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Commentary: Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler: A bumpy road to Cancun!
Published on June 13, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Earl Bousquet

No Caribbean ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) put a middle finger up when it came to voting at the controversial May 31, 2017, Washington meeting of its members’ foreign affairs ministers, hastily summoned by the US and a few allies to discuss ‘The Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’.

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Earl Bousquet is Editor-at-Large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of the regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler
Such a show would have been very undiplomatic. But it wasn’t necessary, as those who had hoped that day would have been the beginning of the end for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his administration surely got the message that times have changed – and are still changing – at the OAS.

Fortunately for the annoyed coup-plotters, time is on their side. They have 18 days to craft a new plot, until the OAS General Assembly (summit of heads of government) set for June 19-21 in Cancun, Mexico.

The new plan involved a multi-pronged attack combining aggressive interventionist diplomacy with threats of political, economic and commercial action, alongside activation of a military exercise clearly aimed at Venezuela.

Using its usual high-handed ‘carrot and stick’ and ‘divide and rule’ tactics, Washington busily went to work in the Caribbean – and on all fronts.

Specially Targeted

Given their role in thwarting the anti-Venezuela diplomatic offensive at the recalled Washington meeting, Caribbean nations considered more vulnerable to external diktat were especially targeted, while others preaching respect for sovereignty, independence and non-interference were sidelined.

First, the Trump White House revived an old dividing ploy that earlier failed under the Obama administration.

In late 2015, US Vice President Joe Biden openly invited a dozen English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states to ditch participation in the PetroCaribe initiative and switch their energy reliance to US natural gas.

Less than two years later, ahead of the May 31 vote, Washington proposed that Caribbean governments support a ‘Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Democratic Governance Act’ that offers “support for Caribbean countries” through "US initiatives to advance Caribbean energy independence.”

But, like they told Biden in 2015, the CARICOM states told Washington: “Thanks, but no thanks!”

The Caribbean also rejected Washington’s invitation to oppose the National Constituent Assembly proposed by President Maduro, instead calling for "establishment of concrete plans for the restoration of peace and stability, as soon as possible, in Venezuela.”

Tentacles

The US-led plot against Venezuela continued immediately after the May 31 interruption -- and is definitely being pursues through many tentacles.

Immediately after the foreign ministers’ meeting, four former Central American presidents criticized the Caribbean for not backing the US against Venezuela. But their own human rights records in office have disqualified each from today using outright lies, half-truths and distortions to criticize Maduro.

Other planks used since the Caribbean thwarted the interventionist plot included direct targeting certain states, particularly Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Guyana, which borders Venezuela – and shares a related century-old territorial dispute – has been identified by Washington for a major role in Washington’s plot against Caracas.

Exxon-Mobil, with Rex Tillerson as chief executive officer (CEO), had entered into an agreement to explore and drill for oil in the disputed Essequibo region.

This deal reopened access to the substantial certified oil reserves that the company had lost when Hugo Chavez nationalized the Orinoco Belt a decade ago.

With Tillerson now US Secretary of State and Washington positively considering sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry – including cutting necessary oil imports – Guyana is targeted to be a strategic future replacement supplier.

Trinidad and Tobago is a major Caribbean oil producer which, like Venezuela, has seen hard times resulting from the sustained low world market prices.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was one of three CARICOM leaders who openly called for OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to be replaced on account of his unashamed and unrepentant attacks on President Maduro.

Rowley was also targeted for talks on ‘regional security’ matters and a week after his call for Almagro’s dismissal, he was quoted in the local press as saying the Caribbean “has to do something about Venezuela”.

But that was not all: Trinidad and Tobago would also be included in the US plot to militarily threaten Venezuela.

Military Exercise

An annual Caribbean military exercise, led by the US military’s Southern Command and with Barbados playing the leading Caribbean role, was also interestingly timed to take place ahead of the Cancun OAS summit – again with Venezuela in mind.

Started in 1984 following the October 25, 1983, US invasion of Grenada, the ‘Tradewinds’ military exercise involves CARICOM security forces, but always starts in Barbados – from where the Grenada invasion was launched and coordinated.

This year’s exercise noticeably also involves Trinidad and Tobago, which shares the Gulf of Paria and other territorial waters with neighbouring Venezuela.

Chile Revisited

And then there’s Jamaica, whose Prime Minister Andrew Holness, while in opposition, opposed Jamaica joining the PetroCaribe agreement that provides Venezuela oil and other petroleum products to 12 Caribbean states at very preferential prices and with a 25-year repayment grace period.

Jamaica’s oldest and most widely read daily newspaper, the right-wing Daily Gleaner, was roped into the anti-Venezuela plot in manners that today revive memories of the CIA-led plot that led to the coup against Chile’s President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper was the daily source of CIA-planted ‘news’ items that targeted Allende’s progressive socialist policies and supported the right wing protests organized and financed by the Nixon administration, which had vowed to “make the (Chilean) economy scream.”

Three years after President Allende was overthrown and killed, the Gleaner featured in the same way as El Mercurio in the 1976 CIA plot to destabilize the ‘Democratic Socialist’ administration led by Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Today, the Gleaner has been up to its old role, featuring editorials and right wing comments attacking St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves for his incessant warnings against and exposure of the politics of exclusion being pursued in the Caribbean against Venezuela by Washington and its allies within the OAS.

Trump Card…

Given that the bells tolled against Washington in Washington on May 31, what then to expect next in the Caribbean from the anti-Venezuela lobby?

Cancun will be the next last-ditch attempt by the plotters -- and they will pull all the stops.

The road to Cancun will be bumpy.

But as was seen in Washington on May 31, it is not impossible to chart a path to victory when the majority reject the minority policy of ‘might is right’ and stand by the principle of non-interference by external forces in the internal affairs of sovereign states.

The Caribbean did well on the last day of May to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the former British colonies have come of age and can stand up even to the mightiest powers when convinced that their cause is right.

The American Goliath is not at all happy that smaller Caribbean nations collectively poked their finger in its eyes. It will therefore come out with its entire armoury in Cancun to reverse the Caribbean tide of solidarity by dividing to rule.

Once again, it will be up to the Caribbean – this time through its leaders – once more to demonstrate that, as independent and sovereign nations, they will not be dictated to or forced to take unwilling positions by yet another US administration.

CARICOM, in particular, will have to tell Washington, once more, that it will not allow itself, collectively or individually, to be used as a trump card in this American government’s game plan against Venezuela.
 
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