CARICOM warns of elusive peace in Venezuela

CARICOM warns of elusive peace in Venezuela

CARICOM Chairman, Dr Timothy Harris (left) at meeting in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CMC) — Chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr Timothy Harris, says peace will continue to be elusive in Venezuela until the “contending parties are encouraged to sit down and agree”.

Harris, who is also the prime minister of St Kitts-Nevis, told the Third Ministerial Meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Venezuela that CARICOM reiterates its position of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for the constitutional order and democracy.

“We have also found comfort in a mechanism [the Montevideo Mechanism] that would assist us in working within the broad frame of the five principles that I have outlined, which says we have to engage in dialogue as we are now doing. From the dialogue, we should have a framework of negotiation; those negotiations should lead to commitments on both sides,” said Harris, who is heading a five-member delegation that includes CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque and Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, Colin Granderson.

He told the meeting that “peace will continue to be elusive until the contending parties are encouraged to sit down and agree.

“The reality that we have learned from Latin America and elsewhere is that significant groups cannot be excluded from any peaceful process in a country to resolve a national crisis. I believe that if we get the principles right and if we establish a mechanism, we will get there.”

The ICG is comprised of countries from the European Union and Latin America and last weekend, CARICOM leaders at a special security summit in Trinidad and Tobago vowed to continue their diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, where opposition forces are seeking to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

At least three people have been killed and several others injured in clashes between opposition and government supporters in Venezuela, since the Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó, last week called on the military to support the move to remove Maduro from power.

But the army appears to be remaining loyal to Maduro and during the clashes amid rival demonstrations, they fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

In January, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim leader, and he has been recognised by more than 50 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and most of Latin America.

But Maduro, who won re-election last year, is being backed by Russia, China and Cuba.

In his address, Harris told the meeting “the people’s will must be allowed to show itself, and it must have support.

“We want to aid in an expedited way because last week’s events indicated that we have to move with more expedition,” Harris added.

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