countries have before them a challenge, one that could be
perceived as taking a side in the contest between the religiously
driven apostle, President George W Bush and the former army
soldier bent on reversing the domination of western capitalism,
Christian religious fundamentalism would define it as a choice
between good and evil: an advocate of God and a disciple of
Needless to say, it is far from being so simple and the Caribbean,
in any case, may find it difficult to determine which way
is up in the circumstances and given the characters.
The contest will be fought in a couple weeks for a non-permanent
place on the United Nations Security Council. It is the environment
from which decisions are taken to determine which countries
and regions of the world are attacked with the now infamous
weapons of mass destruction or supported in their quest to
attain nuclear force.
And while, as the non-permanency of the position
indicates, the country that emerges with the majority of votes
will not have critical voting rights or veto power, the position
means something by way of unconditional support or not for
the present power structure and fostering discussion and debate
in international fora over power relations in the world.
The two countries actually vying for the non-permanent Security
Council seat are Venezuela and Guatemala, the latter being
the preferred choice of the US, therefore the contest is seen
as one between the US and Venezuela.
In the present circumstances of the sweetheart Petro-Caribe
deal, Venezuela to Caricom, a deal enthusiastically welcomed
by the vast majority of Caricom countries, that majority has
a rather very obvious choice.
In addition to the oil flowing to Caricom on preferential
terms and conditions, disposing them to support Venezuela,
the region still remembers that Guatemala with its host of
US banana companies was one of the major protagonists against
Caribbean banana producers at the WTO. In this regard Caricom
is not likely to forgive the Guatemalans, even if the major
protagonists were the American fruit companies.
Caricom is also likely to consider negatively Guatemalas
continuing claims to a large chunk of Belizes land mass
and so be averse to lending support to a country which has
designs on the territorial integrity of a member state.
This point is however balanced by Venezuelas refusal
to allow its own claims to Guyana to disappear, notwithstanding
Chavezs profile as non-colonial power in the region
and his readiness to identify his country as part of the Caribbean
and not an invading power.
Only recently in the run-up to the UN Security Council elections
and with his sights firmly set on receiving the 14 Caricom
votes, President Chavez vowed that if elected, Venezuela would
not use its position on the Security Council to advance its
claims on Guyanas territory. While that may give some
form of assurance, it does nothing to alleviate the continuing
concerns of Guyana and Caricom.
The proximity of Venezuela to the Caribbean and its long historical
ties with T&T and Jamaica, Bolivar having taken refuge
in Jamaica two centuries ago, are also factors that would
persuade Caricom states to support the candidacy of Caracas
for the UN Security Council place.
But what of the intrinsic value of either Venezuela or Guatemala
on the UN Security Council and what does it hold for international
relations into the future?
Caricom countries must ask themselves whether support for
the candidacy of Venezuela or Guate-mala will advance or retard
international peace. Will their support for one or the other
assist with a greater balancing of the power? Will their support
go to exercising a measure of restraint on the worlds
only super power?
Guatemala has been a client state of the US since the 1950s
when the CIA removed the duly elected Arbenz, who was attempting
to put a spoke in the wheel of the Latifunda system in which
the giant American banana corporations owned the majority
of the cultivable land while the peasants lived landless and
dependent on the fruit companies for their hand-to-mouth existence.
A vote for Guatemala therefore means further support for the
US to do as it pleases at the Security Council. Whereas a
vote for Venezuela must certainly ensure that at least another
voice is raised at this crucial international forum against
further licence of the US to do with the Security Council
as it well pleases.
Alternatively, there may be the concern that Venezuelas
presence at the Security Council could mean opening the door
to countries such as Iran with desires for nuclear power to
be able to get the green light to press ahead with its nuclear
Such concerns however are not realistic: one, the non-permanent
position does not carry with it voting power on anything,
far less on which country should be allowed to develop nuclear
It also does not consider that apart from the US, Britain,
France, Russia and China are not likely to stand by and allow
the nuclear club to spread abroad, especially in the Muslim
world. Such concerns therefore are completely without validity.
Similarly, concern that a position on the Security Council
will allow for some reckless adventure by Chavez is without
substance: one, the relative powerlessness of the position
and two, nothing that the Venezuelan president has done has
brought disaster on his country or those who support him.
His anti-Bush, anti-capitalist rhetoric might sting the sensibilities
and pride of some but neither Chavez nor his tongue has the
power to change the price of cocoa.
There is far more to fear though if Caricom countries were
to offend Washington by supporting the candidacy of Venezuela.
More so, according to Prime Minister Manning, that this is
an era when the US has been studiously ignoring
the economic and security needs of the Caribbean.
Nonetheless, a countrys stance in international relations
has always been about self-interest. Even the US, while it
carries on the rhetorical war with Caracas, remains a major
trading and business partner of Venezuela, the South American
country being the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to
My understanding is that there was consensus at the St Kitts
Heads of Government Summit to support the Venezuelan candidacy.
If that continues to be the position, then Caricom should
go ahead and do so on the basis of their interests being better
What the Caribbean cannot afford to do is to get entangled
in the rhetorical gushes between Bush and Chavez.