The Antigua and Barbuda government says it is regrettable that the firm united position adopted by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on the situation in Venezuela appears to be breaking apart.
Four CARICOM leaders are due to meet with United States President Donald Trump on Friday to discuss Venezuela with Washington indicating that the talks show support for a joint effort remove President Nicolas Maduro in favour of the Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim president of the South American country.
CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis last month had reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Melford Nicholas reiterated St. John’s position of non-interference in Caracas and support for the CARICOM position on the matter despite Trump’s intent for the meeting with the leaders of St. Lucia, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, and Haiti.
“It is what it is. We cannot boost the intent of Mr. Trump and what he intends to do. But so far as Antigua and Barbuda Is concerned, wherever we have to be engaged with international powers in any hemisphere or in any inter-agency, we take positions based on principles,” Nicholas said.
“We do not consider ourselves hostile to any country,” he added
On Thursday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said Rowley said those attending the meeting at Trump’s private residence in Miami were “the ones who have agreed to be a part of the Lima Group. And what is the objective of the Lima Group? The objective of the Lima Group is regime change in Venezuela”.
He said it was for that those attending that meeting to indicate how that will be achieved but “what we are going to do resolutely and without apology as a tiny speck on the world’s map…is to stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world”.
The four countries had also voted in January at the Organisation of American States (OAS) not to recognise Maduro’s second term in office.
The White House had said that the meeting on Friday would also discuss China’s economic role in the region and Nicholas said that Washington’s criticism of Beijing does not reflect the support the Asian country has given to the region.
“More importantly with respect to the United nations criticism of China’s incursion into this part of the world and the development assistance, the diplomacy of China is different from what we expect from the United States.
“The Prime Minister made this position clear before as China has put hard currency and support our development where it is clear to track over the past 25 years the benefits that our relationship with China has spawned,” he added.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, responding to concerns raised by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo about accepting gifts from China, said that Washington should provide more aid to these nations and not spend billions on useless wars.
“Those who are opposed to China’s deepening influence in the hemisphere need to talk less and perhaps they need to put some diplomatic dollars or development assistance … on the table.
“Perhaps they may wish to consider spending less on artillery. Spend less on useless wars and interventions … in the affairs of other states and to utilise the savings to help underprivileged countries here in the Caribbean and elsewhere,” he said then.
Earlier this week, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit praised China for its support of his hurricane battered country, saying “there are times when other interests, other countries will want to create a wedge between Dominica and China or a certain degree of mistrust among our peoples especially in relation to the aid and the assistance which China has been providing not only to Dominica but to more than 190 countries around the world”.