Vesti Special Report: Russia Plans on Opening Trade With Struggling Caribbean Basin Countries!
Unfortunately, one of our forecasts has come true lately as well. We thought that if the U.S. tried to talk to North Korea alone it would be embarrassing. Indeed, Trump will never admit it but it's obvious. Attempting to replace the international group of six negotiators with Korea with the USA alone, just showed they are lacking resources. Another proof is the pandemonium around the self-proclaimed, or, more precisely, U.S.-appointed Juan Guaido in Venezuela.
Maybe Vice President Mike Pence addressed Guaido as "Mr. President" As a matter of fact, zero hour approached last Saturday... 30 days passed, the period in which a speaker of the Venezuelan parliament may proclaim themselves president according to the Venezuelan constitution. Sitting President Maduro is still here. He sent his vice president to Moscow on Friday. Delcy Rodríguez was received by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who made it clear that Moscow thinks that a military scenario is quite possible.
Sergey Lavrov: "The U.S. is planning to purchase small arms from an Eastern European country as well as mortars, man-portable air-defense systems, and a number of other weapons, and to ship all of these closer to Venezuela via an airline company that belongs to a regime in the post-Soviet space which is absolutely loyal to the USA".
Let's figure out who Lavrov was referring to as the neighbors of Venezuela who don't accept the policy imposed by Washington. Although the U.S. claims that there's a united front combating Maduro stretched all over both Americas, from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego. Today we have an opportunity to have an honest answer at first hand.
Out of all of the Latin American capitals, we'll first visit Montevideo, Uruguay. I simply must thank all those who called and wrote to me after I was honored with a high award... I became an honorary citizen of Montevideo. However, I told Mayor Daniel Martínez, Senator Rafael Michelini, and other guests of the ceremony that I consider this medal to be a collective award to the Bering-Bellingshausen Institute of Russia and Latin America which we have been developing for many years with my friend Gerardo Bleier, a remarkable, subtle Uruguayan political analyst. Uruguayans, more than anyone, have the right to a special and even decisive view of the nature of what is happening with democracy in Latin America. For your reference. You can see the first 20 world countries from the Democracy Index compiled by The Economist, the most authoritative London magazine. As we can see, Uruguay is right here, and only North Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are higher on the list. By the way, no matter how attentive you are, you won't find here the U.S. flag among the full democracies. America is considered to be a flawed democracy by this London index.
More details on the issue... Hugo Chávez was in office back then. But when he, the founder of the Bolivarian Republic, passed away shortly after the presidential elections of 2013, a constitutional conflict arose: who was going to be the new president? One way was to appoint the current speaker of parliament, the other was to recognize the vice president as the president, although he hadn't assumed office yet. It was Nicolas Maduro. Then, exercising his right as the chairman of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, José Mujica, the then president of Uruguay, expressed his opinion: if there had already been an election and the people had chosen, then there's no need to appoint anyone. Maduro should be the president.
With regard to Maduro's recent re-election, Uruguay responded by accepting refugees from Venezuela, as they did previously from Cuba and Syria, by the way. Uruguay has proposed the "Montevideo Mechanism" to foster a dialogue in Venezuela. Maduro accepted the proposal, although he's not enthusiastic about the idea of another election. But Guaido rejected the dialogue. He's answerable not only to Uruguay for this. The Montevideo Mechanism was supported by Mexico and all of the countries of the Caribbean Community named CARICOM.
Before we show you our report from there, let's look at the map for reference. Here's Venezuela, on the shore of the Caribbean, and the CARICOM countries around it. They're former domains of European countries: Britain, Holland, France. I mean that they haven't forgotten the era of colonialism. We're going to see a report from two former British colonies in the Grenadines, namely Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, with a nutmeg on its flag and with a U.S. intervention in its history. There, near the coast of Venezuela, in St. George's, Grenada, our institute and the government of Grenada recently held the Second Caribbean-Eurasia Forum, now under the auspices of St. George’s Club.
At first glance, the Caribbean Grenada is an earthly paradise: azure waters, beautiful beaches, lush tropical vegetation. But in 2004, paradise turned into hell... Hurricane Ivan came. Not much was left of St. George's after the hurricane. 80% of homes were demolished. The country seemed unable to be restored. But some time went by and everything is alright. At first, you might think it was Britain, the former metropolitan country, who gave a hand.
There's a lot that reminds of the times of the British Empire: For example, the Methodist Church or the British-type car license plates. They drive on the left side of the road, too. Here are the local police in British-style uniforms with royal insignia. But the presence of the crown agent here did not stop the American invasion in 1983. We'll talk about that later.
Now, about modern Grenada. For example, a new Olympic center was built here by the Chinese. So, for some reason, they need it. Here's the new parliament building on the hill built by the Emirates. The times are changing in the Caribbean. The former colonial rulers apparently have gone away. There's no British Embassy here. The embassies that here are: the U.S. Embassy, the Chinese Embassy, and Russia is represented here, although the ambassador is in Guyana. Also, there's the Venezuelan Embassy, as well as in most countries of the Western Hemisphere. It was Venezuela who helped to restore the most important buildings: the housing, rather than the parliament building or the Olympic center. Previously, apart from the United States, only Cuba has implemented such a number of programs in the Caribbean.
Let's look at the Venezuelans. This is more than an embassy, this is a center.
Dana Lazares, Venezuelan Institute of Culture and Cooperation: This is not the only institute in the Caribbean. There are more in Guyana, Suriname, etc.
- What do you do here?
- For example, we teach Spanish, for free, both for adults and children.
This is appreciated here. Grenada isn't playing socialism anymore, but despite any bourgeois entourage, they reason the following way.
Chester Humphrey, Chairman of the Grenada Senate: "Only under Chavez did Venezuela start sharing its oil revenues with the Caribbean islands to help us improve our lives. The current situation in Venezuela is an artificially created crisis. There are characteristics which I describe as conquistadorous".
The word "conquistador" is often declined here. We flew from Grenada to the neighboring state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. We were in the prime minister's residence. Here's a painting.
- It isn't Jesus Christ, is it?
- It isn't. Conquistador. The Bible hadn't been written yet when the Last Supper happened. Moreover, Jesus didn't have a sword and money.
The painting is provocative indeed. But the point is that the conquistador was first surrounded and then defeated by the national freedom fighters even in such a Caribbean interpretation. We continue our conversation with a view of the formerly colonial, now state, capital, Kingstown.
- Let's do some simple arithmetic. There are 35 states in the Western Hemisphere. How many are opposed to what the USA is trying to pull off in Venezuela?
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:
- Over the last three years, the U.S. has tried to push its resolution against Maduro through the Organization of American States.
- Which includes all of you.
- Except for Cuba. Meaning that there 34 states. They tried to line up two-thirds of the votes for the adoption of the resolution.
- It never happened?
- Of course, they couldn't do that.
The neighbor is echoed by Grenada’s Foreign Minister.
Peter David: "Stop beating the war drums. We urge to support Uruguay, Mexico, and the CARICOM countries that have joined the Montevideo Mechanism."
Ralph Gonsalves: The U.N. charter is clear... You may not threaten or use force against any state, Article 2, Paragraph 4.
- You've done your history lessons.
- Non-interference in internal affairs, no military interference — this is provided by law. Venezuela is under siege as if we live in the Middle Ages.
Peter David: "We, the countries of the CARICOM, think that Venezuela should be left alone so that it can solve its problems. We do not agree with those who say that the time for negotiations has passed. Therefore, we welcome the position of a number of countries in the U.N. Security Council that called for dialogue.”
It shouldn't be a colonial kind of dialogue. The forts remained here after Britain and France had guns aimed inland rather than at the sea. They were afraid of uprisings by the natives and slaves. There's a whole gallery of paintings in St. Vincent dedicated to the issue.
As for the experiments by local artists, the participants of the Russian-Caribbean forum responded with their own. In the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Grenada, a Sunday Mass is being held. The church is Catholic. Despite the Caribbean surroundings, they are very conservative Christians, whose ideas about family values, for example, are very close to Russian Orthodoxy. For the first time in the history of Grenada, Catholics were addressed to by an Orthodox.
"Good morning, dear brothers and sisters".
Natalia Polenova, the director of the Polenovo museum, is a great-granddaughter of the artist. She brought to Grenada, in coordination with the Ministry of Culture, the first ever exhibition of reproductions of iconographic scenes. Devout Grenadians were obviously touched.
"Look at this Mary Magdalene".
The Grenadians showed us their National Museum as a part of their historical heritage. It's located in one of the oldest buildings on the island.
"These were prison cells".
From industrial history, there is Josephine's bathtub presented by neighboring Martinique that remains with France.
- Martinique presented this to us on the occasion of our independence.
Here, we found tanks from English rum distilleries. Slaves labored from dawn till dusk.
Fortunately, there's a new economy in the Caribbean that attracts investments from all over the world. The Eurasian Union needs to catch up.
Nicholas Steele, Minister of International Business: "What we started as New Dawn turned into what is now a conference called Next Step, another gathering of the St. George’s Club."
At the Eurasia-Caribbean business forum, Minister Nicholas Steele has the leading role, as well as delegates of Russia's Federal Tax Service, of the Rosselkhoznadzor, of private business from Grenada itself, and of neighboring countries.
Angelica O'Donoghue, Antigua and Barbuda: "I think it's just the beginning. It's the path that our countries want to follow in order to develop."
What kind of business can we have with these islands?
- Well, I didn't take this from that tree. What is this?
- It's a breadfruit.
- Where can I find it in Russia?
- I don't think you can find it anywhere.
- Maybe in a greenhouse.
The delegate from the Rosselkhoznadzor came to see how to establish direct deliveries of exotic fruits to Russia.
- Your country is beautiful. But this harbor lacks something: a cargo ship that could carry Caribbean agricultural goods to the Old World. I mean deliveries not to Britain or the Netherlands, with all due respect, but directly to Russia. Indeed, agricultural products from this region are sold in Russia, but they're labeled by different importers. How realistic is the establishment of a direct trade channel, without intermediaries?
Ralph Gonsalves: I think it's viable. For example, we sell live lobsters and shellfish. They're delivered by plane via Miami.
- But not to Russia?
- That's the point. That's why it's important to build these relationships. That is why I hope to visit Moscow this spring.
- Maybe you'll visit the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum?
- The Saint Petersburg Forum is great option.
Russian goods are being delivered here. Not breadfruit, by the way, (this is how it looks on the inside) but real bread.
- Is it true that these countries are importing Russian wheat now?
Yulia Korolyova, Rosselkhoznadzor: "It's true. We were surprised when Russia began to supply 750,000 tons of wheat to Mexico. We didn't expect that. And then Venezuela. And then Chile, Ecuador, and Haiti".
That means that there's enough money. The Russian tax officials made sure: the Caribbean joined the global automatic exchange of information on financial accounts.
Dmitry Volvach, FTX of Russia: "Russia joined the global automatic exchange of information on financial accounts. In 2018, we exchanged information for the first time. Many Caribbean countries have become our partners in the exchange. Grenada will join next year. That is, for the 2019 tax period, the information will be transferred to the Federal Tax Service".
Grenada stresses this — for them, expanding trade is more than just business.
Nicholas Steele: "Indeed, we're talking about investments here, but also about state-building".
Russian officials are ready to build trade routes.
Yulia Korolyova: "If we import cherimoya, an unusual fruit from Ecuador, then I think supplying seasonal fruits from the Caribbean countries is the next step we can take".
Ext Step is the name of the this Caribbean-Eurasia conference which was held under the auspices of the St. George's Club established last year. All of this was a part of a substantial discussion at its business sessions.
Nicholas Steele: "When people start talking to each other, politicians can step aside".
Yulia Korolyova: "It would be interesting to make a week of presenting Russian products to the Caribbean countries, to choose any of the countries where colleagues from neighboring countries will come. And vice versa — we can do the same in Russia so that we can know each other better".
Angelica O'Donoghue: "This forum allows participants to directly identify their point of view and work on promising projects within the framework of developing relations between Russia and Eurasia with the Caribbean countries. This is a fantastic opportunity to establish new business contacts and see which doors can open with joint efforts".
Dmitry Volvach: "I think it's good. This global, transparent, fragile peace that we're living in just needs communication. If there isn't enough communication somewhere, the biggest problems usually arise there".
The Russian Ambassador gave a Sukhoi Superjet model to the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This is just the aircraft the local airlines need.
Ralph Gonsalves: "Please, tell my brother Vladimir Putin that when we meet we'll have a talk about this regional jet".
Evgeny Andrachnikov, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft: "We, as the leading Russian manufacturer of civil aircraft, are trying to enter different markets. The economies of these countries are obviously on the rise and the air traffic is becoming more intense, which requires more spacious aircraft. If we take a more specific approach, Grenada might become the base ground for the Caribbean".
In the meantime, the domestic aviation industry in Grenada is represented by Soviet-made aircraft that were destroyed during the American invasion in 1983. True, until now there weren't any Soviet exhibits in the local museum, although the Americans claimed that these rifles had been supplied to Grenada by the USSR via Cuba. In compensation, we handed over Soviet newspapers, issued in October 1983, to the museum. The headlines speak for themselves. Although many Latin Americans use the same headlines. The events in Venezuela are something to remember.
"Nunez Bishop, Raúl Castro, Fidel Castro".
It is fair to say that the fascination with revolutionary democracy in the English-speaking Caribbean was short-lived. The stable system established by the British did its job well. Grenadians can tell about democracy in Venezuela.
Chester Humphrey: "Last May, I was in Venezuela as an observer at the presidential elections. We, representing the English-speaking democracies of the British model, like in Westminster, were satisfied with what we saw. There was an official, certified conclusion that Nicolas Maduro was elected as the result of a free and fair election".
What if the USA ventures a military invasion, having failed to promote Guaido?
Peter David: "We look back at Iraq, Libya, and so on as historical examples. Such actions in our region will be a disaster for all of our countries".
Angelica O'Donoghue: "What happens with our brothers in Latin America might somehow affect us".
Ralph Gonsalves: "The current American government makes Venezuela hostage to the situation that has developed in domestic policy and around the President of the United States".
Peter David: "We call on the politicians in the United States, in Congress, and in the Senate, to establish a dialogue among all of the concerned parties. We urge them not to consider Venezuelans as pawns in their game and to prevent the people of Venezuela from becoming a tool to promoting American interests. We urge them to blow off some steam and think about how a military invasion could have possible consequences for all of us".
Angelica O'Donoghue: "I think the Caribbean countries have taken the right position: they follow the principle of non-interference in Venezuela's internal affairs".
- Have you been affected by what's going on on that shore?
Dana Lazares: Not really. We are still open, we admit students, they come here every day. But now they not only study but also support us, leave messages.
- Oh, you have a book of solidarity!
- May I have a look?
- People write about solidarity with Maduro. Hands off Venezuela!
- Yes, hands off.
Chester Humphrey: "Some American officials and prominent figures are thinking about a war in Nicaragua. The hawks have already lined up. But I say it again, the Venezuelan case is all about oil".
Ralph Gonsalves: "Venezuela does not pose a threat to U.S. security".
- Have you been contacted by Guaido's representatives? Did they offer you to take their side?
Dana Lazares: No, they haven't.
- And what if they do?
Vesti on Saturday. Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean Community.
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