(SNO) – Human and gender rights advocate Felicia Dujon Browne is the latest public figure to speak out against the visa restrictions being imposed on Venezuelan nationals by the Allen Chastanet-led Government of Saint Lucia.
Browne expressed her support for Venezuela, which is experiencing severe economic hardships due to internal and external challenges, in a Facebook post on Friday, July 27.
She implied that Venezuela is largely considered an ally of Saint Lucia and noted that the government’s decision is “careless”.
“Invoking a visa restriction on Venezuela is one of the most careless decisions to have been undertaken,” she wrote.
“As members of OECS and CARICOM, we should have recognized the importance of our friendship with our Latin American brothers and sisters. Every country has its allies and foes for various reasons. We should choose carefully which allegiances we should foster or severe our ties with. When our friends are on their knees, we do not close the doors in their faces. With good governance, we should act with dignity, humility and good conscious,” she added.
Since the news broke about the visa restrictions, government has attempted to reach out to the South American country through a one-day diplomatic effort.
In a press release, it was announced that Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Hermangild Francis, was scheduled to lead a contingent to Venezuela on Friday, July 27, 2018 to “meet with the Minister of the Popular Power for the Interior, Justice and Peace Mr. Nestor Luis Reverol and the Director of the National Anti- Drug Organization Mr. Juan Grillo Gonzales”.
The press release said the Government of Saint Lucia visa requirements will be imposed on Venezuelans, with the exception of diplomats and genuine business persons, an action which was “precipitated by mounting national security concerns and the monitoring of unrelenting activities impacting the island’s porous borders”.
Minister Francis explained, according to the release, that the government has been “very thorough in relation to responding to some of the spin-off challenges emerging from the country’s current unfortunate economic circumstances”.
“Venezuela is still our friend,” Francis said. “We are not attempting to embarrass any nation, but suffice it to say that it is incumbent on the Government to take measures that will protect the country from security threats, and not compromise the security of our citizens or our borders. So this visit signifies that we are still friends and we will discuss mutual concerns and explore any solutions for going forward.”
Minister Francis called on the public in the press release to trust the government’s position, noting that it is not necessary to sensationalize this issue.
“This action is not unprecedented. It is not unprecedented that governments respond to their domestic concerns. We in Saint Lucia have visas imposed on us, and I speak of a country of less than 180,000 people,” he said.
The entourage for Venezuela included Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Dorian O’Brian, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia Leiff Esconlona, and representatives of the Office of the Mayor of Castries.
Minister Francis said he is looking forward to favourable talks, according to the press release.
Support for Browne’s opinion
The majority of the persons who responded to Browne’s post, agreed with her position.
John R. Lee called the decision, “Shameful and thankless move by the St. Lucian government.”
Augustin Francois expressed “I feel the shame”
Andre Pancho de Caires said “I concur.”
Victor Marquis Ingratitude found that the decision was unjust “, after the incredible number of things they have done for us”
Felicia Jules pointed out that “Many children have Spanish CXC by receiving free classes from Venezuela institute in St.Lucia”
And Smith Jn Philip said “I will support you 100percent ,,,,,,,brilliant words”
However, two people disagreed with Browne.
Keril Victor wrote: “Over 5 million people emigrated from Venezuela in the past 2-3 years during the economic collapse. We can help Venezuela but we must also protect our borders.”
Felicia Browne responded: “Protect our borders from whom? How many Venezuelans have migrated to our shores in the last 2-3 years. We need formal data to prove the claim that guns and crime are being perpetrated by Venezuelans. The erroneous statement from our Prime Minister is careless and irresponsible. This is a matter of Human Rights and denying people free movement based of presumed prejudice is unethical. Print the evidence to the claim that we have a migration problem with the peoples of Venezuela.”
Keril Victor bounced back, saying: “That’s precisely the point that we take such action before it happens. It’s a matter of national security. Yes, Saint Lucia owes Venezuela for their years of support whether through funding , projects , scholarships. But I’m saying we can still help Venezuela without exposing our vulnerable borders.”
The other person to have a differing view is “Aline Henry – chastenet”. She wrote: “st lucia has a right to protect its borders ,get a visa and come on over.”
Browne responded: “against whom? Who are the criminals? Is there any proof that we have a major crime problem with Venezuelans? It was a careless and baseless decision. It reminds me of what is currently happening in the US. We must never tolerate any form of injustice or intolerance to any group of persons. We are Saint Lucians first and foremost. It is not in our nature to behave in this manner.”