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Issue #1855      February 6, 2019


Respect sovereignty

To Senator the Hon Marise Payne,

Minister for Foreign Affairs, PO Box 6100

Senate, Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

I am writing on behalf of the organisation Just Peace Queensland Inc. Our 17-year-old organisation is focused on finding alternatives to war in resolving conflicts and seeking justice for its victims. We applaud the sentiments expressed in the first part of the last sentence in your Statement on Venezuela (January 28) namely: “We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation”. Indeed, this is a guiding philosophy of my organisation.

However I read the remainder of your Statement on Venezuela with great disappointment and alarm. Your support of the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó in his bid to assume the interim Presidency of Venezuela, is no way to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Quite the opposite in fact.

Guaidó was persuaded to proclaim himself as interim President in phone calls from US Vice President, Mike Pence and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. The Venezuelan Constitution does not sanction these actions of Guaidó in any way. He is second in accession after the Vice President, Delcy Rodríguez. Before that can happen however both the President and the Vice President must be “permanently unavailable to serve”.

Furthermore, Juan Guaidó is known to be associated with several Venezuelan and international organisations whose ultimate aim is to change Venezuelan society.

Once again New Zealand has shown its independence on the global stage by refusing to takes sides in the escalating leadership crisis. It has declined to give official recognition to either Nicolás Maduro Moros or Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez. I was also hoping that Australia would join with Mexico, which recognises Maduro as the President “for the time being”. Mexico is an influential member of the largely conservative Lima Group and did not sign the Lima statement.

The January 4 meeting of the Lima Group was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by video link, and there are concerns that he was exerting undue influence upon the actions of the Group, to which the US does not belong. It seems certain, in view of subsequent statements by Pompeo, that his opinions would be forcibly expressed at the Group’s meeting.

The United States has a chequered history of interfering in the internal workings of Venezuelan society, which is inextricably linked to the fact that the South American country has the world’s largest oil reserves. John Bolton, America’s National Security Advisor said in a television interview on the January 28 that - “We’re in conversation with major American companies now... It would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. It would be good for Venezuela and the people of the United States”.

I urge you to focus on a diplomatic resolution of the crisis, in which “all parties work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation”. This must surely begin with a decision from Australia to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. I would also like this to continue with a pledge from Australia to help with the humanitarian crisis playing out across the border between Venezuela and Columbia.

Yours sincerely

Dr Michael P Henry
Just Peace

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