Almost two hours before the start of the eighth Inter-American meeting of ministers of culture started at the Hilton Barbados resort on Thursday a small group of protestors gathered along Bay-Street, just outside the entrance to Needham’s point.
The group, the Friends of Venezuela Solidarity Committee, was protesting the Organisation of American State (OAS) meeting due to that intergovernmental organization’s support of Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela.
Spokesman for the group, attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman later told Barbados TODAY that the group was not pleased that the OAS had “violated” Venezuela’s sovereignty.
“The protest was against the OAS ministerial meeting at the Hilton today. The OAS, in April 2019, in violation of Venezuelan sovereignty, recognized the imposter Guaido as Venezuela’s president and placed his representative on their council,” said Hanuman.
Following the OAS Permanent Council’s approval of Guaido’s representatives in April, there has been a divide among OAS members to recognize the delegation, with some saying it was improper to invite the political opposition, which operates no effective control over Venezuela, to sit among sovereign government representatives.
Back in 2017 Venezuela withdrew from the US-based OAS while accusing the group of being a US pawn.
There was no Venezuela representative at the opening of today’s meeting and it was not immediately clear if that country’s representative was one of those absent due to flight delays and cancellation as a result of Hurricane Humberto.
However, the short peaceful protest, which began just after 7 a.m., finished long before the 9 a.m. scheduled start of the ministerial meeting, which did not get underway until about 9:30.
OAS officials were not immediately available for comment at today’s opening, and OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro made no mention of the economic or political crisis facing the oil-rich nation, as he stuck to his speech on the strengthening of the creative economy and cultural sector of OAS member states.
Hanuman said the Friends of Venezuela Solidarity Committee “wants peace in the region” and called for the internal affairs of Our sister Venezuela to be settled through dialogue between domestic parties as CARICOM has also endorsed.
“The five years of sanctions against Venezuela has resulted in huge suffering for the Venezuelan people and the deaths of some 40,000 Venezuelans to say nothing of the refugee crisis that it has spawned,” he added.
Since the start of this year there has been a deepening political crisis in Venezuela, with that Spanish-speaking nation and the world divided over whether Nicholas Maduro or Juan Guaido is president.
Hanuman argued that the US sanctions on Venezuela were directly affecting CARICOM states not only in terms of “sanctioned refugees”, but also in terms of Venezuelan fishermen trading guns for goods at sea with CARICOM fishermen.
He alleged that those were the weapons that eventually find their way onto the streets in Barbados and throughout the sub-region.