Guyana’s govt, opposition united in call for dialogue on Venezuela’s crisis

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 June 2016, 14:19 by Denis Chabrol

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee

The Guyana government and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) appear to be at one on the future of Venezuela in the Organisation of American States (OAS).

PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge agree that the status of Venezuela should be the subject of ongoing discussions rather than its suspension from the hemispheric body.

“We don’t support the suspension of any member from the OAS. We don’t agree with going back to what was done in order to expel Cuba in the 1960s from the OAS…. All issues must be settled on the basis of discussions within the Organisation,” said Rohee at a news conference held at the PPP’s Headquarters, Freedom House. Asked if dialogue and debate fail what should be the next step, he said then the member-states would have to deal with that scenario at that time.

Greenidge said Guyana’s position is largely in keeping with those by the Association of Caribbean States and the OAS General Assembly. “Our preference is that the parties be called upon to engage in dialogue and the government should respect the call by the rest of the region to have dialogue as a means of resolving the challenges and difficulties that face them,” he said. He declined to discuss what should be a desirable outcome and instead said that would be for the meeting to decide.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge

Last week Thursday (June 23, 2016 ), Guyana was one of several Caribbean member states that voted in favour of  hearing OAS Secretary General, L uis Almagro’s report  that was aimed at justifying his position that “an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order” in Venezuela” in contravention of the hemispheric organisation’s Democratic Charter. Guyana voted ‘Yes’ along with the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, The Bahamas, and Suriname .

In justifying Guyana’s vote, the country’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Bayney Karran has told the Permanent Council that democracy could no longer be said to be purely a matter of a country’s internal affairs. “It remains to be seen whether the Secretary General’s report constitutes an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order has in fact occurred. Listening to the report does not mean that one has to agree with it,” he said.

Guyana's Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Bayney Karran.

Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Bayney Karran.

The Guyanese envoy said his country believes that the OAS Democratic Charter is a key instrument in preserving democracy. “My delegation supports the Inter American Democratic Charter being wielded as a shield to protect democracy. We do not support it being used as a sword against member states,” he said.

Describing the OAS Chief’s report as a “constructive step,” Karran has said that the document has opened the door to further dialogue. “My delegation supports all dialogue that would give the necessary impetus for an early resolution of the dire political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela,” he said.

The Eastern Caribbean States- Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis,  and Grenada- that are members and beneficiaries of PetroCaribe and ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America ) voted in favour of hearing the report. St. Lucia, which recently  changed its left-leaning government at recent elections abstained. Trinidad and Tobago also abstained.

The total vote was 20 for, 12 against and two abstentions.

Almagro has told the Permanent Council that contrary to beliefs in some circles, his efforts were not aimed at having the OAS impose sanctions on Venezuela. “We are not here to punish or sanction Venezuela. We are here to support a member state and help it back on the path to democracy—in this effort, I support the creation of a Group of Friends of the OAS,” he said.

The OAS Secretary General instead said has instead tabled several recommendations including the need for Venezuela to hold its recall referendum before the end of  2016, in compliance with the deadline after the collecting of signatures of 90 days; the immediate release of all political prisoners; the executive and legislative branches of Venezuela’s government put aside their differences and immediately start working together to respond to the humanitarian crisis and that all branches of government work together to bring stability and security back to the country

Almagro also called on the Permanent Council to approve that Venezuela’s executive  branch of government immediately cease efforts to undermine the democratically elected National Assembly and all laws that have been approved by the National Assembly be implemented and enforced, a new Supreme Court of Justice be appointed through a transparent process jointly agreed upon by the Executive and the Legislative branches of government, an independent body to combat corruption, composed of international experts, be created and empowered to address the financial situation in Venezuela, and  technical support be offered to the Truth Commission, and that a representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights be ensured.

The OAS Chief outlined political instability, rampant food and drug shortages, looting, murders and robberies.