By Elesha George
A visit to Venezuela by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Monday, has caught the attention of one United States (US) Senator.
On Wednesday, November 6th, 2019, two days after Antigua and Barbuda was inducted as a member of the ALBA Bank (Banco de ALBA) and the prime minister formalized an E.C $40 million (US $15.8 million) loan to recapitalise regional airline LIAT, US Senator Dick Durbin tweeted that he was troubled by the visit.
He tweeted, “Troubling to see Antiguan Prime Minister Browne convey legitimacy to Maduro while he arrests & tortures his opposition & millions of Venezuelans flee in hunger & desperation. When will the proud democracies of our Caribbean neighbors stop enabling Maduro’s criminal regime?”
Durbin is one of many US officials who have declared their support for self-appointed interim Venezuelan President, opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.
According to HYPERLINK “https://www.durbin
.senate.gov/” https://www.durbin.senate.gov, in March, Durbin led 24 senators in a HYPERLINK“https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-rubio-menendez-schumer-lead-24-senators-in-pressing-president-trump-to-designate-venezuela-for-tps” letter to President Donald Trump requesting that his administration promptly designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to ensure that Venezuelan nationals currently present in the United States are not forced to return to Venezuela at this time.
Durbin’s tweet has received varying reactions with one respondent, telling the US senator, “Getting help from Venezuela is not a new thing. Perhaps the US needs to take a more active role in the region”.
Durbin’s comments come when there is heightened economic push by the United States to force the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, who they blame for the economic collapse of the Spanish-speaking country.
Less than three months ago, in August, US national security adviser John Bolton said Washington was ready to impose sanctions on any international company doing business with President Maduro.
The US government believes that Maduro has been able to retain power thanks to backing from allies like Cuba, Russia and China, all countries with which Antigua and Barbuda share waiver agreements.
Since 1994, Cuba and the twin-island state have shared diplomatic relations, during which time Antigua and Barbuda has benefitted from improved health care services and educational scholarship programmes.
To date, the People’s Republic of China continues to show willingness to partner with the country’s governments to aid in social and economic development through scholarships and grant funding, while more recently, in June, 2019, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov signed a visa waiver agreement to remove travel restrictions between Antigua and Barbuda and Russia which will allow Russians to travel to Antigua and Barbuda without visas and vice-versa.versa.
Late last year, Prime Minister Browne lashed out at the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, for comments he made about China’s relations with Small Island States, the government has repeatedly taken the position to recognise Maduro as the rightful leader of Venezuela, further highlighting what seems to be a dwindling relationship between the United States and Caribbean countries like Antigua and Barbuda.