Jamaica explains OAS vote in support of Venezuela

Jamaica Observer

Jamaica has sought to explain the reasons behind its vote at the Organization of American States (OAS) earlier this week that resulted in the hemispheric body accepting the nomination of a candidate supported by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro as head of state in Venezuela.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, says the Andrew Holness Government supported Guaidó’s choice on Tuesday in his capacity as president of the National Assembly and not as Interim president.

She told the Senate that in a context where the Maduro administration had announced its intention to withdraw Venezuela’s membership from the OAS, a development that would take effect in short order, the National Assembly, which would normally participate in such decision-making under the Venezuelan Constitution, had expressed concern about the legitimacy of the authority of the declaration.

“The text, based on an amendment proposed by Jamaica, also made it clear that the acceptance of a representative would be temporary – lasting until new, free and fair elections are held in Venezuela, with the expectation that the duly, democratically elected Government would then appoint its permanent representative with the full endorsement of the National Assembly as provided for in the Constitution,” she added.

Jamaica, along with St Lucia, Haiti and The Bahamas, voted in support of the resolution, while Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, joined Venezuela in voting against the measure.

Barbados, Guyana, St Kitts- Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Belize was the only Caribbean Community (Caricom) country absent when the vote was taken.

The OAS Permanent Council is chaired by the United States, which is at the forefront of efforts to remove Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year, from power.

For the third time so far this year, the four Caricom countries have voted in favour of a resolution against Venezuela at the OAS. The four countries have supported the so-called Lima Group that is seeking Maduro’s removal and last month met with United States President Donald Trump on Venezuela.

The 15-member Caricom grouping, including St Lucia, Haiti, Jamaica and The Bahamas, in February adopted a united position on the Venezuelan matter and at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts-Nevis reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The regional countries said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

On Friday, the St Lucia government defended its decision with Foreign Affairs Minister, Sarah Flood Beaubrun, saying the island has been on the record stating that the National Assembly is the only democratic institution presently in Venezuela.

“While St Lucia continues to advocate for a peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-owned solution to the crisis that grips that country – a solution that includes dialogue and excludes the use of force, and one that includes the holding of free, transparent and credible elections – the government is concerned that the regime in Venezuela continues to stifle democracy.

“The recent effort to “disqualify” the president of the National Assembly from holding public office for 15 years – this without regard to due process – is an example cited of the lack of an open and transparent judicial process,” Beaubrun said.

“We should not be quiet to unconstitutional efforts to maintain an illegitimate grip on power – despite the loud clamouring of a country’s people and the international community for new and open elections. Importantly, the government is concerned that the people of Venezuela will be denied access to the protections of the Inter-American system, if that country is to depart the OAS,” she added.

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