By Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, Jamaica’s leader of government business in the upper house, has reiterated Jamaica’s support of any significant stride towards a diplomatic resolution to the current economic, social and political emergency in Venezuela.
Jamaica has come under criticism within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) since meeting with US President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Largo in March with several Caribbean leaders. The Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia were the only Caribbean countries to attend Trump’s meeting.
Trump promised that a high-level delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets, would visit their nations in the next 90 days.
Encouraged by prospects of promoting a stronger relationship with the region, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, “The message from this meeting is that the United States wants to encourage and promote stronger relationship with the region. It’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk that there will be real investments.”
Addressing the Senate during its April 12 sitting, Johnson-Smith declared that Jamaica nevertheless stands ready to take part in the pursuit for a workable diplomatic solution to the crisis in Venezuela and that Venezuelans deserve no less.
Johnson-Smith said that the issues relating to Venezuela are “highly complex and sensitive.” She added that Jamaica’s observation and primary concern is that Venezuelans are calling for an immediate end to their suffering and that all efforts must be made to resolve the situation peacefully and to put Venezuela back on a path to political and socio-economic stability.
Notwithstanding having to temporarily close the Jamaican embassy in Caracas, due to an “unsustainable situation,” Johnson-Smith, who is also Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, added that Jamaica continues to uphold its policy of maintaining cordial relations and engagement with Venezuela.
Johnson-Smith reiterated that Jamaica had not broken diplomatic relations with Caracas; also adding that Jamaica has consistently emphasised its readiness to play whatever role possible in supporting Venezuela and Venezuelans during these challenging times.
According to Johnson-Smith, as part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) efforts to bridge a divide, CARICOM foreign ministers recently met with Juan Guaidó, and two of his representatives. Guaidó spoke on his ultimate goal of having new elections at an early date and also explained his positions on the humanitarian crisis, and the social and economic situation in Venezuela.
Johnson-Smith stated, “As a community, we have sought to find consensus where possible. The heads of State and government of our community have clearly demonstrated that they are united in the view that respect for certain fundamental values and principles are paramount in addressing the grave situation in Venezuela.”
Shifting the focus to engagement within the Organization of American States (OAS) on matters concerning Venezuela, Johnson-Smith noted that Jamaica continues to respect the OAS, as an essential hemispheric forum out of which possible solutions can materialise.
Johnson-Smith declared that the OAS’ resolutions of June 2018 and January 2019 concluded that “the May 2018 electoral process in Venezuela lacked legitimacy for failure to allow participation by all political actors and to comply with internationally recognised democratic standards, including the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and inclusive process.”
She explained that the resolutions also highlighted Jamaica’s desire to see the urgent entry of humanitarian aid and implementation of epidemiological surveillance measures in Venezuela to prevent the exacerbation of the humanitarian and public health crises.
In an effort to treat with a looming gap in representation before the OAS, due to President Nicolas Maduro’s administration declaring a plan to shortly withdraw Venezuela’s membership, another resolution on the country was put before the OAS membership on April 9.
Johnson-Smith noted that the OAS voted to accept a representative, designated by Guaidó in his capacity as president of the national assembly and not as interim president of Venezuela.
She clarified that 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.
Johnson-Smith also emphasised that Guaidó has “sought to invoke particular constitutional authority to assume the position [of Venezuela’s interim president].” However, Jamaica is not among any of the 54 countries that have accepted Guaidó’s authority as interim president of Venezuela.
She emphasised even further that the Jamaican government has not recognised Guaidó as interim president and that this is without prejudice to Jamaica’s acknowledgement of Guaidó’s role as the duly elected president of the national assembly.