Caricom's call on countries to respect the sovereignty of Venezuela shows they are tactfully supporting the right of President Nicolas Maduro to remain in office until the country's crisis is sorted out.
This was how former director of UWI Institute of International Relations Prof Andy Knight summed up Thursday's statement by Caricom Heads of Government, following a video conference meeting to discuss the latest developments in Venezuela.
Sitting in the conference were Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Lucia St Vincent and the Grenadines and T&T's Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
It was felt by Caricom that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy.
The heads also called on external forces to refrain from doing anything to escalate an already explosive situation which could have far-reaching negative consequences for the wider region.
Weighing in on the issue, Knight said Caricom should have been more proactive a long time ago in offering its good offices to mediate between Maduro and Juan Guaido who declared himself as president on Wednesday.
“But the situation has now gone beyond simply an internal rivalry of two ideologically opposed political parties in Venezuela to a full-blown crisis that has become a geopolitical issue.
“It is the massive suffering of the people in that country and the spillover of the problem into the rest of the Caribbean that is concerning for Caricom.”
He said he was happy to see that the leaders have gotten their act together and impose a sensible strategy to deal with such a grave political crisis.
While the heads have affirmed article 2(7) of the UN Charter which calls for non-interference in internal affairs of any country, Knight said, "This is a not too subtle aim at the US, Russia and China and other extra-regional powers to essentially butt out of the situation and not make it worse than it is.”
He said Caricom's call on countries to respect the sovereignty of Venezuela "implies that Caricom, while not choosing sides, is tactfully supporting the right of Maduro to remain in office until this mess is sorted out”.
Caricom noted that chairman of the conference Dr Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis would seek an urgent meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General to request the UN’s assistance in resolving the issue.
Knight said it was easy for extra-regional powers to jump on Guaido’s bandwagon.
“But the reality is Maduro is still President and has command and support of the military and millions of Venezuelans as well. So Caricom has done what I think is sensible.”
He said trying to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict was critical.
“It’s easy for countries like the US and Canada to offer support for Guaido. But in essence, he is more legitimate than Maduro as leader of the country. Those extra-regional powers are only helping to destabilise Venezuela more and create a geostrategic crisis that will have a negative impact on countries in the Caribbean," Knight said.
Activist: It's a slap in the face
Venezuela activist Sofia Figueroa-Leon viewed Caricom's stance as a slap in the face for Venezuelans who are suffering.
"Their response has given us no satisfaction. It's a slap in the face for Venezuelans," she said.