Venezuela has been a source of much discussion of late on the international scene due to the continued fallout from the appointment of Nicolás Maduro as President. The socialist leader, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez, has sparked outrage for his handling of the economy, corruption and product shortages. There have been at least four deaths since demonstrations against his presidency began. Here in Saint Lucia on Tuesday, Her Excellency Leiff Liubliana Escalona Barrueta held a press conference at the Venezuelan embassy to give an update on the situation unfolding in her native land. Saint Lucia has had diplomatic ties with Venezuela for many years now, however the recent positioning by the Government of Saint Lucia to have the island join Venezuela’s petrocaribe as well as ALBA has raised much debate as well as concern by some. Some of these concerns have been heightened due to the recent unrest in Venezuela with some including the opposition United Workers Party calling on government to rethink its quest to align Saint Lucia with ALBA as well as Petrocaribe.
Speaking Tuesday Her Excellency said that from the moment President Nicolás Maduro assumed the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in April of 2013, a terrible economic war has been launched in Venezuela. “Coordinated by the Venezuelan right-wing and business groups that manage monopolies of food and basic products that comprise the basic food basket of Venezuelans, it has resulted in shortages and discontent amongst the people,” Baruetta went on. Further, “this fascist right-wing has not called a truce in the economic war, having understood that there is no way to overthrow the Government via the electoral process. In that regard, the Bolivarian Revolution has undertaken a difficult fight in the face of these attempts at political and economic destabilisation by anti-national sectors. They include the enactment of a legal framework to address speculation and the hoarding of products, as well as presenting to the country and to the world a plan for peace-building and coexistence.”
But what does the unrest mean for the recently finalized Petrocaribe agreement, whereby the island would benefit from subsidized Venezuelan fuel? Barrueta was quick to put all qualms to rest.
“The government is working to establish the guarantee. No problem. Because the rest of the meeting, the rest of the discussions, is about this scheme Petrocaribe and to continue working normally. Our position is to inform to the international community about the different forms of violence in Venezuela but the rest of the activities and the schemes continue normally.”
With no end in sight to the ongoing tensions, it remains to be seen whether this arrangement will be carried out successfully.
On Tuesday the same day of the press conference in Saint Lucia, Venezuelan security forces arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on charges of fomenting unrest that has killed at least four people, bringing tens of thousands of angry supporters onto the streets of Caracas.
Crowds of white-clad protesters stood in the way of the vehicle carrying the 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist after he made a defiant speech, said an emotional farewell to his family and gave himself up to soldiers.
“I am handing myself over to an unfair justice system,” the protest leader told supporters, standing on a platform next to a statue of Cuban poet and independence hero Jose Marti.
“May my imprisonment serve to wake the people up.”
The crowd lifted his wife up to give him a final embrace and hang a crucifix around his neck.