tic and in­creas­ingly un­pre­dictable Maduro.

It is the com­plex­ity of these is­sues that has, per­haps, caused the Ja­maican Gov­ern­ment to seem in­co­her­ent in its diplo­macy. For even while ex­co­ri­at­ing the Venezue­lans in that OAS vote last Thurs­day, the coun­try sent an emis­sary to at­tend the swear­ing-in of the il­le­git­i­mate Ni­colás Maduro! The Gov­ern­ment wants to eat its cake and have it.

Mrs John­son Smith should also tell Ja­maicans whether the con­tin­ued snub­bing of its buy­out of­fer, and a le­gal chal­lenge by the Venezue­lans to its takeover – by an il­le­git­i­mate and os­tracised gov­ern­ment, to boot – would trig­ger sterner con­se­quences. Will Ja­maica in­struct the Venezue­lan am­bas­sador to close his doors and go?

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