Guyana stands by Lima Group’s statement rejecting unilateral date for Venezuelan polls

Guyana’s government stands behind the Lima Group’s rejection of a decision by the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (NEC) to unilaterally call for presidential elections to be held on April 22nd, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge.

“Guyana is a member of the Organization of American States and the United Nations, which espouse similar views. The pronouncements of the Lima group and the OAS are not radically different. The major difference is in the number of signatures,” Greenidge told Stabroek News, while adding that Guyana is concerned over the crisis in Venezuela and its consequences for others, including this country, which is one of its closest neighbours.

The 17-member Lima Group, which was established in August, 2017, seeks to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela via democratic and non-interventional means. Following its fifth meeting in February, 2018, a statement was issued which rejected the NEC’s decision.

The 14 members who signed the statement argued that to have set a date for elections without having reached an agreement with the opposition, as the government had committed to, renders it impossible to hold democratic, transparent and credible elections with the participation of all political actors in Venezuela, according to international standards and under international observation.

They further noted that elections that do not meet these standards will lack any legitimacy and credibility and urged the Government of Venezuela to reconsider the call for presidential elections, in compliance with its own legislation and to set a new electoral calendar.

“We underscore that free and fair elections cannot take place with the existence of political prisoners, without the full participation of political parties and with political leaders imprisoned or arbitrarily disqualified, with an electoral authority under government control, without the participation of millions of Venezuelan citizens who live abroad and are unable to vote, originally called for by the Constituent Assembly, which lacks the legitimacy or the legal power to do so and whose existence and decisions we do not recognize,” the statement added.

Some commentators have also criticized Guyana and Saint Lucia as members of the Caribbean Community for having signed the statement.

In response to the criticisms, Greenidge reminded that CARICOM has made statements of a similar nature about the rule of law and human rights.

“For those who wish to criticize, let them judge it against principles CARICOM has embraced and recognized in relation to other countries including Haiti. These criticism appear ill-informed where they are not mischievous,” the minister maintained.

The Lima group statement also referenced a report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights entitled “Democratic Institutions, the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Venezuela,” which documents the serious deterioration of respect for human rights and the grave political, economic, and social crisis that has afflicted Venezuela for the past two years—especially in 2017— and noted the decision announced by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to conduct a preliminary examination of the situation in Venezuela regarding crimes against humanity that occurred during 2017 protests.

It reiterated concerns for the growing deterioration of the humanitarian situation and implored the Venezuelan Government to allow, without delay, the opening of a humanitarian corridor that can help to mitigate the serious effects of the shortage of food and medicines.

Further, in light of the increasing exodus of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the grave crisis that they face in their home country, it has agreed to coordinate efforts to respond to the difficult situation in an orderly and safe manner and in solidarity.

Among Lima Group members are Guyana, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

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