When Caribbean and Latin American leaders gather in Cancun, Mexico later this month for the next General Assembly of the Organization of American States and discuss the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, they will have been heavily lobbied by the anti-Venezuela lobby at the OAS.
Led by the U.S. and Canada, a powerful and influential minority of member-states has been trying to get an unwilling majority to back Washington’s plans for external intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela since March 2017, the oil-rich but economically poor South American nation that is also a Caribbean state.
To date, Washington thinks it has won over the main four member-states of the 14 English-speaking Caribbean Community nations that are also members of the OAS: Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
Washington is strongly hoping that this can influence the other smaller 11 CARICOM nations — all of which, except Suriname and Belize, are small island nations — to change their minds and support the powerful minority’s plot to get OAS support for intervention in Venezuela.
While lobbying the CARICOM leaders, Washington has also launched a two-week naval military exercise in Caribbean waters nearest to Venezuela, starting in Barbados and continuing in Trinidad & Tobago, which shares the Gulf of Paria with Venezuela.
The annual exercise, named “Operation Tradewinds,” involves CARICOM nations, but is led by the U.S. Southern Command and blessed by the Pentagon, supposedly to prepare participating nation, including a few South American nations, to collaborate in times of security threats or disasters.
But since its start after the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, involving the Caribbean nations that also sent troops to Grenada during the U.S. post-invasion occupation, “Tradewinds” has largely been seen as a three-decades-old annual U.S.-led dry-run to prepare participating nations for any future invasion within the Caribbean theater of operations.
With the U.S. feeling certain it can influence Caribbean nations that opposed its interventionist resolution and thwarted it’s Venezuela plot at the May 31 OAS Permanent Council meeting in Washington, D.C., the Cancun meeting is seen as the next opportunity to reverse the Caribbean tide.
It will be up to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who will attend the Summit, to do whatever it takes to convince Caribbean leaders and their South American counterparts, before and in Cancun, to maintain the position adopted by their respective foreign ministers and ambassadors at the previous Washington meeting.
What Venezuela will have to reiterate
1. The sordid reason behind the original establishment of the OAS as a hemispheric Cold War entity to promote and defend U.S. strategic political, military and other interests in a region it has always, and still considers, “America’s backyard.”
2. Washington’s endless use of the OAS as a tool for implementing U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere is the reason that eventually led to the establishment of the new regional entities like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, PetroCaribe, MERCOSUR and UNASUR — all without the U.S. and Canada.
3. The violent minority leading the opposition demonstrations in Caracas are recruiting minors for protests, offering the teens food, money, and drugs in exchange for vandalism and acts of violence, including use of incendiary devices, resulting in fatalities such as 17-year-old Lander Armas Neomar Alejandro, who died on June 7 while mishandling a mortar, during an opposition protest in Caracas.
4. The violent opposition also engages in cold-blooded assassination, as was the case with Orlando Jose Figuera, a 21-year-old Black youth, who was identified at an opposition rally in an upper-class suburban area as a possible “Chavist.” As a result, he was beaten, stabbed several times, doused with gasoline and then set on fire, suffering first-and-second degree burns that eventually resulted in his death a week later.
5. Venezuelan special operation forces, during a recent search operation, seized weapons including an AT4 anti-tank bazooka, C4 explosives, gas masks, grenades, helmets, mortars, military uniforms and bulletproof vests in the Bello Campo neighborhood in Caracas. While many opposition protesters have been peaceful, there is an extremist element in the opposition dedicated to fomenting violence.
6. The opposition MUD alliance has rejected outright any participation in the July 30 process to appoint a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution, which will be put to a referendum for confirmation by voters, despite the fact that 17 other opposition parties have agreed to participate.
7. Jailed Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, sentenced since 2015 by the courts to serve 13 years for his role in political protests in 2014 that cost 43 lives, and elected National Assembly president and leader of the opposition MUD alliance Julio Borges, have since May 31 promised that the violent opposition protests will continue — and both also called for an “open rebellion” in Venezuela — until President Maduro is “forced out” of office.
8. U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio met at the White House and posed for photographs with Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez in January 2017, expressing support for the opposition’s quest to remove the constitutionally elected President Maduro, also demanding that Maduro release Lopez.
9. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as CEO of Exxon-Mobil in 2007, vowed revenge against Venezuela after late President Hugo Chavez nationalized the Orinoco oil belt. Now he is leading the U.S. charge against Venezuela through the OAS, while Exxon-Mobil is drilling for oil in disputed territory in neighboring Guyana.
10. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, before assuming his post, entered into an agreement with top Pentagon officials, including U.S. Southern Command Admiral Kurt Tidd, to facilitate the United States’ armed aggression and intervention plans, through the OAS and other means.
Meanwhile, CARICOM, with 14 votes and demonstrably able to influence the course and direction of voting, will have the eyes of the rest of the world on it in Cancun as a regional unit and as individual sovereign nations.
The world will be watching to see whether the Caribbean nations will ensure — as they can — that lightning can indeed strike twice in the same place!
Earl Bousquet is a veteran Saint Lucia-born Caribbean journalist and author of a regional column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler.