ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday June 21, 2017 – A public quarrel has erupted between some of the region’s politicians over how the Venezuelan crisis should be handled.
Former Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding has drawn the ire of Antigua and Barbuda’s leader Gaston Browne after condemning the strong stance taken by Browne and Vincentian leader Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
Golding blasted the calls by the two Prime Ministers for non-interference in volatile Venezuela as “foolishness”, charging that Caracas’ generosity to St John’s and Kingstown controls the decision-making of Browne and Gonsalves.
“Venezuela has been good to us, but the Government of Venezuela has proceeded in a direction that we cannot condone. I think that this argument that is being advanced by Dr Ralph Gonsalves and the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, about non-interference, is foolishness,” Golding told the Jamaica Gleaner.
“And, I say it’s foolishness because the same argument could have been advanced for apartheid South Africa – ‘Why are you interfering in our domestic affairs?’ And, we (Jamaica) jolly well had to interfere.”
But in a stinging rebuke, Browne slammed Golding, describing his comments as disrespectful and hypocritical.
“The claim by Mr Golding that Venezuela’s generosity to several Caribbean states controls the decision-making of the prime ministers of St Vincent and Antigua is poorly conceived and shamelessly undignified in its public pronouncement. The diplomacy practised by any state is a factor in its relations with its neighbours, but never the only consideration. Venezuela’s generosity is peripheral, and not vital, in Antigua and Barbuda’s calculation,” Browne said in a statement issued to the same newspaper that published his comments.
He also took issue with Golding’s “attempt to liken Venezuela’s current internal crisis to the horrors of apartheid in South Africa”, describing it as being far from reasonable.
“The entire world stood opposed to legalized racism, and alienated South Africa in sports, international affairs, and finally with economic boycotts. The situation in Venezuela is largely a domestic quarrel with few implications for the outside world,” he said.
Browne said that if the lawfully-elected regime in Venezuela was ousted prematurely, “there is every likelihood that the uncertainty would give rise to sufficient instability to generate refugees”.
“The other states in the Caribbean and South America would likely bear the brunt of that human movement. Former Prime Minister Golding has no stake in this outcome.”
The Antiguan leader also called out Golding for his handling of the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke affair in 2011, when Golding refused to extradite the reputed drug kingpin to the Unites States on the grounds that Jamaica was a sovereign state and the US was using illegal methods to obtain evidence on Coke.
“As far as I’m concerned, Bruce Golding, when he took his position with ‘Dudus’ Coke, spoke about the sovereignty and independence of Jamaica. I want to say that the position now that he’s [now] taking is totally incongruent to that. So, at least, he ought to show some level of consistency,” Browne insisted.
The Antiguan Prime Minister insisted that he and Gonsalves were standing on principle, pointing out “the diplomacy practised by any state is a factor in its relations with its neighbours, but never the only consideration. Venezuela’s generosity is peripheral, and not vital, in Antigua and Barbuda’s calculation.”
On Monday, foreign ministers at the Organization of American States’ General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico, failed to gain any headway to address the two-month old crisis in Venezuela after a resolution denouncing the ongoing violence, collapsed because it failed to get the required votes.
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