The decision by the Jamaican government not to recognise the legitimacy of the presidency of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, has not gone down well with the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP).
At the same time, the PetroCaribe agreement is potentially in trouble as Maduro has warned the 19 members of the Organisation of the American States (OAS) that voted on Thursday not to recognise his presidency, that there will be consequences.
Responding to the development on Friday, PNP spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Lisa Hanna, said Jamaica’s vote has departed from the traditional principles on which the nation has relied for decades.
Hanna charged that the move has brought the country’s image in the international community into disgrace.
“Jamaica has always stood firm on principles in forging its international diplomatic relationships. Central to these principles has been a commitment to non-interference in the internal affairs of all nations and the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Hanna said in a statement.
She added that: “As a consequence, Jamaica has been able to build a wide ranging set of relationships and alliances which among other things has made us a central player in the movement of non-aligned states. We are friends of many and the enemy of none.”
Hanna argued that throughout the country’s history, Jamaica, as an independent country, has maintained wide ranging relationships with diverse countries with differing political systems, ideologies and electoral arrangements.
She stressed that the maintenance of these relationships has never meant validation of the particular policies or internal political arrangements of the various states with whom we have relations, she added.
“Jamaica has always shown assertive, courageous and enlightened leadership in our foreign policy and diplomacy. As a result, we have developed an enviable reputation of courage and activism in the international arena. Our consistent approach in taking decisions on the basis of principle has served us well, earning Jamaica respect in matters of foreign diplomacy. Our views have been highly sought by our allies,” Hanna stated.
Hanna said it was noteworthy that in various periods of natural disasters, the Venezuelans have come to the assistance of the Jamaican people. As such, she said the PNP believes they deserve to be treated with respect and honour.
“This is certainly not the way to treat the people or government that has been a hemispheric partner for Jamaica through Petro Caribe, the debt buy-back, through periods of national disaster,” Hanna said.
She also pointed out that the position of the PNP is that disputes between countries and different political factions should be resolved through peaceful means.
On Thursday Jamaica joined 18 other members of the OAS, in voting not to recognise Maduro following presidential elections that were boycotted by the opposition.
The resolution was passed in Washington minutes after Maduro was sworn in for a second term in Caracas, Venezuela. It called for new presidential elections with all necessary guarantees of a free, fair, transparent, and legitimate process, to be held at an early date, attended by international observers.
The resolution was approved with 19 votes in favour, six against, and eight abstentions, with one member absent.
However, the resolution also noted that the OAS Permanent Council and the Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers remained ready to engage in diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, aimed at promoting dialogue in Venezuela, with a view to arriving at a political solution to the crisis in that country.
Fernando Simas Magalhaes, ambassador and permanent representative of Brazil to the OAS, was critical of member states that abstained or voted against the resolution.
“This union cannot remain submissive before a country that today suffers the consequences of a brutal dictatorship. Those that [remain silent] before the regime of Nicolas Maduro or that abstain are an obstruction to the work of the organisation,” Magalhaes stated at the end of the meeting.
But Venezuela’s Ambassador Samuel Moncada called the measure “a hostile act … against the will of our nation”.
Jamaica’s decision on Thursday not to recognise the Maduro regime, means that for the second time in two days, Kingston has taken, or signalled an intent to take a major stance against a once close ally.
The United States called Saturday for Venezuela to begin an “orderly transition” to a new government, days after Nicolas Maduro was sworn in to a disputed second term as president. The US vowed to use “the full weight of US economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Venezuela’s government under President Nicolas Maduro “illegitimate” as Washington steps up its call for an “orderly transition” to a new government.
The State Department’s deputy spokesman Robert Palladino also weighed in calling for “the orderly transition to a new government”.
“The people of Venezuela deserve to live in freedom in a democratic society governed by the rule of law,” Palladino said.
On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith announced that the Jamaican government would be moving to enact legislation that would allow it to take ownership of the 49 per cent stake in Petrojam that is held by Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA, through PDV Caribe.
Johnson Smith said the move was to safeguard Jamaica’s energy sector, especially since Venezuela had not upheld its end of a more than 12-year-old agreement to upgrade the Petrojam oil refinery.
However, the parliamentary opposition said it was not in favour of what it described as a “hostile takeover” of the shares.
The Opposition stated that the Petro Caribe Fund provided by the Government of Venezuela represented the largest loan with the best financial terms in Jamaica’s independent history.
“At a one per cent interest rate, the Venezuelan government provided Jamaica more the US$3 billion. The Venezuelan Government went even further and accepted a US$1.5 billion settlement of our debt in July 2015, which not only reduced our debt to GDP ratio significantly but also helped to improve our international financial standing in aggregate terms,” it said.
That agreement now appears uncertain as an infuriated Maduro has given countries who sided with the resolution 48 hours to reverse their position or face consequences.
At a press conference, an angry Maduro slammed the “interventionist and rude policy” of the so-called Lima Group and vowed to “defend the national interests”.
He warned his Government would “take the most immediate and crude diplomatic measures” should those governments fail to change their position on Caracas “within 48 hours”.
Maduro accused the bloc of paying lip service to the United States and was particularly angered by the Lima Group’s support for Guyana, one of its members, in a territorial dispute with Venezuela.
In a statement on Thursday, Johnson Smith said: “The Government of Jamaica, in supporting the resolution, acknowledges that the fundamental values and principles, including the maintenance of the rule of law, respect for human rights, and democracy, as well as non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, remain pertinent considerations … like the several countries represented here. For us, our interest has always been, and continues to be, that of the well-being of the people of Venezuela. Jamaica stands ready to lend any support that may be deemed helpful and that could facilitate renewed dialogue to alleviate the serious challenges facing Venezuela. Jamaica continues to support those principles.”
By: Claude Mills