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Venezuela’s crisis; a Caribbean concern

International 18 Jan, 2019 Follow News

Venezuela’s crisis; a Caribbean concern

The crisis in Venezuela could very well turn out to be a major problem for the Caribbean if that south American country continues to unravel socially, politically and economically the way it has over the past several months - and especially at the pace and intensity it has over the past few weeks.


With the rapidly escalating crisis showing only signs of worsening, global powers have been digging in their heels on both sides of the Venezuelan political and ideological divide.


That of itself is seen as a contributor to and further fuelling an already delicate and potentially explosive international diplomatic crisis, and a seemingly (for now) intractable political stalemate in Venezuela.


The economy is in free fall, although the country is sitting on vast resources of untapped oil wealth.


Its social systems are collapsing under the weight of a socialist ideology whose otherwise laudable national (and regional) intentions the government is struggling to realise.


Despite the largesse of late president Hugo Chavez’s regional PetroCaribe oil supply, Venezuela might be learning the hard way that charity begins at home.


The country’s already divisive politics are self-strangulating, locked in ideological silos that its adherents refuse to budge from - and many of its citizens are running away from…literally packing up and leaving, or just leaving without even doing much packing.


The long-standing political stand-off pre, during and post-Hugo Chavez, between his ‘Chavismo’ socialist ideals and the capitalist outlook of more right-wing opposition has become even more entrenched under Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro.


But with Maduro’s hold on power now gate-crashed by the rapid and dramatic ascendancy of the hitherto little known opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s political play-book is being rewritten.


Mr Guaidó has thrust himself centre stage into the Venezuelan political spotlight, the international headlines and global political prominence, by self-declaring as ‘Interim President’.


This was a bold and direct challenge to Nicolas Maduro’s swearing-in this month for another term as President, following last year’s controversial presidential elections.


Not only has it added fuel to the Venezuelan political divide, his move has set alight a split in the global response to the political and leadership crisis gripping the country.


Each day brings a new twist with the US and a growing number of its allies in the pro-Guaidó camp, while Russia, China and several other countries back Maduro.


Britain has joined a number of European Union states in setting an ultimatum to the Maduro government to call fresh elections or they too will throw their support behind Mr Guaidó.


The United Nations secretary general has appealed for dialogue to at least prevent the situation from descending into further uncertainty.


What seems certain is that unless there is some internal compromise or delicately-handled international intervention, Venezuela could be headed for even more chaos with consequential effects for its Latin American and Caribbean neighbours.


The potential to trigger an international diplomatic stand-off over the issue looms large and quite worrying.


Once again, the Caribbean by sheer force of circumstance finds itself at the crossroads and in the cross-hairs of an international diplomatic (for now) showdown over which it hardly has much influence - and over which itself is already divided.


The region for its part seems riven between more of ‘PetroCaribe/Chavez era’ memorial support camp (a result of the concessionary oil largesse of the former Venezuelan leader), and those who back the self-declared interim-president Guaidó.


Recent pro-Maduro military manoeuvrings by Russia, and not-so-veiled anti-Maduro threats by the Trump administration, highlight how increasingly tense and delicate the atmosphere surrounding the Venezuela crisis has become.


Once again, the Caribbean, by accident of someone else’s politics, finds itself not just centre stage, but quite possible the stage in a growing international crisis.


The United Nations has appealed for dialogue, so too have Caribbean leaders via their regional organisation Caricom - despite their own regional divisions over the Maduro-Guaidó rift.


The stage is set…for something.


One hopes that at this increasingly late stage there is indeed dialogue and a diplomacy-led resolution of this worrying situation.


Already, the effects are being felt.


An exodus of Venezuelan citizens is creating immigration challenges for both its Latin American neighbours and the Caribbean, especially the southerly Dutch islands (Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire), along with Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.


And that might just be the beginning.

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