EDITORIAL - Caribbean must rally round Venezuela


VENEZUELA, which prides itself as a Caribbean state because of its long Caribbean coastline, is currently going through a period of severe turmoil. 
The oil rich country, which has played an active, positive role in the English-speaking Caribbean dating back to the 1960s, is experiencing some tough economic and political challenges even as the rest of the world is watches on. The economy has slowed and reports indicate that the slowdown will continue. Inflation is running high and consumers are experiencing many shortages of basic items. 
There have been reports that some Venezuelans are flocking to neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago and to other countries to escape the harsh economic conditions their country is going through. This is natural as people facing such hardships will migrate to other places where the chances of doing better exist, and until the situation gets better in their homeland.
Recent commentaries from many quarters have suggested that the islands of the Caribbean should rally around the South American Republic, helping where necessary. Our islands are small, but in 
whatever areas they can make a contribution to a worthy cause, they never hesitate to do so. 
There is the recognition that situations like what presently exist in Venezuela can affect any other state. In fact, this region has experienced a number of shocks – whether they be from economic slowdowns or from natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes – which the people of the Caribbean know only too well. It is because of the close ties developed between Venezuela and sister territories in the region that have given rise to the requests for supporting Venezuelans.  
Venezuelan–Caribbean ties go back to the 1960s when that country actually sponsored and supported the move by the newly independent English-speaking nations to become members of the hemispheric organisations. Those institutions included the Organisation of American States, the Latin American Economic System, the Inter-American Development Bank and, among others, the Latin American Energy Organisation.
At the height of the first oil crisis in the 1970s, the Venezuelan President, Carlos Andres Perez, vowed to use some of Venezuelan oil dollars to assist the development of the small islands. It is significant to note that several countries have benefited in many areas from Venezuelan support. Indeed, the San Jose Agreement involving Mexico and Venezuela offered oil to this region at concessionary rates. That turned out to be the forerunner to the PetroCaribe oil agreement, which was conceptualised and implemented by Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan strongman. 
Venezuela also has diplomatic relations with this region and is a non-borrowing member of the Caribbean Development Bank. Against this background, it becomes necessary for the Caribbean to render the support to the people in Venezuela.   
Many critics have blamed the present administration in Venezuela for the crisis the country is going through. However, our role here at this time is not to get into the name calling or blaming, except to state that countries do have their ups and downs. The best thing right now is to hope that Venezuela emerges from this crisis and that normalcy returns to those Venezuelans who are facing these current problems.

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