By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders met on Friday in Port of Spain for the 19th special meeting of heads of government on security. The overall goal was to foster mutual knowledge, analysis, debate and exchange of ideas related matters in attempts to better contribute to the security safety of member states at the regional level; implementing the regional security framework and the desire for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela.
Prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, chairman of the Security Council for CARICOM and Law Enforcement (CONSLE), hosted the one-day meeting.
A plethora of concerns were discussed included but was not limited to transnational crime, terrorism, cybercrime, narcotics and gun trafficking, trafficking in persons, intelligence cooperation between member states and the region’s capability to analyse, predict and respond proactively to organised criminal networks.
Prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris, who is the current chair of CARICOM noted that the meeting was taking place against the backdrop of “deep concern about the level of crime in the community and the need to strengthen cooperation in security”.
“There is no quick fix nor easy solutions, but we have a responsibility as leaders to provide a safe and secure environment for our citizens”, he said. “We have to address the root causes and other facilitating factors that create the conditions which foster anti-social behaviour.”
Harris called for closer collaboration among law enforcement agencies, including those tasked with border security on land and sea to deal with the “significant threats to security,” adding, “Illicit trafficking in guns, drugs and people pose significant threats to our security and enhanced cooperation is an urgent necessity to help in combatting them.” he said.
On the preventative aspects of crime and violence Harris said, “We require innovative and inventive social and economic programs to lure into a productive lifestyle those most enticed by the rewards of criminal activity. The legislative framework provides the authority and legitimacy through which those are charged with securing the Region’s people infrastructure act. These are as crucial as the physical resources or training that may be provided to combat the various threats.”
On the issue of cannabis regulation, the prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley stated the community had the benefit of the recommendations of the report produced by the CARICOM commission on marijuana. While each country would be dealing with the issue according to its own national realities, Mottley said there was a need for model legislation to guide the process.
Harris indicated that his country was moving forward with legislation on the issue and cited the Jamaican example as guiding the way forward.
In a CARICOM statement on the situation in Venezuela and on peaceful resolution, reiterated non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, prohibition of threat or use of force, respect for sovereignty, the constitutional framework, human rights and democracy and adherence to the rule of law.
“CARICOM remains firmly wedded to the view that the solution to the crisis in Venezuela should be a peaceful internal process that avoids the threat or use of force. The Community will continue to support diplomatic efforts such as the Montevideo Mechanism. We will also continue to be in contact with other interested parties to encourage efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the crisis.”
“Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said despite the differences on specific aspects of the political crisis in Venezuela, CARICOM’s guiding principles were supported by all member states.”
In January Saint Lucia voted with the US at the Organisation of American States (OAS) not to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In March, Chastanet was part of a select group of four CARICOM heads of government who met with US President Donald Trump, as an opportunity to thank these countries for their support of the US position on Venezuela, contrary to the official CARICOM position on the issue of non-interference.
On Tuesday, April 9, Saint Lucia was supported the Permanent Council of the OAS approved a resolution on the situation in Venezuela in which it resolved “to accept the appointment of Gustavo Tarré as the national assembly’s designated permanent representative, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government.”
Recently, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said, “We condemn all forms of violence and urge all parties to desist from those acts which aim to destabilize the Venezuelan society” and “remains steadfast in its commitment to the Montevideo Mechanism.
“Together with CARICOM, Mexico and Uruguay, we are hopeful that this ‘mechanism of hope’ will be afforded the time and space to assist Venezuela in crafting a political solution by Venezuelans for Venezuelans, within the confines of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines stands ready to assist constructively our beloved brothers and sisters in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to uphold the fundamental principles of respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, non-intervention, non-interference, respect for human rights and democracy as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
“Respect for these bedrock principles will ensure the continued viability of international law and create the “pathway to peace” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
Meanwhile in the US, on Friday, and despite last week’s failed military uprising against Maduro’s regime, Trump told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive for Venezuela. And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.”
Trump’s comments came hours after National Security Adviser, John Bolton blamed Russia and Cuba for keeping Maduro in power and days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed a finger at Russia for backing Maduro.
On Sunday, Pompeo said Maduro is only “ruling for the moment” adding, “Maduro can’t feel good about the security of his position.”