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ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) — The Government of Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday hit back at former Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding, who described a statement by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on the political situation in Venezuela as “foolishness”.

In a statement, the Government said that Golding’s pronouncement “is poorly conceived and patently unwise”.

Golding, in an article published by the Jamaica Gleaner on Monday, said the positions adopted by Browne and St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves as it relates to the ongoing political situation in Venezuela, where opposition parties have been staging street protests in a bid to force the Nicolas Maduro Government out of office, were being advanced because Caracas had been good to the region.

“It can’t be support for Venezuela absolutely because they’ve been good to us,” The Gleaner quoted Golding as saying, adding, “Venezuela has been good to us, but the government of Venezuela has proceeded in a direction that we cannot condone.

“I think that this argument that is being advanced by Dr Ralph Gonsalves and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, about non-interference, is foolishness. And, I say it’s foolishness because the same argument could have been advanced for apartheid South Africa,” he told the newspaper.

The Antigua and Barbuda Government said the Organization of American States (OAS) has been struggling with the issue of Venezuela “as the opposition forces in that country mount daily protests with the object of ending President Maduro’s term prematurely.

“The opposition forces wish to have elections for President immediately called. The OAS Secretary General echoed that chorus, calling the Maduro regime nasty names simultaneously. That is not a role he should be playing, and Golding rightly concludes that he is compromised.”

It said that the 1948 Charter of the OAS, “seventy years old next year, speaks of “non-interference in the internal affairs of member-states,” precisely because the practice by the mightiest was to determine “regime change” at will, in this hemisphere.

“Those days have long ended; further, it is not lawful to utilize the OAS to force a duly elected President out of office.

“The attempt to liken Venezuela’s current internal crisis to the horrors of apartheid in South Africa is far from reasonable. The entire world stood opposed to legalized racism, and alienated South Africa in sports, international affairs, and finally with economic boycotts. The situation in Venezuela is largely a domestic quarrel with few implications for the outside world.”

The Antigua and Barbuda government said that if the lawfully-elected regime were to be ousted prematurely, “there is every likelihood that the uncertainty would give rise to sufficient instability to generate refugees; the other states in the Caribbean and South America would likely bear the brunt of that human movement. Former Prime Minister Golding has no stake in this outcome.

“The tendency for terrorists to fill-in any vacuum that arises, whenever political instability creates opportunities within vulnerable states, is not far-fetched in Venezuela’s case. This brother Caribbean/South American state possesses the largest oil reserves in the world, so that its natural resource is an attraction to many nefarious characters and groups.”

St John’s said that the claim by Golding that Venezuela’s generosity to several Caribbean states controls the decision-making of the Prime Ministers of St Vincent and Antigua, “is poorly conceived and shamelessly undignified in its public pronouncement.

“The diplomacy practiced by any state is a factor in its relations with its neighbours, but never the only consideration. Venezuela’s generosity is peripheral, and not vital in Antigua and Barbuda’s calculation.

“Instead, an abiding and fundamental principle, written into the law of nations, is at work here. Interference in the internal affairs of states is not permitted. Small states cannot allow the erosion of governing law, which is intended always to protect the vulnerable from the powerful. The Venezuelans are not asking for the OAS to intervene; therefore, the OAS cannot and ought not propose to intervene in that nation’s internal politics.”

The government said that the Inter-American Democratic Charter cannot be used as a whip to bring down a regime that certain countries deem to be unfriendly.

“The fifteen-year old Charter speaks to military coups and other hostile takeover of democratically-elected governments; it could never authorise the ousting of a duly elected President. Antigua and Barbuda stands on principle.”

In his latest communication to regional leaders ahead of the start of the OAS meeting in Cancun, Mexico on Monday where the Venezuela issue will be discussed during the three day gathering, Gonsalves reiterated an earlier position that the quest for a regime change in Venezuela could destabilize some CARICOM member states.

In his June 16th letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Gonsalves said “nefarious plans are afoot to sow deeds of division among CARICOM member states so as to undo the majestic Declaration of the CARICOM heads of State and Government of May 29, 2017.

“We in CARICOM must stand resolutely and unequivocally behind our Declaration. It is inconceivable to me as a matter of good governance for Ambassadors for whatever reason, toe seek an unpicking of our Declaration so as to accommodate those who seek only a fig leaf quasi-juridical endorsement at the OAS for thinly disguised imperial hegemonic or narrow self-serving purposes.”

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