The Political Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) Mr. David Abdulah has written to the Secretary General of Caricom, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, on the issue of the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Lima Peru, to express very serious concerns the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has with respect to the position of CARICOM at the Summit.
Mr. Abdulah stated, One of the successes of the Caribbean Community over the years has been the ability of member states to subordinate their individual political or ideological views in order to develop a common position in international, hemispheric and multilateral fora. For decades, in the United Nations, at the Organsation of American States, the African-Caribbean-Pacific group of countries, the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation, among others, this unified position has been evident – whether on matters of economic co-operation between our region and countries of the “industrialised north”; or in trade negotiations; or on the advocacy for a CARICOM national to be elected to a senior position; or in sport; or in other matters of diplomacy and international relations. Such unity of position has enabled CARICOM and indeed, each member state to “punch above its weight” given that while we take a unified position we leverage our voting strength as individual independent nations.
This policy of adopting a common position when it comes to external affairs has served us well. Past Heads of Government have to be commended for maintaining this policy even in the face of hostility and many threats – and inducements – by our powerful neighbours to the north. After all, the culture of colonialism and the practice of imperialism did not die when we became sovereign, independent nations. Big power still remains big power.
In the last decade, however, we have seen this CARICOM wall of unity become eroded, so much so that today it seems to have been completely breached. Secretary General, I need not detain you with all the details of this breakdown in Caribbean solidarity as these are well known to you. Let me, however, summarize but a few:
CARICOM does not have a unanimous position on the issue of the treatment by the Dominican Republic of Haitian descendants who were born in the Dominican Republic but who have, in effect,
been declared “stateless” by a decision of that country’s courts, which does not recognize a Haitian descendant born in the DR as a citizen of that country, against all international norms
CARICOM did not have a united position with respect to the nomination of persons to be the Secretary General of (a) the Commonwealth and (b) the ACP Group of Countries. Indeed in both instances there were nominees put forward by three CARICOM countries
CARICOM countries took different positions in the vote at the UN General Assembly on the Resolution condemning the United States for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and deciding to move its Embassy there, which US position is contrary to internationally recognized policy
CARICOM countries have adopted different positions with respect to several Resolutions coming before the Organisation of American States on the issue of Venezuela, with some countries voting with the US and certain other Latin American countries in condemnation of the democratically elected government of Venezuela; others abstaining; some voting against the said Resolutions and at least one country absenting themselves from the room when the vote was taken.
However, the latest and worst example of this disunity within CARICOM is the participation of three CARIOCOM countries (St. Lucia, Barbados and Guyana) in the so-called “Lima group” which supported the position adopted by the Government of Peru to exclude an OAS member – Venezuela – from the Lima Summit of the Americas. The “Lima group” of countries also attacked the Venezuelan government in a manner that totally disregarded the international norms of respect for the sovereignty and right to self-determination; and the non-interference in the internal affairs of another state.
To say that all of CARICOM has been embarrassed by this participation of some member states in the “Lima group” is an understatement. The governments of these countries have betrayed Caribbean solidarity and opened the door to “big power” intervention in all member states. If we do not take the principled position of respect for the sovereignty and right to self-determination; and the non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, then on what basis, and who, will defend us when those very rights and norms are violated in one or more of our small states?
The defense of these rights and norms is all the more vital today than ever before because of the current international scenario. There is in the Trump administration in the United States a very hostile foreign policy. Let us not forget:
The open threat by the US President himself to use military force to resolve issues, including the situation in Venezuela
The statement by the former US Secretary of State (not refuted by Mr. Trump) that a “Chile type coup d’etat” may be the solution to the Venezuelan situation
The reference to a CARICOM member state (Haiti – the first country in Our Americas to win its independence and end slavery) as a “shithole” country, a term also used to describe another member state of the OAS, El Salvador.
The ultra- nationalist ideology (which promotes and thrives on xenophobia and racism) of the US with respect to immigration, and the presence in the US of migrants and others who are not native born Americans – which affects many persons of Caribbean origin and descent in the US
The move by the Administration to militarize the US-Mexican border
The decision to unilaterally impose tariffs on goods and services entering the US, which may also be applied in the future to CARICOM states
The developing trade war between the US and its major trading partners – China, the EU and countries of the south such as Brazil
The repudiation of the Paris Climate Agreement, thus putting our extremely vulnerable small island states at greater risk of the impacts of climate change
The policy position of bilateralism rather than multilateralism which may see the US dealing with individual CARICOM member states rather than with CARICOM as a regional grouping, thus weakening our negotiating position and jeopardizing the interests of CARICOM as a whole and of individual member states.
Secretary General, we have highlighted these issues, but this is not to be interpreted as an exhaustive list of the threats posed by the new international environment. It is in this context that CARICOM, must have a united position on all agenda items to be discussed at the Lima Summit of the Americas. Indeed, CARICOM should be united in its position as to attendance or non-attendance! One member state (Antigua and Barbuda) had earlier declared that it would not be attending due to the decision by the then President of Peru to exclude Venezuela from the Summit. Is this still the position? It is to be noted that that President of Peru has recently resigned over allegations of corruption in his government.
We call on all CARICOM Heads of Government and your good self, Mr. Secretary General, to inform all the citizens of the member states what will be the policy positions adopted by CARICOM at the Summit. Will we stand united? Or will some be lured by inducements, or bowed by pressure, or fail because of a lack of belief in principle to keep alive CARICOM solidarity and unity in foreign affairs?
In particular, we call on CARICOM to take a united position in defending Venezuela’s sovereignty and right to self-determination. In this regard, we call on CARICOM to recognize the Venezuelan Constitution and the democratic processes established under that Constitution, including the fact that there is in place a democratically elected government headed by President Nicolas Maduro, democratically elected State Governors and a democratically elected National Constituent Assembly
which is, in accordance with the Constitution, the body representative of the peoples sovereign power.
We further call on CARICOM to take a united position against any and all interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and in particular demand that there be no foreign military or other interference in Venezuela. CARICOM must repudiate any attempt to use the OAS as a mechanism to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs or create the conditions for such interference, military or otherwise. We call on CARICOM to re-affirm the principle that the Caribbean is a Zone of Peace. We call on CARICOM to renounce in a united voice the unilateral, illegal and illegitimate sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela and a number of its citizens, including its democratically elected President.
We urge CARICOM to engage in respectful dialogue with the Government of Venezuela on matters of mutual concern such as migration, immigration, security, economic co-operation and border delineation.
This Summit will be a key test, not for Mr. Trump, but for the future of our regional integration project and for the dignity of Caribbean nationhood and respect for our sovereignty.
We therefore propose that, if not already planned, the Foreign Ministers of all member states meet, and issue a pre-Summit Declaration which will guide what are the objectives, nature, form and content of our participation in the Lima Summit.
In the spirit of One Caribbean,
I am, Yours Truly,
Movement for Social Justice