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US Embassy ‘deeply concerned’ by T&T’s stance on Venezuela; Caricom re-affirms non-intervention

“Democracy and prosperity require tough choices…”

The following release on Trinidad and Tobago’s recognition of Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro’s government was issued by US Ambassador Joseph Mondello:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)

Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó and the democratically elected National Assembly have the full recognition and resolute support of the United States of America and the majority of democracies in the Western Hemisphere.

I find the official statements from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago recognising the undemocratic and illegitimate government of Nicholas (sic) Maduro to be deeply concerning.

Democracy and prosperity require tough choices.

I and the entire US Embassy are committed to maintaining mutually beneficial bilateral relations with the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: Venezuela Opposition Leader and president of the National Assembly, John Guiadó.
(Copyright Mundo24)

The Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM): Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Foreign Ministers of Grenada and Suriname met by video-conference on 24 January 2019 and issued the following statement:

Heads of Government are following closely the current unsatisfactory situation in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a neighbouring Caribbean country. They expressed grave concern about the plight of the people of Venezuela and the increasing volatility of the situation brought about by recent developments which could lead to further violence, confrontation, breakdown of law and order and greater suffering for the people of the country.

Heads of Government reaffirmed their guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy.

Heads of Government reiterated that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy.

In this regard, Heads of Government offered their good offices to facilitate dialogue among all parties to resolve the deepening crisis.

Reaffirming their commitment to the tenets of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter which calls for Members States to refrain from the threat or the use of force and Article 21 of the Charter of the Organization of American States which refers to territorial inviolability, the Heads of Government emphasised the importance of the Caribbean remaining a Zone of Peace.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a joint press conference in Port of Spain on 23 May 2016.
(Copyright Alva Viarruel/AFP 2016/Wired868)

Heads of Government called on external forces to refrain from doing anything to destabilise the situation and underscored the need to step back from the brink and called on all actors, internal and external, to avoid actions which would escalate an already explosive situation to the detriment of the people of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and which could have far-reaching negative consequences for the wider region.

Heads of Government agreed that the Chairman of Conference, Dr the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis would seek an urgent meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General to request the UN’s assistance in resolving the issue.

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  1. Described back in 1990 by the New York Times as “one of Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracies”, the newspaper of record predicted that, thanks to the geopolitical volatility of the Middle East, Venezuela “is poised to play a newly prominent role in the United States energy scene well into the 1990’s”. At the time, Venezuelan oil production was helping to “offset the shortage caused by the embargo of oil from Iraq and Kuwait” amidst higher oil prices triggered by the simmering conflict.

    But the NYT had camouflaged a deepening economic crisis. As noted by leading expert on Latin America, Javier Corrales, in ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Venezuela had never recovered from currency and debt crises it had experienced in the 1980s. Economic chaos continued well into the 1990s, just as the Times had celebrated the market economy’s friendship with the US, explained Corrales: “Inflation remained indomitable and among the highest in the region, economic growth continued to be volatile and oil-dependent, growth per capita stagnated, unemployment rates surged, and public sector deficits endured despite continuous spending cutbacks.”

    Prior to the ascension of Chavez, the entrenched party-political system so applauded by the US, and courted by international institutions like the IMF, was essentially crumbling. “According to a recent report by Data Information Resources to the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce, in the last 25 years the share of household income spent on food has shot up to 72 percent, from 28 percent,” lamented the New York Times in 1996. “The middle class has shrunk by a third. An estimated 53 percent of jobs are now classified as ‘informal’ — in the underground economy — as compared with 33 percent in the late 1970’s”.

    The NYT piece cynically put all the blame for the deepening crisis on “government largesse” and interventionism in the economy. But even here, within the subtext the paper acknowledged a historical backdrop of consistent IMF-backed austerity measures. According to the NYT, even the ostensibly anti-austerity president Rafael Caldera — who had promised more “state-financed populism” as an antidote to years of IMF-wrought austerity — ended up “negotiating for a $3 billion loan from the IMF” along with “a second loan of undisclosed size to ease the social impact of any hardships imposed by an IMF agreement.”

    So it is convenient that today’s loud and self-righteous moral denunciations of Maduro ignore the instrumental role played by US efforts to impose market fundamentalism in wreaking economic and social havoc across Venezuelan society. Of course, outside the fanatical echo chambers of the Trump White House and the likes of the New York Times, the devastating impact of US-backed World Bank and IMF austerity measures is well-documented among serious economists.

    In a paper for the London School of Economics, development economist Professor Jonathan DiJohn of the UN Research Institute for Social Development found that US-backed economic “liberalisation not only failed to revive private investment and economic growth, but also contributed to a worsening of the factorial distribution of income, which contributed to growing polarisation of politics.”

    Neoliberal reforms further compounded already existing centralised nepotistic political structures vulnerable to corruption. Far from strengthening the state, they led to a collapse in the state’s regulative power. Analysts who hark back to a Venezuelan free market golden age ignore the fact that far from reducing corruption, “financial deregulation, large-scale privatisations, and private monopolies create[d] large rents, and thus rent-seeking/corruption opportunities.”

    Instead of leading to meaningful economic reforms, neoliberalisation stymied genuine reform and entrenched elite power. And this is precisely how the West helped create the Chavez it loves to hate.

  2. basically the Venezuelan opposition wants an invasion
    they know even if they had participated and won the election their hardline policies would make them lose a following election

  3. Analysis

    Venezuela’s crisis and the limits of Cold War thinking

    Both the left and right have their blinkers on when it comes to Maduro.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/01/30/venezuelas-crisis-limits-cold-war-thinking/

  4. February 2014 student demonstrators acting as shock troops for the exiles erected violent barricades across the country, turning opposition-controlled quarters into violent fortresses known as guarimbas. While international media portrayed the upheaval as a spontaneous protest against Maduro’s iron-fisted rule, there was ample evidence that Popular Will was orchestrating the show.

    “None of the protesters at the universities wore their university t-shirts, they all wore Popular Will or Justice First t-shirts,” a guarimba participant said at the time. “They might have been student groups, but the student councils are affiliated to the political opposition parties and they are accountable to them.”

    Asked who the ringleaders were, the guarimba participant said, “Well if I am totally honest, those guys are legislators now.”

    Around 43 were killed during the 2014 guarimbas. Three years later, they erupted again, causing mass destruction of public infrastructure, the murder of government supporters, and the deaths of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas. In several cases, supporters of the government were burned alive by armed gangs.

    Guaidó was directly involved in the 2014 guarimbas. In fact, he tweeted video showing himself clad in a helmet and gas mask, surrounded by masked and armed elements that had shut down a highway that were engaging in a violent clash with the police. Alluding to his participation in Generation 2007, he proclaimed, “I remember in 2007, we proclaimed, ‘Students!’ Now, we shout, ‘Resistance! Resistance!

  5. The three constitutional articles invoked by Juan Guaido to legitimise his presidency are: 233, 333, and 350. The latter two are broad affirmations of democracy and constitutionality, silent on Presidential lines of succession. Guaido’s claim rests entirely on 233; presented here in full:

    The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

    When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

    When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive Vice-President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

    In the cases describes above, the new President shall complete the constitutional term of office.

    If the President becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.

    The opening paragraph envisions six scenarios whereby a President might no longer serve.

    The next paragraph sets out protocols to be followed should a President-elect become unavailable to serve pre-inauguration. The third paragraph contemplates presidential vacancies during the first four years of office. The last paragraph deals with presidential vacancies in the final two years of office.

    Of the six scenarios envisioned (death, resignation etc.) Guaido relies on “abandonment of his position.” This clearly never happened. Maduro isn’t gone. He’s still there. “Abandonment” conjures images of a President fleeing on a plane freighted with bullion. Maduro, however, currently occupies presidential offices and residences. There has been no abandonment.

    “Abandonment” is spun to mean “usurpation.” When did this occur? Are they suggesting that at no time since April 19, 2013 has Maduro ever been President? If Maduro was President, then he must have farcically usurped himself. “Usurp” typically means take power away from someone. There has been no usurpation.

    If a President becomes unavailable to serve in the first four years of his term, then the Vice-President takes over and calls an election. If the calamity occurs in the last two years of the presidential term then the VP serves out the fallen President’s term.

    Guaido, as head of the National Assembly, only becomes involved when the vacancy occurs in the twilight zone between election and inauguration. This definitely did not happen here. Moreover, by citing Article 233 Guaido implies there was a recent (lawful) election. Finally, Guaido’s January 23 self-anointment occurred 13 days after Maduro’s January 10 inauguration. He missed the boat.

    Pursuant to 233, if the head of the National Assembly becomes Acting President he must immediately call an election; and serve only until the winner of that election is inaugurated. The Western media (and Wiki) butcher 233’s second paragraph, leaving only opening and closing clauses; discarding any mention of “election.” Guaido should have, at the moment of self-anointment, announced an election for February 22. For the head of the National Assembly to assume Presidential powers, and then fail to call an election so as to keep those powers, would be flagrantly unconstitutional.

    This thread becomes rejoicefully rich considering the EU’s position. They are demanding Maduro call an election; …or else they will recognise Guaido. Can Maduro call an election if he is not President? By demanding Maduro hold an election they are recognising Maduro as President. If Maduro is President he has no obligation to call snap elections to satisfy foreign governments. Alternatively, if Guaido became President he would have an explicit, unavoidable constitutional obligation to call an immediate election.

    Guaido is the figure-head of a coup attempt orchestrated by foreign powers without a constitutional leg to stand on.

  6. President Trump has chosen a side in the conflict in Venezuela, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó has named himself interim president after challenging the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro’s recent reelection. Trump, along with other international leaders, has formally recognized Guaidó, effectively promoting regime change in Venezuela.

    Yet although international support will bolster Guaidó’s claim, Trump’s decision to insert himself into a struggle for democracy, now mainly driven by protesters in the streets of Venezuelan cities, will help neither Venezuela nor the United States. As a populist who uses, and abuses, democratic rules to undermine democracy, Trump is incapable of leading a transition to democracy in Venezuela. And his interference is likely to make things worse.

    The United States has participated in the overthrow of dozens of Latin American governments since the late 19th century. These interventions have taken the form of direct military attacks, covert operations (often involving the CIA) and aid to internal actors bidding for power. By appointing Elliott Abrams as its point man in Venezuela, the Trump administration embraces that history of interventions. During the Reagan presidency, Abrams was central to U.S. actions that resulted in human rights violations in Central America. He was also convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra investigation.

    [Venezuela’s opposition in talks with military and civilian officials to force out Maduro, Juan Guaidó says in interview]

    Trump’s threats to invade Venezuela, along with his appointment of Abrams, show that even though he ran against the idea of democracy promotion and military adventurism, Trump has been unable to resist the U.S. government’s interventionist reflex. That reflex, based on the idea that the hemisphere is still an area of U.S. hegemony and that U.S. armed forces can “teach democracy” to lesser countries, has characterized the long history of the relations between the United States and Latin America. As a reflex, it operates regardless of evidence about its effects. Venezuela is a case in point: In 2002, the George W. Bush government, using the services of Abrams, supported a failed coup against then-President Hugo Chávez. Chávez soon consolidated his power as an anti-imperialist hero.

    So what does this history suggest about the probable outcomes of U.S. intervention in Venezuela today?

    One outcome is that Trump’s pro-Guaidó strategy fails: The Maduro government violently suppresses the rebellion in the streets, and the country returns to the quagmire of mismanagement and misery that in recent years has created a flood of refugees from Venezuela. This seems less likely than the last time Maduro quashed rebellion, in 2017, given the unified front now offered by the opposition in the National Assembly and the lukewarm attitude of the armed forces.

    This might suggest a second possibility, which would also represent a failure for Trump: that the armed forces remove Maduro and secure the continuity of their privileges and mismanagement of the national economy. Post-Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is a good example of this type of “transition.” No free elections; repression and economic misery remain as before. The current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was for decades Mugabe’s hatchet man and had led some of the fiercest attacks against political opponents, which continued this past week when his government’s repression led to 12 deaths, 78 gunshot casualties, hundreds of instances of assault or torture, and enough arrests to fill prisons beyond capacity. The dictator is gone, but his former cronies still rule the country without true democratic change.

    A third option in Venezuela has opened up with the United States’ entrance into the fray. The aggressive statements and threats of intervention coming from the Trump government could result in armed conflict. For the Maduro government, the threats from Washington and its recognition of Guaidó are a precious gift: They will allow him to claim renewed legitimacy and consolidate the support of the armed forces in the face of an external threat. In this context, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and other self-declared followers of Trump in Latin America would significantly contribute to a new Latin America that would look like that of the Cold War years, when authoritarian regimes undermined the rule of law and violated human rights with the endorsement and support of the United States and, in the case of Cuba, the Soviet Union.

    There’s a fourth option as well, one that would be welcomed by most parties. Although several Latin American and European countries have withdrawn their recognition of Maduro’s government, Mexico and Uruguay have not. As such, they could establish a public negotiation with the different parties, preventing both a civil war and foreign intervention.

    The experience of Central America shows that regional and multilateral negotiations can end conflicts. The mid-1980s Esquipulas agreements helped steer the peace process in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The accords were in part the product of the Contadora initiative, which involved Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela as brokers, and eventually led to the end of civil wars in the Central American region. In the current situation, brokering a peaceful outcome can be done only by intermediaries that recognize Maduro’s government as a party, withholding judgment about the ways he has been able to hold on to power.

    The authoritarian nature of the current leadership in Venezuela and the United States militates against that solution, however. In Maduro’s rhetoric, all the problems in the country have been caused by the imperialists from Washington. There is a considerable sector in the left in Latin America and the United States that agrees with this assessment, as well as with the notion that political oppression and the suffering it has caused are justifiable tools for an all-powerful leader — first Chávez and now, to a lesser extent, Maduro — who can uniquely express and mobilize the feelings of the people. This position is now being endorsed by the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin recently deployed two bombers to Venezuela while warning the United States not to intervene.

    For Trump, gut instinct determines whether an authoritarian regime is good or bad. Although he is attracted to the likes of Putin, Kim Jong Un and Rodrigo Duterte, he is also susceptible to the demonization of other authoritarian figures because of the encouragement, in this case, of John Bolton in his Cabinet and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Senate. Besides a multilateral effort of mediation, the only impediment to Trump turning threats into action would be pushback from Congress. Because Latin America is not a high priority in Washington, intervention could become a reality. It would buttress Trump’s beleaguered image as a strong leader and could prop up his slipping polls as he heads into 2020.

    The internal situation in Venezuela is becoming a contest of global implications: extremist right-wing populism and its authoritarian interventionism vs. the dictatorial remnants of Chávez’s regime. Whether democracy has a place in this battle has yet to be seen.

  7. Maduro willing to talk.Even in Trinidad and Dr Rowley had his un meeting

  8. Kamla hoping d government fall d gas deal go thru and d pnm government look bad.

    • Savitri Maharaj Well look at dat d Dragon Fields deal gone thru already.😥

    • ok so who u supporting in d Venezuela crisis?

    • which people?People on both sides

    • Collin Cudjoe the Venezuelan citizens. I’ve seen families torn apart. Young people have had to leave their parents homes and come to a country where they’re not welcome. Where they have problems communicating. Some of the stories are heartbreaking

    • Savitri Maharaj Yes and it all started when d US decided to impose sanctions on d Chavez government.

    • Collin Cudjoe no dear..it started before that.

    • Savitri Maharaj when did it start?

    • Collin Cudjoe there’s a lot I’ve shared from a military expert. You can read there. This is one such:
      A few points on the Venezuelan crisis:

      1) The National Assembly elections of 2015 were the last ones to be certified as being free, fair and free from fear in Venezuela.

      2) Since those elections, Maduro has sought to undermine the National Assembly to the extent of subverting its authority through a bizarre National Constituent Assembly.

      3) Blaming US sanctions for Venezuela’s ills is completely wrong: Sanctions have had little to do with the chronic food shortages. These might be partially attributed to price controls which made smuggling a lucrative option – goods being smuggled across the Colombian border to fetch higher prices – while others have noted that the Venezuelan military and government have been profiteering through an elaborate system of kickbacks for food import licenses.

      4) Venezuela’s Presidential elections of 2018 were a complete farce. There was no pressing need for Trinidad to recognize Maduro – silence would have sufficed.

      5) By recognizing the Maduro government, in spite of the fact that many more countries now recognize Guiado as the interim President than Maduro as President, the GORTT has made a fool of itself once again. Silence is sometimes golden.

      6) The Dragon gas deal requires – by Venezuelan law – the approval of the National Assembly. By its ill-advised actions, the GORTT may have burned those bridges.

      7) Protests in favour of Maduro were at least in part due to the fact government workers were ordered onto the streets to do so.

      8) This is not pro-socialist or anti-socialist. This is about a government that has subverted every institution in Venezuela and has run its economy into the ground. Apologists for it need to wake up.

      9) There is going to be no war. Trinidadians need to do some research before getting carried away. Russia sent two bombers largely to annoy the US and the Iranian flotilla on its way down is militarily weaker than the Venezuelan navy. Nobody is going to invade Venezuela and nobody is going to militarily intervene on behalf of Maduro. In fact, neither Russia, nor China nor Iran has that ability.

      It should be noted that the US has never invaded a Latin American country to effect regime change since Panama in 1989 and even then would not have invaded had Noreiga not been indicted on narcotics charges.

      The US did not invade Grenada under Bishop. It did so after Bishop was murdered and the last surviving constitutional authority – Sir Paul Scoon the Governor-General – called for external aid.

      Toppling governments is done through covert action- Cheddi Jagan in Guyana – or working with local forces – Chile in 1973 – to do so.

      Venezuela is in an interesting situation. Maduro has no legitimacy as a democratically elected leader and the hardships being endured by Venezuelans are real. Maybe we are in the final act of a four year old drama?

    • Silence is golden yet Kamla pledged her support for Guiado?Caricom leaders took a unilateral position.

    • How did I know you were going to go there..nice try

    • Savitri Maharaj i saw a beautiful picture given to Maduro

    • given d fact that we r so afraid of d us. if Trump comes to tnt we should not protest his visit because he will take offence and impose sanctions on tnt.

    • Savitri Maharaj the US did not invade Grenada? Ok then. Any excuse like they were invited is plausible I guess.

  9. Trump using Venezuela issue as mass distraction.

  10. And to be fair Trump making the right call. something needs to be done in Vene. Just not this

  11. “Hearing Budhoo’s accusations, the T&T government ordered two independent studies.” Kyon Esdelle by chance do you know if these reports are in the public domain?

    • internationally recognized economist Dr. Karl Levitt reported that “there were, in fact, statistical irregularities in the IMF’s Staff Report on the Trinidad and Tobago economy in 1986 and 1987” and that there might have been “deliberate manipulation of the statistical data in order to impose Fund (draconian) conditionalities” on TnT.
      These IMF “conditionality measures” created social chaos, unrest and strife in TnT and represented a deliberate attempt by the United States government to destabilize the democratically-elected government of TnT for the principled foreign policy stance it took against the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

      McGill Univ Levitt did one

    • Kyon Esdelle Can’t seem to find it online only commentary related to it so far.