Senator Johnson-Smith was explaining to the Senate on Friday, the reasons behind Jamaica's vote at the Organization of American States (OAS) last Tuesday that resulted in the hemispheric body accepting the nomination of a candidate supported by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro as head of state in Venezuela.
The Foreign Affairs minister explained that the Maduro administration had announced its intention to withdraw Venezuela's membership from the OAS, and the National Assembly, which would normally participate in such decision-making under the Venezuelan Constitution, had expressed concern about the legitimacy of the authority of the declaration.
According to Senator Johnson-Smith, “The text, based on an amendment proposed by Jamaica, also made it clear that the acceptance of a representative would be temporary, lasting until new free and fair elections are held in Venezuela, with the expectation that the duly democratically elected Government would then appoint its permanent representative with the full endorsement of the National Assembly,” she explained.
She said that the OAS’ June 2018 and January 2019 resolutions, noted that the May 2018 electoral process in Venezuela lacked legitimacy for failure to allow participation by all political actors and to comply with internationally recognised democratic standards, including the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and inclusive process.
Mrs. Johnson Smith noted that the resolutions also highlighted “our desire to see the urgent entry of humanitarian aid and implementation of epidemiological surveillance measures in Venezuela to prevent the exacerbation of the humanitarian and public health crises.”
She said that another resolution on Venezuela was put before the OAS membership on April 9, which sought to treat with an imminent gap in representation before the body, due to President Nicolas Maduro’s administration announcing the intention to shortly withdraw the country’s membership.
She reiterated that the OAS voted to accept a representative, designated by Mr. Guaidó in his capacity as President of the National Assembly and not as interim President of Venezuela.
“We stand ready to participate in the search for a sustainable diplomatic solution to the crisis in that country – the people of Venezuela deserve no less,” she said in a statement during Friday’s sitting of the Senate.
Contending that the issues relating to Venezuela are “highly complex and sensitive,” Senator Johnson Smith said Jamaica’s observation and central concern is that the Venezuelan people are “urgently calling for an end to their suffering and that all efforts must be made to peacefully resolve the situation and to put their beloved country back on a path to political and socio-economic stability.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, pointed out that despite having to temporarily close the Jamaican Embassy in Caracas, due to an “unsustainable situation,” Jamaica continues to maintain its policy of maintaining cordial relations and engagement with Venezuela.
“We have not broken diplomatic relations. We have consistently asserted our readiness to play whatever role possible in supporting Venezuela and the Venezuelan people during these challenging times,” she declared.
Mrs. Johnson Smith informed that Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently engaged President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, and two of his representatives, who explained their positions on the humanitarian crisis, and the social and economic situation in the country, as well as the ultimate goal of having new elections at an early date.
“The engagement formed part of CARICOM’s efforts to bridge a divide,” she told the Senate.
She noted that “as a community, we have sought to find consensus where possible.”
Mrs. Johnson Smith stressed that Jamaica is not among the 54 countries across the world that have accepted Mr. Guaidó’s authority as Interim President of Venezuela, who she said “sought to invoke particular constitutional authority to assume the position.”
“The Jamaican Government has not recognised Mr. Guaidó as interim President. This however, is without prejudice to our acknowledgment of his role as the duly elected president of the National Assembly,” she said.
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