PM Harris walks a tightrope in US-Venezuela imbroglio ahead of Obama’s Jamaica visit

Like his other counterparts in CARICOM, Dr. Harris stands in support of Venezuela, which has assisted many regional countries with energy security and social development under the Petrocaribe agreement and ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas).

“We have two friends that are in conflict, and we say peace, peaceful coexistence,” said Dr. Harris at his first monthly press conference on April 2. “Our foreign policy is linked quite clearly to our own domestic agenda, and there is no effective foreign policy unless it responds, in our case, to our own developmental needs…and among our developmental needs is an agenda to alleviate poverty and to bring social justice.”

However, social justice is precisely what the US is accusing Venezuela of violating. Prime Minister Harris technically skirted around that issue, preferring not to call “a spade a spade”, but referring to the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) as multilateral bodies that deal with peace, non-interference in the affairs of other countries and human rights.

An executive order issued by the White House on March 9 that referred to Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” is expected to be hot on the agenda.

The executive order called for “blocking property and suspending entry of certain persons contributing to the situation in Venezuela.” President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has scoffed at Obama’s sanctions, while others have called it an “executive disorder” and charged that “the US is the one undermining Venezuela’s democracy, not the Venezuelan government”.

The US has accused Caracas of  “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant public corruption”.

Obama’s executive order comes at a time when the US is trying to re-open diplomatic relations with Cuba, a die-hard friend of Venezuela, which is angered by the actions of the Obama Administration towards its friend. The member states of CARICOM are expected to stand with Venezuela.

President Maduro, who will meet face-to-face with Obama at the Jamaica summit, has been preparing a gift for him, an anti-US petition with over 5 million signatures.

“Venezuela is a very good friend of St. Kitts and Nevis, and we would want to do everything that we can to ensure the stability, the progress and prosperity of Venezuela…I say that equally of the United States of America,” Prime Minister Harris said.

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