Sovereign nations - Fr John Caruana
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Sovereign nations - Fr John Caruana

Permit me put some reflections on Venezuela, a country that I never visited, but living 35 years or so in Latin America, today I have a different view on foreign policy as a whole, than erstwhile.

Firstly, who are the Venezuelan people? According to Wikipedia the Venezuelans are “predominantly Roman Catholic and speak Spanish. The majority of Venezuelans are the result of a mixture of Europeans, Africans and Amerindians.

“Approximately 51.6 per cent of the population are Mestizos of mixed European, African and Amerindian ancestry, and 43.6 per cent of Venezuelans identify as European or Middle Eastern. An additional 3.6 per cent identify as Black/African-descendants, while 3.2 per cent identify as Amerindians.”

In Brazil we have 50 per cent plus who identify themselves as Black/African-descendants because it was the Portuguese who resurrected slavery, which was on the wane since the time of St Paul.

As far as foreign policy is concerned and in particular on how nations should relate between themselves, let me quote the president of the Workers’ Party here in Brazil, Gleise Hoffman, who defined this relationship in an interview with journalist Brian Mier on January 23, 2019.

He told her: “Your visit to Nicolás Maduro’s inauguration in Venezuela was widely criticised in the north – even by Anglo journalists who write for supposedly progressive publications such as The Guardian.

“You published a statement about your visit, saying that anyone who criticised it does not understand the concepts of sovereignty and self-determination.

“Judging from the way the Anglo media responded to your visit, I believe that a lot of people in the historically imperialist nations of England and the US really do not have a good understanding of these concepts.

“Why are the concepts of sovereignty and self-determination important and how do they relate to your recent visit to Venezuela?” 

To which the politician answered: “Sovereignty is related to the non-recognition of a higher body in the external order. In other words, the nation has supreme authority – there is no hierarchy among nations.

“Self-determination is the right that a people have to govern themselves, to make their choices without foreign intervention. This is why I mentioned that the US government and those who criticised me don’t understand sovereignty and self-determination – because they believe that forces from outside Venezuela should solve their problems.

The Vatican is known to be closely following events in Venezuela

“We believe the opposite. Only the Venezuelan people have the capacity to solve their problems, through a process of dialogue, learning and relationships. My trip to Venezuela, therefore, was related to what the Workers Party thinks about sovereignty and self-determination.

“No other nation or external body has the right to preach for violence and intervention and meddle in the affairs of another nation. We can, on the other hand, support building dialogue, drawing together the opposing parties and encourage a peaceful solution to conflicts. This is what President Lula always did.” 

At this point let me draw the attention of the Maltese government, the political parties on both sides of the divide, the European parliamentarians, where do they stand vis-à-vis the definition of sovereignty that Hoffman, a Third World politician gave? No offence meant!

But let me say that the position of Alfred Sant in the European Parliament, saved Malta’s face. As a Third World strong sympathiser I thank him.

The Pope on the other side,  admitted formal mediation should be seen as the last step in diplomacy, emphasising that some preliminary steps should be taken first by the Vatican and other members of the international community.

He said: “I am open to mediating in Venezuela if both sides agree. I will open the letter. I will see what can be done, but the initial conditions are that both sides need to ask for it.”

The Vatican is known to be closely following events in Venezuela. Francis is the first pope to hail from Latin America, and his Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, was formerly a Vatican ambassador in Caracas.

The Pope refused to take sides between Maduro and Guaidó, saying he supported “the entire Venezuelan people,” and expressed concern about the risk of “bloodshed”.

I remember that Pope Ratzinger, as he is commonly known, on one of his last visits to Lebanon said that those who are “selling” arms to the people of Syria are committing a heinous crime – or something to that effect. And he was proved right!

Pope John Paul toured the world preaching and defending human rights, avoided war between Chile and Argentina, approached Fidel Castro visiting Cuba and many other positive steps helping bring peace in a host of countries.

 I would conclude with the words of Paul VI uttered during his visit to the United Nations: War No More! Christian Europe! Socialist Europe! Isolate the Neo-Liberal Europe! Show the world that you know better and have learnt a lot from your colonial past.

Or is it still present?

Fr Caruana is a missionary in Sarandi Parana, Brazil.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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