Gov't allays investment fears over Venezuela vote

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has sought to allay fears that Jamaica may have put its future foreign investment relations at risk by voting with other Organization of American States (OAS) countries to not recognise Nicolas Maduro's second term as president of Venezuela.

At a press conference at Jamaica House Monday, Johnson Smith said the Government was cognisant that those concerns would arise and has in fact received positive feedback, having engaged its largest investors and bilateral and international cooperation partners before and after the vote.

Jamaica was among 19 countries which voted for the resolution on January 8. The resolution — presented by the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica Chile, Paraguay, and Peru — was approved with 19 votes in favour, six against, and eight abstentions.

“Our feedback has been overall positive because the recognition generally — even those countries that are disappointed that it would have reached to this stage — recognise the importance of energy stability to Jamaica's growth and Jamaica as an investment location,” Johnson Smith told journalists.

“So even if persons have sought to position the issue as an inflammatory one, the feedback has been overall positive. It has been recognised as an isolated event, they recognise the instability and the risk, and they actually — to a large extent — have congratulated the Government on taking decisive action in ensuring that energy security is maintained here in Jamaica. There is no basis for the fears and concerns that are being fomented in the public domain,” Johnson Smith added.

She said she had not been lobbied for Jamaica's support at the OAS but explained that: “In these matters there is always general discussion, with countries pressing their views with a view to ensure that other member states vote with them — that happens on all sides because that's part of the process… there was no specific request or pressure brought to bear in respect of the vote by Jamaica.”

She also made clear that Jamaica intends to maintain diplomatic ties with Venezuela, notwithstanding the vote.

“There is a difference between diplomatic relations between states and recognition of any political adminis — they are entirely different within foreign affairs. Accordingly, our maintenance of diplomatic relations, all of that remains the same. The separateness and technical nature of the engagement required for economic decisions that have to be taken in respect of the refinery, those are separate. They will be sensitive and they will be knotty, but Jamaica stood on principle, as we always have, and we will continue to stand on principle,” she insisted.

The foreign affairs minister dismissed assertions by the Opposition that the vote against Maduro's presidency was a betrayal of Jamaica's long-time friend due to international pressure. She emphasised that the move was based on principle.

“It was, as has been the case in the global environment since we achieved our independence, that Jamaica votes in favour of human rights law and order, and the principle of non-intervention. These principles we hold in great regard and that the PNP, and in particular Miss (Lisa) Hanna, seek to continuously forget all but one — the principle of non-intervention — is of concern,” Johnson Smith said.

At the same time, she pointed out that despite its vote, Jamaica has indicated willingness to be a part of any helpful process that might evolve in engagement with the Venezuelan Government. “We also made that clear by the balance we sought to find by being represented at the inauguration, notwithstanding our vote. We were not the only country to do so,” she said.

Last May, Maduro declared victory following an election that political opponents and many foreign nations consider illegitimate due to popular opponents being banned from the poll.


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