We need clarity on developing relations with Venezuela

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) notes with a measure of discomfort recent developments in the relationship between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of Venezuela. We refer specifically to the Government of Jamaica's decision to forcibly acquire the Government of Venezuela's 49 per cent share in the ownership of Petrojam and its vote at the recent meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) not to recognise the legitimacy of Nicolas Madura's presidency. Those actions/decisions have left us puzzled and in search of the sustainable underlying principles and rationale that informed them.

We recall the strong, historic links we have shared with that nation, and expressions of friendship it has extended to us repeatedly, over time, most notably when we faced serious economic challenges from the rise in global oil prices. They came to our rescue with very generous terms under the San Jose Accord, the terms and conditions of which assisted in stabilising our economy and allowing for major development projects through a long-term facility. Now that Venezuela is facing a major economic, social and political crisis, our apparent hard-nosed policy towards that nation appears to lack any sense of reciprocity and an abandonment of a relationship with a friendly nation in its time of need.

The explanation, articulated by Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, that this action is being driven purely by economic reasons is at best problematic. We are willing to believe that there were other equally compelling reasons and strenuous efforts made to avoid this route since we certainly would not want to be sending a message to our growing nation that friendships/relationships are easily dispensable in the face of money.

Further complicating these developments is the proximity of the announcement to acquire the Government of Venezuela's stake in Petrojam and the Government of Jamaica's vote at the OAS meeting. It was not too long ago that there was a statement to the effect that Jamaica does not intervene in the internal affairs of other nations, when it appears that this is precisely what the vote cast by Jamaica at the OAS forum did.

The JCC is fully aware of the geo-political powers and dynamics in the life of the OAS, as well as the humanitarian, social and political issues gripping Venezuela, at this time. However, we would welcome more transparency, openness and forthrightness so we, and many other Jamaicans, can understand the direction in which our foreign policy is heading.

Rev Merlyn Hyde Riley

President

Jamaica Council of Churches

gensec.jcc@gmail.com


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