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Caribbean academic condemns Jamaica’s vote at OAS on Venezuela


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Professor Rupert Lewis

(CMC) – A prominent Caribbean academic says Jamaica should have abstained from this week’s Organization of American States (OAS) vote to not recognise the legitimacy of the second term of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries remain divided on the political situation in Venezuela with the Bahamas, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and St. Lucia supporting the OAS resolution on Thursday not recognising the legitimacy of Maduro’s second term, 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 earlier this week, while Grenada was not present when the matter was put to the vote.

In the resolution, the OAS urged all member states and permanent observers to the hemispheric body to adopt, “in accordance with international law and their national legislation, diplomatic, political, economic and financial measures that they consider appropriate, to contribute to the prompt restoration of the democratic order of Venezuela”.

The OAS is calling “for new Presidential elections with all necessary guarantees of a free, fair, transparent, and legitimate process to be held at an early date attended by international observers”.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted the island “stands ready to lend any support that may be deemed helpful and that could facilitate renewed dialogue to alleviate the serious challenges facing Venezuela”.

But speaking on RJR’s Hotline programme, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Government at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Rupert Lewis, said Kingston should have abstained from the OAS vote, adding that it would not have been a cowardice move.

“Jamaica has not been told how it arrives from a situation where it has not had anything to say about the election of Maduro; CARICOM said it was free and fair with problem and then you arrive at a position where you are taking the majority of issues.

“I can understand the economic aspect, but I can’t understand the separation of the economic aspect from the political position which the government has not taken,” he told radio listeners.

Professor Lewis said that Jamaica is aligning itself with the ideology of the United States because it is still in a difficult fiscal situation.

“From the end of December 2017, I saw the drift of the Jamaican government – by and large faced with a Trump administration, faced with Nikki Haley’s ultimatum to people that we’re watching how you vote,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lisa Hanna, said she was disappointed that Jamaica voted in favour of the OAS resolution.

“It’s not surprising, but it’s extremely disappointing because of our enviable foreign policy approaches to take decisions on principle, one; and how we have been respected in the world in terms of our non-aligned approaches to sovereign states and our humanitarian approaches to bring mediation, especially to countries in this kind of situation,” she said.

Hanna said she was also disappointed because Prime Minister Andrew Holness could not “bring reason to this situation” and “bring CARICOM to the table to say, well, let us see how best to deal with this”.

The opposition spokesman said further that the position adopted by Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson that the decision was not political, but purely economic, has been exposed to not necessarily be true.

She said Jamaica benefited economically from Venezuela through PetroCaribe and it sends a wrong signal to the international community when it does not support its partners in times of trouble.

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