Thursday, June 30, 2016

Skerrit, Maduro and the OAS

Nicolas Maduro (center left), Roosevelt Skerrit (center right)

It does not look pretty for Dominica among anti-Maduro forces in Latin America. A firestorm has erupted throughout the hemisphere over what is being regarded as Dominica's defense of the Maduro regime within the Organization of American States (OAS). We are being maligned by Latin Americans as scoundrels and supporters of repression. And we have Roosevelt Skerrit to thank for that.

The 46 Annual General Assembly of the OAS recently concluded in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. During that meeting, from June 13 to 15, an attempt was made within the organization to take some form of action against the Venezuelan government for its wanton abuse of the country's constitution as well as a breakdown in law and order in the country that poses a grave threat to the security, stability and social fabric of its people. The OAS has within its charter the ability to act against a member state should it be determined that the country's democracy is under threat due to documented constitutional violations. According to Antigua's Ambassador to the OAS Sir Ronald Sanders, this attempt failed. Dominica was represented by our Ambassador in Washington DC, Hubert Charles (see below).

Undeterred by the inability to get some action on Venezuela at the General Assembly meeting, OAS Secretary General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes took his mission to assist in the restoration of the country's constitution one step further by calling together a special meeting of the hemispheric body on June 23rd to present his report on Venezuela. Mr. Lemes invoked Article 20 of the OAS's charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) (see below), which gives him the authority to act. Mr. Lemes urged the member states gathered to join in what amounts to decisive actions against the Maduro regime aimed at the restitution of constitutional democracy, including possible suspension from the OAS.

His presentation (see below) to the member states gathered in Santo Domingo, constitutes one of the most consise analyses of events that have unfolded in Venezuela over the last few years. Secretary General Lemes went into detail, listing the systematic dismantling of Venezuela's constitution by the Maduro regime and the collateral damage that has occured as a result. Mr. Lemes clearly laid out a roadmap for the OAS to follow and called on its members to assist in the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. As expected but unfortunately, Roosevelt Skerrit, beholden to Mr. Maduro and his Petro Caribe dollars, has sided with the oppressive regime in Caracas against the people of Venezuela as well as our friends across the region, including the United States. But Mr. Skerrit was not alone in his treachery.

It is interesting that Mr. Skerrit never misses an opportunity to spite the United States in the global arena but is adamant in his desire to have his children born in that country. Mr. Skerrit also is also rumored to own property, financed by ill-gotten gains, in the US under the names of close friends and associates.

The Dirty Dozen

Following his presentation, Mr. Lemes called for a vote of approval from member states. Joining Mr. Skerrit in opposing the desire to restore constitutional authority and stability in Venezuela were eleven other countries; Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Equador, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Venezuela. These twelve states, whom we shall call "The Dirty Dozen", are all beneficiaries of Mr. Maduro's largesse at the expense of the Venezuelan people. We are not surprised at their subservience to Maduro but, upon listening to Sir Ronald Sanders presentation, we were appalled at his attempt to minimalize the events unfolding in Venezuela. Sir Ronald first accused Mr. Lemes of having a contentious relationship with Mr. Maduro, which we would agree with considering the situation in Venezuela. In rebuking Mr. Lemes' invocation of Article 20 of the IADC, specifically this section of the charter "an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state", Sir Ronald went on to paint a simplistic picture of Venezuela today saying that there was no evidence to suggest that this was the case. "There has been no unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime in Venezuela...What is occurring in Venezuela is a struggle for power between several political factions, but as of now there has been no unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime, and it is that principle for which my government stands", Sir Ronald stated. We strenuously disagree. Has Sir Ronald and the Antiguan government not been paying attention to Mr. Maduro's illegal packing of the courts in order to have his way? Have they not heard of the assassination of an opposition leader? Under what rock has Sir Ronald been living?

The Freedom Fighters

Twenty states voted in favour of Mr. Lemes' presentation. They were; Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States, and Uraguay. St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago abstained from voting.

Secretary General Lemes, perhaps chastened by the failed attempt to have the OAS act collectively at the just-concluded General Assembly, called for the establishment of a separate grouping to see his recommendations through. The "Group of Friends", as it will be called, will be mandated to work on solutions aimed at fostering the return of constitutional law and democracy in Venezuela. Mr. Lemes has his detractors, but we join with the Human Rights Watch ( in encouraging Mr. Lemes to pursue an agenda that seeks to liberate the people of Venezuela from the clutches of a despotic regime.

The opposition forces in Venezuela are attempting to have Mr. Maduro recalled, and we fully support that effort. Mr. Maduro is an incompetent despot sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world. He is directly responsible for the plight of his citizens and needs to be evicted from office post haste. We in the Latin America/Caribbean region are on the verge of witnessing a migrant crisis similar to what has been occuring in Europe since the inception of the war in Syria. If action is not taken to mitigate the crisis unfolding in Venezuela, our islands will be inundated with Venezuelans fleeing their country en masse; are we prepared to handle this coming influx? Mr. Skerrit has not lifted a finger to assist the Dominicans trapped in Mr. Maduro's grasp, we doubt very much he will assist in saving Venezuelans from their own repressive government.

References made in this story.

Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

"In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.

The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy.

If such diplomatic initiatives prove unsuccessful, or if the urgency of the situation so warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly. The General Assembly will adopt the decisions it deems appropriate, including the undertaking of diplomatic initiatives, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization, international law, and the provisions of this Democratic Charter.

The necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy, will continue during the process."

Secretary General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes' Report on Venezuela.

Click this link to view report on the OAS website. SecGen Report

OAS Special Meeting of the Permanent Council June 23rd.

Click this link to take you to the YouTube video presentation: Amb. Hubert Charles at OAS
Ambassador Charles' presentation starts at the 1:46:40 mark.
Sir Ronald Sanders' presentation starts at the 1:07:27 mark.

Open Letter by Human Rights Watch to OAS Secretary General Lemes.

Click this link to view letter: HRW Open Letter to OAS

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