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Jamaica Council of Churches seeks clarity on Govt's relations with Venezuela

Monday, January 14, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) is seeking transparency, openness and forthrightness from the Government in understanding the direction in which the country's foreign policy is heading as it relates to recent developments with Venezuela.

The call was made on the backdrop of the Government's decision to forcibly acquire 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 Maduro's Presidency.

JCC said it is “puzzled” by the two decisions, which it argued are further complicated by their proximity.

“We recall the strong historic links we have shared with that nation (Venezuela) 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,” JCC recalled in a statement today.

“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.”

JCC contended that the explanation, articulated by Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, that the decision on Petrojam 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,” the council said.

Meanwhile, on the issue of the Maduro's presidency, JCC noted the geo-political powers and dynamics of the OAS, as well as the humanitarian, social and political issues gripping Venezuela, but, it pointed to Jamaica's previous position on the affairs of other countries.

“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,” JCC said.

The council said it is in search of the sustainable underlying principles and rationale that informed the two decisions.

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