Features — 27 February 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Belize and Caribbean can help restore stability to Venezuela: Ambassador

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 25, 2015–Last year, 43 people died in Venezuela’s protracted unrest and today, the society is still being impacted by political turmoil, which His Excellency Yoel Pérez Marcano, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Belize, says is linked to a planned coup d’etat which was expected to take place on February 12. Pérez Marcano says that there is still a plan to overthrow the current administration – a plan allegedly orchestrated by a small group of officers of the Bolivarian Force area and sectors of the civil opposition, among others.

While Venezuela has alleged that the US is involved in the coup attempt, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US Department of State, issued a statement last Thursday, February 19, 2015, from Washington, DC, which said that, “The allegations made by the Venezuelan government that the United States is involved in coup plotting and destabilization are baseless and false.”

Psaki’s statement added that, “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Consistent with the principles enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the United States reaffirms the region’s commitment that changes in governments must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful and in accordance with the rule of law.”

He maintained that the US is not promoting unrest in Venezuela and it is not attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government.

“We remain Venezuela’s largest trading partner. Venezuela’s economic and political problems are the result of the policies of the Venezuelan government,” Psaki’s statement said.

The unrest in Venezuela led yesterday to the death of a teenaged student in that country. Today, the Ambassador lamented the killing of Kluiver Roa, 14, who he said was allegedly shot by a member of Venezuela’s National Police in the city of San Cristóbal when a group of young men with covered faces who were using incendiary material and blunt objects, blocked an access road to the House of the Governor of the State of Tachira. He said that Roa’s death was immediately repudiated by President Nicolas Maduro.

“At this time the alleged perpetrator of the shooting is under arrest and has been submitted to a criminal judge,” he said, adding that elsewhere in the country, the atmosphere is of peace, work and study for the Venezuelans.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, also issued a statement condemning the killing and affirming that, “as long as the steps needed to begin an inclusive dialogue that leads to reconciliation between Venezuelans do not take place, other innocent citizens could become victims of this violence.” Insulza “urged the government and the opposition ‘to create the conditions to generate a democratic space in which that inclusive dialogue is possible.’”

Pérez Marcano, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Belize, said that at the political level, their government has, through the Committee of Ministers of the Union of Nations of South America (UNASUR), and the Apostolic Nuncio of Vatican in Caracas, been promoting the reactivation of the process of political dialogue which was opened last year, after the street violence which he said was triggered by the same coup group, but was later abandoned because of preconditions which were being demanded by the opposition in Venezuela.

According to Ambassador Pérez Marcano, they continue to fight against the smuggling to Colombia, the hoarding of products, the speculation and manipulation of prices on the currency market, and he noted that markets continue to be distorted amid an economic war waged by some entrepreneurs and owners of media who, he said, have unsuccessfully tried to provoke social violence against the present administration.

How can Belize and other allies contribute diplomatically and otherwise to improving the situation on the ground?

The Ambassador said that the government of President Maduro has been consistent in its position in calling for national dialogue, without preconditions, with all political, economic and social forces of the nation and they want to discuss policies that will address the country’s current problems constitutionally and democratically.

He said that although formal dialogue was suspended last year, various regional forums like ALBA, CARICOM, CELAC and SICA, have supported the continuation of the political dialogue, but the opposition has not responded favorably.

“In this context, the special political and economic relations held by Venezuela with the political arch of the States of the Caribbean, grouped in CARICOM, means that these Caribbean countries have a legitimate interest in promoting political dialogue in Venezuela, as this would contribute to the consolidation of the democratic process in Latin America.,” Ambassador Marcano noted.

The Ambassador said that one of the objectives of the current opposition in Venezuela is the termination of the PetroCaribe program, which, he said, is an essential instrument for economic development, social progress and political stability of many countries in the region.

In that sense, it would be important for Venezuela that Belize and the country’s other friends, partners and allies in the Caribbean, support the process of political dialogue as a means of settlement of the current internal situation, by not only engaging the Venezuelan opposition, but also the Government of the United States of America, he said.

Ambassador Pérez Marcano notes that the next meeting of Heads of State and Governments of CARICOM, presents a propitious scenario for countries such as Belize, with which the Venezuelan government maintains excellent political relations and fruitful economic relations through PetroCaribe, to promote this dialogue.

Last year, the Ambassador told the media that the US still wants to control the oil in Venezuela. We asked him what his take is on the recent energy summit held by US Vice President Joe Biden with Caribbean leaders, and whether this is seen as a threat to the relationship between Venezuela and the Caribbean.

He replied that friends, partners and allies of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Latin America and the Caribbean and the rest of the world are sovereign states, and so they are free, just as Venezuela is, to make political decisions that are considered suitable to their national interests at any given time.

“In that sense, leaders of the CARICOM countries have every right to participate in all meetings in which they consider that they will obtain benefits for their peoples,” he replied.

He said that the meeting aroused suspicion because agencies such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank and the European Union presented a package of proposals for financing of projects for alternative energy, which were a repeat of proposals already presented and disposed of by the countries of the region. He cautioned that new financial deals could limit autonomous economic development and political sovereignty.

Pérez Marcano said that the meeting failed at its mission, and it underscores the need to strengthen PetroCaribe accords with CARICOM, adding that it is important that the region continues in its quest to diversify sustainable energy technology and to agree on a funding system for projects from the funds of PetroCaribe, without mortgaging the political sovereignty of Caribbean states to international financial institutions.

This year, Belize will begin to make repayments on its PetroCaribe debt and Ambassador Pérez Marcano affirms that the agreement permits Belize to settle its bill with goods rather than cash, which, he said, would result in major currency savings because countries such as Belize would not have to use up foreign reserves to settle their oil bill with Venezuela; however, the arrangement could also spur an expansion in domestic production, and an increase in the exporting country’s production capacity.

“This operation of payment of debt with domestic products is an important part of the negotiation agenda between the newly designated H.E. Ambassador of Belize to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Lou Anne Burns Martinez and the Venezuelan authorities, but at this time it’s in a technical phase, as the operation involves the incorporation of the private sector,owners of products that will be subject to the operation, the mechanisms of pricing products, transportation and tariffs, and phytosanitary controls,” the Ambassador explained.

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