September 17 ,2020
On the eve of the reported visit to Guyana by US Secretary of State, Mr Mike Pompeo, on September 17-18, 2020, we the undersigned, support and endorse the statement by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) issued on September 12, 2020 entitled, “Guyana Must Stay Out of Venezuelan Politics” and the updated and reiterated statement from the Caribbean Regional Women’s Network, issued in February 2019, which calls for the Caribbean as ‘A Zone of Peace’ – which we believe to be of critical importance at this time. We extend special solidarity to our Suriname sisters and organisations as Guyana’s neighbour and CARICOM territory which was included in Mr Pompeo’s itinerary.
We are encouraged by the comments of Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister that Venezuela is not on the agenda for Mr. Pompeo’s visit. However, our own histories and lived realities in the Caribbean show overt and covert geopolitics, as well as interventions and interference by the USA. It is in this context that we stand by our statement.
The GHRA statement reports on increased economic and military pressure, and disinformation campaigns aimed at Venezuela. It refers to an August 2020 release by the US State Department that included Guyana in a list of Caribbean and Latin American States, which the release claimed were supporting a return to democratic government in Venezuela. The GHRA also indicates that, “No statement or other form of approval of that statement has been issued by the Government of Guyana to justify such a step by the US State Department.”
The GHRA statement points out that Guyana has resisted and avoided engagement in any initiatives aimed at interference in the domestic political situation in Venezuela, or in attempts at regime change. The GHRA underlines the fact that in Guyana, all-party unity on the Venezuela issue has been a feature of Guyana politics over many administrations, a tradition that has survived recent inter-party tensions, with the new administration retaining the services of senior members of the previous government in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with specific responsibility for the Guyana-Venezuela border issue. The GHRA also notes that Guyana’s response to the influx of Venezuelan refugees in recent years has conformed to all the appropriate international standards, including health and education services. The GHRA concludes that, “Self-determination of Guyana as a State is a matter of fundamental human rights, as indeed, is that of Venezuela.”
We, the undersigned, and members of the Caribbean Women’s Network, call on the Government of Guyana and on all parties to ensure that the Caribbean, including its diverse peoples, communities, cultures, physical environments, territorial and maritime boundaries, among others, remains a collective zone of peace. Over the past 500+ years, Caribbean peoples have endured and overcome colonialism, which included genocide, enslavement, forced migration and indentureship; foreign occupation (of Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Guyana and Grenada); dictatorship; and neocolonial exploitation in the present. We know well the political, economic, social and cultural tolls of conflict and violence on our region and its peoples. Thus, we view with alarm any escalation of tension through words, threats and actions on the part of global superpowers that point to increased militarism of the Caribbean and Latin American region.
Guyana and the Caribbean region have had a proud history of adherence to the principles of non-alignment, anti-racism, territorial integrity, and non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states. In 1972, the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean nations of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, then the four smallest newly independent states of the Western hemisphere, stood together to uphold the sovereign right of Caribbean States to establish and pursue diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba, in opposition to the OAS call for the blacklisting of Cuba. In speaking ‘truth to power’, they set a principled example for all other nations in the hemisphere to follow.
The Caribbean Regional Women’s Network reiterates its call to the Government of Guyana, CARICOM, Caribbean leaders and peoples, to show resolve and commitment to adhering to the principles of non-alignment; territorial integrity;
non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states; peaceful co-existence and co-operation among countries and territories; and commitment to resolving tensions and conflicts through peaceful means.
We are heartened that on January 24, 2019, CARICOM issued a statement reaffirming, “its guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy … and reiterated that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy.”
We are mindful of the difficult situation in our sister nation of Venezuela, and we are concerned over the worsening health, economic, social and political conditions among many of its people, especially women and children.
We in the Caribbean have firsthand experience of the plight of economic migrants, and the hardships they are forced to endure.
We are heartened by the response of our sister Caribbean nations including Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, in offering humanitarian assistance to our Venezuelan neighbours fleeing hardship. We call for the continuation and expansion of such assistance, while upholding the right of Venezuelan refugees to freedom from exploitation, including sexual exploitation and human right abuses, as set out in international treaties.
We support Guyana’s right to territorial integrity and the peaceful settlement of the Guyana-Venezuela border issue through the International Court of Justice. However, we are deeply concerned that global politics and global competition in establishing spheres of influence in the Caribbean, and recent statements by the US, in particular, will risk increasing tensions, conflict and destabilization.
Caribbean Women’s Regional Network
Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA TT)