On Thursday, while addressing the media during the post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley boldly stated that this country would not be voting during any matter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) until it removes a representative of Venezuela’s Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó.
At the time, his statement seemed harsh and was not quite understood.
Now comes a report that shows that all is not in fact well within the OAS and the Venezuela should not even have a representative sitting at the OAS table.
The report by Sir Ronald Sanders, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organisation of American States, states that the OAS is the handmaiden of powerful governments which control it through various methods, including coercion.
Saunders pointed out that Venezuela is not a member of the OAS, as its membership of the Organisation ended on April 27, 2019.
However, determined to exercise power over Venezuela, in April 2019, 18 governments – some willingly, others out of fear or by coercion – imposed Guaidó’ s agent as the representative of Venezuela at the Organization, by a bare majority vote.
The other 15 governments rejected this imposition, making clear that they would be bound by no declaration or resolution which is adopted by a majority that included the Guaidó agent. Further, they made it pellucid that no attention would be paid to anything he said in the Organization.
Saunders said the OAS is a house divided against itself. It is also financially bankrupt, in large part because, despite being regarded by a few member states and the secretary-general as the ‘government’ of Venezuela, Guaidó’ s group has not paid a cent of the $3.3 million in membership fees for 2019 and 2020. The recording of these monies as due from a country that is not a member of the Organization is another of the fallacies of the OAS.
Against this background, when Guaidó’s representative requested – on his own and with none of his patron governments – the placement on the agenda of the Permanent Council of a presentation by himself on “Venezuelan Migration and Its Recent Tragic Consequences”, the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda objected. The presumptuousness of the request to place any item on the agenda of the Permanent Council by an agent of one political party in a country, and the precedent it would set, had to be resisted.
Saunder said the agent’s intention was to escalate an attack on Trinidad and Tobago, launched by Guaidó on November 24, regarding the recent deaths of 16 Venezuelans who had left Venezuela illegally in a boat that appeared to have capsized. In a public statement Guaidó stated: “The cruel treatment to which they (Trinidad and Tobago) subject Venezuelans who have been forced to migrate as a result of the dictatorship is painful and inhuman”, and then he threatened, “Parliament will initiate an investigation and the world is watching the events in Trinidad and Tobago”.
Antigua and Barbuda told the Permanent Council that, apart from the fact that Venezuela is not a member of the OAS, “the purported representative of Venezuela is merely the spokesperson for only one of many political parties in Venezuela. Allowing the views and positions of only one political party to be expressed in any forum of the OAS is contrary to natural justice and democratic principles since it denies a similar opportunity to other political parties in Venezuela”. Despite the efforts of the chair to ignore a call for a vote on the matter, one was forced under the evident rules of the Organization.
In his presentation, Guaidó’s agent made baseless accusations against Trinidad and Tobago, claiming that “there have been abuses and mistreatment of Venezuelans in Trinidad” and demanding that “Trinidad and Tobago allow access to its territory and provide protection to people coming from Venezuela, observing due process and the principle of non-refoulement”.
Saunders noted that the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Philips-Spencer, made a dignified and robust response that did not recognize Guaidó’s agent, but rejected all his remarks. The ambassador was clear that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had stated that the incident in which Venezuelans had lost their lives had occurred “within Venezuela’s jurisdiction”. He pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago – a small island State – has compassionately taken the unprecedented step of officially registering and facilitating over 16,000 migrants from Venezuela to live and work in Trinidad and Tobago. This hospitality continues even as our economy faces significant challenges that have affected all of our own people.”
He further added that there should have been many shamed faces at the end of the ambassador’s response to the remarks by an agent with not one shred of authority to speak for the people and authorities of Venezuela.
Saunders said this event reflects a perverse OAS no one should want, and which ill-serves the people of the Americas.
Rowley has also in the past expressed displeasure with OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro, over statements he made on recent incidents involving Venezuelan migrants in relation to T&T.
Rowley said Almagro was a public servant and should not allow his personal opinion to become the position of the OAS.
“Today is Venezuela, tomorrow is T&T. We are a member, but we are not a sheep,” Rowley said.
The Prime Minister will soon sit as chairman of Caricom in January but said that he did not need the joint strength of the other regional members to stand against the current OAS leadership