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CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jan 29, CMC – Former foreign affairs minister Alva Baptiste has criticised the St. Lucia government’s position on Venezuela, saying the island had associated itself with the Lima Group that has no benefits for the island.
Speaking in parliament during the debate on the motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, the Baptiste said the government had long signalled its opposition to the Nicolas Maduro government when it imposed visa requirements on people from the South American country.
Baptiste said that earlier this month St. Lucia voted at the Organisation of American States (OAS) not to recognise Maduro “but the prime minister continues to accept President Maduro’s diplomatic representative here as legitimate”.
But Chastanet refuted the claim that Castries had voted against Maduro at the OAS, telling legislators “the vote at the OAS was not to recognise the legitimacy of the elections”.
“At no point has St. Lucia signed on to any document that said we do not recognise President Maduro as the president,” Chastanet added.
The 15-member CARICOM grouping has remained divided on the issue, and earlier this month, Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas, Guyana and St. Lucia supported a resolution at the OAS in not recognising the second five-year term of Maduro, 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.
Baptiste said that it was also hypocritical that Castries had accepted Maduro’s representative here, while announcing “that St. Lucia is respecting the principle of non-interference in a country’s internal affairs”.
He said Chastanet was now joining with CARICOM in calling for mediation “and a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Venezuela”.
The United States is leading a number of western and Latin American countries in recognising the Venezuelan Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó, who last Wednesday declared himself the interim leader of the South American country.
But Russia, China and Cuba are among countries that are supporting President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office earlier this month for a second consecutive term as head of state.
Washington and its allies have accused Maduro of suppressing democratic rights in the country and have called for his removal. Caracas has broken off diplomatic relations with Washington and Maduro has accused the powerful North American country of engineering a coup to remove him from office.
Baptiste said that Chastanet had helped create the crisis in Venezuela “by joining the Lima Group”.
Baptiste said the prime minister should refrain from making St. Lucia a pappyshow, asking how Chastanet could be so “inconsistent, contradictory in this matter”.
He said the OAS Charter makes it clear that no state or group has the right to intervene “directly or indirectly for any reason whatsoever in the internal affairs of any other state”.
“St. Lucia should never be part or be a member of the renegade mongoose gang like the Lima Group,” he told legislators.
The Lima Group consists of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru,