JLP warns Ja about Chavez

With Venezuela bidding for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding, is warning the Jamaican Government of consequences for Jamaica in its relationship with the United States.

In a situation that is bound to rekindle memories of Jamaica being embroiled in tensions between the United States and Cuba during the Cold War, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has become more confrontational with the US as he seeks to cement his influence in the region. Mr. Chavez has begun building up arms and training civilian reserves against what he believes could be a possible invasion by the US, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

Venezuela is the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S. and is now providing oil on preferential terms through the PetroCaribe agreement to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries. Mr. Chavez is expected to visit the island soon to further advance PetroCaribe.

During his weekly television broadcast of ‘Alo, Presidente’ last week, Mr. Chavez likened Venezuela to David against the Goliath U.S., which is lobbying South American and Caribbean countries to support Guatemala for the seat which is reserved for the region. The non-permanent seat is rotated on a two year basis and will be vacated by Argentina in October.

Travelling in his car from the Jamaica Labour Party Area Council One meeting at the Scouts’ headquarters on Camp Road, St. Andrew, where he had first raised the issue, Mr. Golding declined to say whether Jamaica should support Guatemala. But he gave a unequivocal “no” to supporting Venezuela.

“I think it will affect our relationship with America, how I can’t tell, but it won’t be good. There are some critical issues coming up before the Security Council and I think that the Government has to think about the long-term interests of Jamaica,” he said.

Mr. Golding said he wants to meet with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on the Security Council matter, but added, “I worry that that our vote has been forced through PetroCaribe.”

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Delano Franklyn told The Gleaner that the matter was still under discussion and as with other similar foreign policy matters, CARICOM countries would vote en bloc. CARICOM last year defied the will of the United States when it backed the election of former Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza as secretary general of the Organisation of the American States.

“It will be a consensus, taking everything into consideration. We hope that it (the decision) will be respected,” said Mr. Franklyn.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who visited Jamaica on Friday and met with the Prime Minister, has so far refused to discuss her position with the U.S. on the forthcoming vote. Mr. Franklyn said he was unaware whether Dr. Bachelet had discussed the issue with Mrs. Simpson Miller.

Dr. Bachelet had met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Thursday as the U.S. seeks to rebuild support in the region which has become vocal in its opposition to his administration’s foreign policy.

According to a report carried in Chilean newspaper La Tercera yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley during a meeting in Washington in April that should her country support Venezuela’s campaign, “Chile could fall into a group of losers against US interests.”

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