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(SNO) – Government’s decision to impose visa restriction on Venezuelans is not politically motivated.
So said Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to reporters on Wednesday, insisting that the visa impositions were “strictly on a security basis” and something the Venezuelan government understands.
The prime minister said that he has met with Venezuelan authorities in Venezuela and the consensus was that both sides will continue to work to strengthen each other’s borders.
“My primary responsibility is the safety of the citizens of Saint Lucia. I have no difficulties with the government of Venezuela,” Chastanet said.
In making a case for his government’s decision to impose visa restrictions on Venezuelans, Chastanet said Venezuelans have been involved in the shipment of arms and drugs in Saint Lucia and throughout the Caribbean.
The reason for that, he said, is the Venezuelan economy, which is suffering.
“People wanting to leave are using these items (guns and drugs) to generate cash. We have limited resources to dedicate to our border control. So by putting restrictions on Venezuelans allows us the ability to have greater amounts of control,” Chastanet said.
He further explained that such restrictions give Saint Lucia greater leverage to expedite a Venezuelan who runs afoul of the law.
“Currently Venezuelans coming here do not need visas. If in fact we find a Venezuelan who is suspicious of anything we do not have the ability of extraditing him (them). But if in fact we know they are on a visa, and we have concerns, then it gives us greater leverage to expedite them,” Chastanet said.
The main Opposition Saint Lucia Lucia Labour Party (SLP) said it views the imposition of visa facilities on Venezuelan nationals and the simultaneous granting of visa free access to Chinese nationals, with suspicion and that this scenario presents a disturbing dichotomy.
“The prime minister’s rationale for imposing visa facilities on Venezuelan nationals is seriously flawed. Mr. Chastanet argues that it was for security reasons. He insinuated that the 60 homicides in 2017 as well as most of the guns coming into Saint Lucia had to do with the mass movement of the said nationals towards the Caribbean. The fact is, we do not have a problem with Venezuelan nationals at our ports of entry. Hence the imposition of visa facilities on Venezuelan nationals has nothing to do with the security interests of Saint Lucia and Saint Lucians,” said Alva Baptiste, first deputy leader of the SLP.
According to Baptiste, the prime minister needs to clarify this allegation as he seems clueless on issues of national security, and that it was this seeming deplorable ignorance, which led him to further state that no coast guard boats were operational when he came into office in 2011.
“The truth is, all except two boats were operational. The only two boats that were inoperative at the time were PO4 and PO6, which remain so to this day. Consequently, the Opposition dismisses Mr. Allen Chastanet’s comments on the aforementioned national security issues as mere propaganda. The Saint Lucia Labour Party would like to make it abundantly clear, that it rejects the arbitrary withdrawal of this privilege to our long-time friend and ally, and upon our return to office, we will immediately restore the mutual respect and friendship with Venezuela by reinstating the previous visa protocol. The SLP also condemns, in the strongest possible terms, assassination attempts on democratically elected leaders in our hemisphere or any other part of the world,” Baptiste said.