Caribbean Leaders Move Away from US Toward Venezuela
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The Caribbean Community expressed its support for Venezuela and the continuing energy alliance in the region during its biannual meeting of heads of state held this Thursday and Friday in Nassau, The Bahamas. Regional leaders also condemned the most recent coup attempt in Venezuela from the ultra right wing within the country.

Chair of Caricom and Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie addresses the opening ceremony of the 26th Intersessional Meeting of the regional bloc Feb. 26, 2015.

In an interview with teleSUR, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said “You cant try to overthrow a democratically-elected government, this is fundamental, you change a government through democratic means, this is a high constitutional principle and we are supporting Venezuela.”

WATCH MORE: Prime Minister Gonsalves in our special report below

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is also the outgoing pro tempore Caricom president, also weighed in on the importance of Venezuela's foreign policy with regard to Caribbean states. He stressed that democracy should be respected and thanked Venezuela’s President Maduro for the financial help the country has given Caribbean nations, especially given the international financial crash.

Browne also called on the U.S. congress to end its “senseless” blockade of Cuba.

Energy was a big theme of this, the 26th biannual meeting of the 15 island nations. Browne explained, “We continue to stand with Venezuela, and, in as much as we accept that there must be some diversification into alternative energy, the reality is fossil fuel will be around for decades to come, so the importance of Venezuela will remain.”

Venezuela, which is also a Caribbean nation, has joined together with its island neighbors in the PetroCaribe venture. In the video above, Suriname's Vice President Robert Ameerali says, “Energy is one of the big issues, Suriname was one of the countries that was in favor of PetroCaribe.”

READ MORE: Caricom: Out With Imperialism, In With Solidarity

While the United States has recently tried lure Caribbean away from PetroCaribe, Browne made it clear that this is not the way Caricom should go. He said that the United States does not hold the answer to the problems in the Caribbean with regard to energy, and that PetroCaribe offers a good solution and it is good for relations between the islands and Venezuela.

Another significant decision made at the meeting was the decision not to renew the Dominican Republic's member status. They stressed that they are not trying to meddle in the country's decision to refuse citizenship to descendants of Haitians, but are making the point out of respect for human rights, and are urging the two contries to discuss their differences. "Caricom continues to condemn this decision which leaves more than 200,000 Haitians born in the Dominican Republic in limbo," said outgoing Caricom chief Gaston Browne.

READ MORE: The Dominican Republic and Haiti, a Shared Legacy

Other decisions were made in agriculture, tourism, the use of medical marijuana, slavery and genocide reparations, and investment in human capital and culture (See below for the final statement). Jamaica, which legalized the consumption and production of small amounts of marijuana this Wednesday, led the call for its neighbors to do the same.

The Caricom member states are The Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

WATCH MORE: A report from 2014 on the ongoing conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

[From The Bahamas Weekly]

The following are remarks made by CARICOM Chairman, the Rt Hon. Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at the Closing of the 26th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at Melia Nassau Beach Resort, on February 27:

We have had a most productive two days and decided on a number of issues.

One of the key items related to the leverage of our human, natural and cultural assets for the benefit of our Community. We agreed that emphasis should be placed on developing the cultural and creative industries and the sport sector in a manner that would benefit the economies and the society as a whole.

Specifically we have agreed to create the necessary legislation to advance the creative industries and establish a sustainable financing mechanism for the sector in collaboration with the CARICOM Development Fund and the Caribbean Development Bank and the private sector.

Looking at the realignment of the education system to accommodate our thrust in those areas and in that context the work of our Commission on Human Resource Development will be key.

Marijuana

We have agreed on the composition of the Marijuana Commission which we expect would soon begin its work to look into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding the use of marijuana and to consult with stakeholders to get a view on the issue.

Committee of Ambassadors

To improve implementation and overall governance of the Community we approved the Functions of the Committee of Ambassadors. The Committee will work closely with the Organs and Bodies of the Community, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Community Institutions and Associate Institutions to establish and maintain an efficient system of consultations at the national and regional levels. It will also advance implementation, at the national level.

Banking

Heads of Government agreed to establish a Committee of Finance Ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with our Region being unjustly labelled as a high-risk area for financial services.

Because in many cases our indigenous banks cannot provide a high level of reward, correspondent banks are closing their relationships with them because of the claim that the Caribbean is a high risk area for financial services.

Unless this situation is addressed with urgency, the indigenous banks in each of our countries will be adversely affected in their operations.

Reparations

The meeting agreed to pursue the cause of reparatory justice through a process of engagement with the relevant countries.

FAO

We exchanged views with Dr. Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and thanked him for the work being done in the Region particularly with respect to Black Sigatoka disease and the increase in programme budget in the Caribbean.
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