2 factions meet this week on next step for Venezuela
byRenuka Singh5 hours agoSun Feb 03 2019
President Nicolas Maduro greet supporters as they arrive at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Maduro called the rally to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the late President Hugo Chavez’s rise to power. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Political pressure continues to mount on ousted Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as two distinct factions are expected to meet in the coming days to determine the next step for Venezuela. The political and economic collapse of the country is occupying headlines across the globe, dividing nations and leaving the Caricom countries as the only group maintaining its neutrality.
Today some 14 Latin American nations that support Opposition Leader Juan Guaido are expected to hold an emergency meeting in Ottawa, Canada, to plan ways to help him take over governance of Venezuela. Representatives from Brazil and Colombia are supposed to attend this meeting. When Guaido spoke to supporters at a rally in Caracas, he laid out a plan to have shipments of food and medicine imported from those two countries to deal with the massive shortages at Venezuelan markets.
This meeting comes just days before Caricom is set to have its own meeting on the same issue.
It was previously reported that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, chairman of Caricom Dr Timothy Harris, are expected to attend a meeting at Montevideo, Uruguay.
However, Guardian Media learned that Caricom is not part of the International Contact Group on Venezuela and will not be attending the high-profile Thursday talks in Uruguay’s capital.
Sources at the Caricom Secretariat told Guardian Media that the Caricom talks with Mexico take place on Wednesday and the agendas are quite different.
“The meeting with the European Union is to set an agenda for elections in Venezuela and the other with Caricom and Mexico is to initiate dialogue among Venezuelans,” the insider said.
The insider also confirmed that Norway and Switzerland would also be party to the Caricom talks as they too practice neutrality.
The European Union (EU) agreed to the talks and is now expected to co-host the separate event, scheduled for Thursday in Uruguay. The European Union statement does not mention Caricom and Mexico.
According to the statement, “the Contact Group will bring together the EU and eight of its Member States (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and countries from Latin America (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay)”.
On February 1, Caricom heads held an in-video meeting and it was determined then that the same three Prime Ministers who went to the United Nations meeting in New York on January 28 would head to Uruguay.
The governments of Mexico and Uruguay have called for the conference with representatives from the main countries and international organisations that hold a neutral position towards Venezuela.
On January 31, the Caricom leaders wrote to the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Luis Leonardo Almagro calling on him to clarify that his vocal pro-Guaido stance was a personal one and not that of the entire OAS. In that letter, the heads of Caricom maintained their position of non-interference and said that Almagro never spoke with them before voicing his support for Guaido.
While the political tension has been simmering for some time in Venezuela, continued protest action against Maduro caught the worlds attention, and with thousands fleeing the collapsed economy, it became an international humanitarian crisis.
According to international reports on Saturday, more than 100,000 people took part in anti-government rallies held in over 100 different locations.
Last month, the rising political tensions under the Maduro regime led Guaido to declare himself leader of the beleaguered country.
Guaido gained the support of the United States and most of the Europe Union, while China and Russia are backing Maduro.
Meanwhile, today Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement to its own news networks calling on the the international community to focus instead on helping to solve Venezuela’s economic and social problems.
Russian also called on countries to refrain from any “destructive” interference.
Russia may be directing that warning to US President Donald Trump who today doubled down on his war-like rhetoric against Maduro. In an interview with US media yesterday, Trump said that deploying the US military to Venezuela is on the table and would remain an option.
Trump also told US media that Maduro requested a meeting with him several months ago, but he declined.
In Europe, Austria’s chancellor was reported as saying that he spoke with Guaido and will now join his European Union neighbours in recognising Guaido as interim president unless new presidential elections are called.
T&T well equipped to hold mediation talks—protocol expert
In the meantime, T&T’s offer to host mediation talks between Maduro and Guaido still stands.
Protocol expert Lenore Dorset told Guardian Media that the country is well equipped to host such talks.
Dorset did not want to speak too much on the issue as she said it was still a matter of contention between the Government and the Opposition.
“It find it awkward for me to give a position as we have a functioning Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Dorset said.
Dorset said that T&T needed to maintain the Caricom position of non-interference even if the meetings are held here.
“I believe that an invitation should be extended to all the parties involved to come, you cannot ask one without the other,” she said.
She said there were a number of places that could be used for such a high-profile meeting but recommended the Diplomatic Centre.
“You then have to get interpreters or they can bring their own interpreters and always have to have security. The Commissioner of Police would have to get the Special Branch involved,” she said.
The CoP though declined to comment on such questions.
“Obviously I would not reveal that,” he said yesterday.
—-with reporting by Urvashi Tiwarie-Roopnarine