The Cable

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on Tuesday said that while Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries must not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela, the regional bloc at the same time must not turn a blind eye to the situation in that South American country where opposition voices have been stifled.

Speaking with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) ahead of the 38th CARICOM Summit, Chastanet said he expects the Venezuela situation, where opposition supporters have been taking to the streets demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, to feature at the deliberations here.

“Look I think there's absolute consensus by CARICOM that there should be non-interference, but it is what is said afterwards. The fact is from a security perspective we are very concerned about the deterioration of things in Venezuela because it has impacted us from a security perspective. “We have seen an increase in the movement of arms, we have seen an increase in money laundering and just basic criminal activity,” Chastanet said, adding “I think we have to take an interest in what's happening”.

On Monday, CARICOM Secetary General Irwin La Rocque told a news conference that while the Venezuela issue is not on the agenda for the three-day summit being held on the outskirts of the capital, he expects some statement to follow the deliberations of the leaders.

LaRocque said “there are some basic principles that the community has elaborated and this principle still holds.

“All our member states subscribe to the statement issued by the COFCOPR (CARICOM foreign ministers) of non-interference, non-intervention in the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Venezuela.”

He said the policy “holds despite what you may have read about a particular text being considered at the OAS (Organisation of American States), those principles hold.

“I think we have to wait for the outcome of the meeting to see what statements come out of this meeting on Venezuela, if any,” he added.

“We have basic principles that we are united and that continues to inform our approach to dealing with Venezuela and whether or not the matter is discussed we have to wait and see what is the outcome of the meeting,” LaRocque said, adding that Maduro had not been invited to the summit, which will be chaired by Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has in the past written to his CARICOM colleagues urging them not to interfere in the internal affairs of the South American country.

Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica have all publicly added their voice to the call with Port of Spain going as far as calling for the removal of the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro claiming he had shown bias in his deliberations on the issue.

Chastanet told CMC that both the government and the opposition in Venezuela need to “get their stuff resolved because it is having a negative impact on this hemisphere.

“The question is what role can CARICOM play, if any in trying to resolve that matter and I am not sure that CARICOM by itself can resolve the problem that is taking place.

“Well I have to say to you from a St Lucian perspective that I will not support any interference but at the same time we must recognise that some of the things the government has done are wrong.

“So when you arrest the leaders of your opposition, when you have a Congress that's suspended those are not things which we can remain silent on,” Chastanet said, adding “the level of democracy has to be re-opened and the justification that the opposition is opposing you isn't sufficient to justify those decisions”.

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