Short-lived CARICOM unity collapses at OAS summit

Short-lived CARICOM unity collapses at OAS summit


Led by the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, the heads of delegations from 33 member states posed for the official photo of the 47th General Assembly, held in Cancun, Mexico. Photo: OAS

By Caribbean News Now contributor

CANCUN, Mexico — The unity displayed earlier by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries at the May 31 ‘meeting of consultation of ministers of foreign affairs’ of the 34-member Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington to discuss the situation in Venezuela, suffered a public collapse at the OAS summit in Cancun, Mexico, on Monday.

Although a draft declaration presented on behalf of all CARICOM countries was not adopted at the May 31 meeting, neither was a competing draft declaration backed by a group of 14 countries, led by the US, Canada, Mexico, and Peru.

Consideration of the Venezuela issue was therefore deferred until another meeting of OAS foreign ministers to be held as part of the OAS summit on June 20.

However, as explained at length by Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador in a commentary published today, a few days before the foreign ministers’ meeting in Cancun, St Vincent and the Grenadine prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, notwithstanding an earlier call for CARICOM unity on the issue, appeared to precipitate a collapse of CARICOM’s agreed unified position by means of a letter on June 16 to his colleague leaders.

Further, the minister representing St Vincent and the Grenadines, Camillo Gonsalves (Ralph Gonsalves’s son), announced at the eleventh hour in Cancun that his government was not supporting the text of a negotiated compromise draft, despite the fact that no CARICOM country had hitherto raised any objection to the negotiation or language of the agreed proposed draft declaration.  

Gonsalves’ backpedaling on the issue seems to have prompted Suriname to discover that it could not support just one sentence in the agreed compromise declaration, which in turn precipitated four other CARICOM countries, publicly and without notice, to break ranks and declare their lack of support for the single negotiated document. 

“As it turned out that sentence, for whatever reason, became the basis CARICOM was split asunder, and the negotiations, which had been conducted on behalf of all, then seemed to have been conducted in bad faith,” Sanders said.

The representative of St Vincent then re-introduced the draft that CARICOM leaders had offered “for negotiation of a final text” as his government’s draft declaration. 

“Therefore, CARICOM countries found themselves in the awkward and embarrassing position of having to vote on two drafts – one of which had been intended by CARICOM leaders for negotiation, and the other that had been negotiated with fidelity to the fundamental principles enunciated in the CARICOM leaders’ draft.  The other OAS countries looked on aghast,” Sanders noted.

In the final vote of all the OAS countries present, neither the St Vincent draft (eight votes) nor the negotiated draft (20 votes) secured the 23 votes necessary to be adopted, an outcome that Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro described as a “triumph” for his country.

“The meeting adjourned, as it began, with no declaration, but with a severely wounded CARICOM and a paralysed OAS,” Sanders said.