In keeping with a decision of CARICOM Heads to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela, a delegation of community foreign ministers took part in a video conference on Saturday in Barbados with the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaido while meeting with a team of his representatives.
Guaido is claiming to be the legitimate President and with the support of the United States and many western countries has been engaged in a fierce standoff with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
CARICOM has adopted a non-interventionist stance and has offered mediation services.
In a press release yesterday on Saturday’s meeting, the CARICOM Secretariat said “In accordance with the decision of CARICOM Heads of Government to provide good offices in facilitating a peaceful resolution to the Venezuela crisis through a meaningful internal process, a delegation of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers met with Mr. Guaido and a delegation of his representatives in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 23 March 2019. Mr. Guaido joined the discussion via videoconference.
“CARICOM Foreign Ministers acknowledged the meeting as a significant initial step in a series of potential engagements that should unfold by agreed mechanisms, within the framework of the Constitution of Venezuela and the rule of law”.
The release said that the CARICOM meeting provided a greater understanding of Guaido’s views and perspectives on how to move forward in the search for peaceful solutions, as well as his willingness to take part in meaningful talks. The release said that the participants accepted the benefit of further engagement.
The participants expressed appreciation to Canada for facilitating the convening of the meeting.
The meeting between the CARICOM ministers and Guaido comes amid concern that US President Donald Trump is attempting to divide the community on the situation in Venezuela.
On Friday, Reuters reported that Trump pledged investment in a rare meeting with five Caribbean leaders – including four CARICOM prime ministers – who have sided with the United States in backing Guaido as head of state.
Trump met with leaders from The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Reuters said that according to the White House, he promised them that a high-level delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. development lender, would visit their nations in the next 90 days.
“It’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk – that there will be real investment,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told reporters after the meeting, Reuters said.
The four CARICOM nations have broken from other members of the Community in their support for Guaido.
Reuters said that the backing of the five for Guaido led to the meeting with Trump, though the White House did not specifically tie the carrot of investment to that support.
Reuters noted that the Caribbean has long relied on oil and gas from Venezuela, which offered cheap financing through the Petrocaribe programme though shipments have declined in recent years because of production problems at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.