Published On: Mon, May 8th, 2017

CARICOM urged to send fact-finding mission to Venezuela

In almost daily anti-government protests in the past five weeks, police in riot gear have used tear gas, rubber bullets and fire hoses to drive back protesters armed with stones and petrol bombs.

Demonstrators clash with riot police on armored car during rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in CaracasBRIDGETOWN – The Caribbean chapter of the International Network in Defence of Humanity has called on leaders within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to send a fact-finding mission to Venezuela so it can make “an informed” analysis about the situation there.

In a statement issued yesterday, spokesman David Comissiong suggested that what was being reported in Western media and claimed by Western institution was not a true reflection of what is happening in the Spanish-speaking oil-rich nation.

There have been almost daily anti-government protests in the past several weeks. Police in riot gear have used tear gas, rubber bullets and fire hoses to drive back protesters armed with stones and petrol bombs. Demonstrators have also resorted to the construction of fire barricades in the streets. Clashes between police and protesters have reportedly left 38 dead in the past month.

But Comissiong said that on his visits to Venezuela, he found “the reality that I witnessed with my own eyes significantly at odds with the impressions and images presented by the powerful Western media corporations”.

He further charged – like the Venezuelan government has consistently argued – that the US government seeks the Maduro administration as an enemy and is therefore trying to destroy it.

“They are therefore currently engaged in a multi-faceted campaign to bring down the administration of President Nicolas Maduro by any means necessary; and central to this campaign is a strategy of psychological warfare, in which the media are assigned a critical role,” Comissiong argued.

“We will never achieve any such accurate understanding if we depend on Western media institutions for our information about Venezuela…It is against this background that I now hereby call upon the governments of CARICOM to designate and send a special envoy to Venezuela for the purpose of investigating the situation on the ground and making an informed analysis of the Venezuelan reality and the role that CARICOM can and should play.”

Meantime, the US is said to be keeping a close eye on the instability rocking Venezuela. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, met on Friday with Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, the White House said this weekend.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement to Reuters that the two officials discussed “the need for the government to adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the National Assembly, and hold free and democratic elections.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters: “Some of the acts there have been deplorable and [it’s] certainly something that we’re monitoring very closely.”

On Friday, local news media carried a video circulating on Twitter of a statue of the late President Hugo Chavez being torn down.

Reports indicated that students destroyed the statue as an expression of their anger over the food shortages, runaway inflation and spiralling crime that have come to be a part of everyday life in the socialist nation.

Increasingly violent protests have drawn masses of people into the street nearly every day since March and show no sign of slowing.

President Maduro on Monday announced the creation of a new “popular assembly” which demonstrators decried as a power grab aimed at sidelining the National Assembly. Borges responded by calling on Venezuelans to rebel.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement: “We are deeply concerned about the Maduro government’s violent crackdown on protestors in Venezuela. President Maduro’s disregard for the fundamental rights of his own people has heightened the political and economic crisis in the country.

“The Maduro regime must respect Venezuela’s constitution and the voice of its people. We are particularly concerned that the government is failing to provide basic food and medical needs to the Venezuelan people,” Haley added.

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