Fri | Feb 22, 2019

Editorial | Diplomatic schizophrenia

Published:Sunday | January 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaican Government must be acutely aware that the torrent of criticism it has received for what some observers deem foreign-policy aggression against the Maduro administration has been made worse by diplomatic schizophrenia.

Unlike others who believe that Jamaica's long socio-political kinship and oil-based bilateral relationship with its South American ally shields it from disapproval, this newspaper understands the nuances of diplomacy and the tenuous balance between national and international interests.

Caracas has been indifferent, or worse, resistant, to its contractual obligations to retool and upgrade the antediluvian infrastructure of Kingston's Petrojam oil refinery in which Venezuela's PDV Caribe has a 49 per cent stake. With Petrojam's largest client, the Jamaica Public Service Company, on the cusp of migrating from its account because of new sources of power, the refinery is in an existential crisis.

Venezuela has been rocked by economic disaster and political turmoil. President Nicol·s Maduro has stifled opposition parties and wrested a second term amid domestic and international condemnation.

Time is not on Jamaica's side, but we would have preferred that the foreign ministry had pressed for a speedy resolution through external arbitration. Escalation of the impasse into direct confrontation might not bear fruit.

 

DISINGENUOUS AND INDECISIVE

 

But the Holness administration's attempt to play hopscotch between the political and economic implications of its diplomatic actions is as disingenuous as it is indecisive.

For we do not believe that the Jamaican Government's decision to forcibly take possession of Venezuela's stake in Petrojam, and the vote, at the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Thursday, challenging the legitimacy of the Maduro administration, are coincidental or exclusive. Indeed, Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica's chief envoy, knows that foreign-policy actions cannot be dismissed as immiscible.

Mrs Johnson Smith owes Jamaicans the assurance that its definitive actions against Venezuela last week are not evidence that it has divested its foreign policy to the United States, which has oversize influence at the OAS, and that it has surrendered itself as a diplomatic pawn in Washington's broader chess game.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric on the United Socialist Party regime, and alienation of Venezuela from its allies, has been viewed by political observers as the precursors to the United States' endgame: invasion and the ouster of the bombastic and increasingly unpredictable Maduro.

It is the complexity of these issues that has, perhaps, caused the Jamaican Government to seem incoherent in its diplomacy. For even while excoriating the Venezuelans in that OAS vote last Thursday, the country sent an emissary to attend the swearing-in of the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro! The Government wants to eat its cake and have it.

Mrs Johnson Smith should also tell Jamaicans whether the continued snubbing of its buyout offer, and a legal challenge by the Venezuelans to its takeover - by an illegitimate and ostracised government, to boot - would trigger sterner consequences. Will Jamaica instruct the Venezuelan ambassador to close his doors and go?