While Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said that his administration is looking to impose a visa restriction on Venezuelans travelling to Saint Lucia amid what he believes are security threats due to political unrest in Venezuela, Saint Lucia’s Resident Venezuelan Ambassador, Leiff Escalona, has said that there has been no official communication from government on that matter.
Venezuela has been trying to resolve several months of political unrest and as a result, Chastanet has said that he has had some qualms about the possibility of an influx of drug trafficking, guns, and money laundering from Venezuela to St. Lucia.
Speaking to HTS News4orce, Escalona said there is only knowledge of what has been reported in the media and they have had no official communication from government on the matter. She said that she is unable to comment without official information.
“What we understand, [based on] what the media has reported, it might be an ongoing process between government institutions. We don’t have information. We have not received any official [communication] with details from any authorities of diplomatic status…” Escalona said.
She said that “as soon as we receive something we will submit the information to the proper authorities in Venezuela and then we will be able to comment on that issue”.
As to the possibility of an influx of crime from Venezuela to St. Lucia, the ambassador said: “Based on what we saw, we have not received evidence facts or documentation that could support the claim that there is a big influx of weapons, drugs or people coming from or through Venezuela. We don’t have evidence and any official communication on that matter.
“…This kind of problem is part of an international problem because geographically, [Venezuela] is a neighbour of Colombia and as you know, Colombia is a big producer of drugs in the world. And we know we are in the region… Veneuela – and all Caribbean countries are affected and for this reason it’s necessary to work together to establish an agreement,” she stated.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Chastanet told local reporters that he had asked the Ministry of Immigration to look at imposing a visa restriction on Venezuelans coming to St. Lucia.
Chastanet said: “I don’t think we should make it any easier than the logistics already have for Venezuelans to come here and I remain deeply concerned about the security threat to St. Lucia and to the region.”
Menawhile, MP for Laborie Alva Baptiste believes that such diplomatic matters need careful consideration and without an official communication from the Ministry of Immigration he was unable to comment fully on the matter.
“We are in a hemisphere along [with] countries in the Organization of American States. If you analyse the operations of the OAS, we have deliberately established that countries will not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. So when there is sibling rivalry, the rest of us, especially the Caricom countries, [we] believe that we should play a balancing role. We should not be in the alacrity or the orbit of what is happening in Venezuela with the readiness to impose sanctions, visa facilities etc. We need to take our time. Diplomacy… [should be] dealt with, with an abundance of caution and with patience,” Baptiste said.
He further stated: “We need to pursue the avenue of peace through peaceful endeavours… and no doubt in the absence of the recommendations of the Immigration Department I cannot give careful and sensible treatment to your question. We need to await that particular proposal so that we can dissect the anatomy of it and respond appropriately.”