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Thursday 23 May 2019
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TT upsets US

War of words over Venezuela

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to media while Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds and Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell look on during a media conference to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis. January 25, 2019. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to media while Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds and Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell look on during a media conference to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis. January 25, 2019. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.

This country will not be among those prepared to take specific actions to bring about regime change in Venezuela and will not be dictated by news releases made by other countries on TT's position.

The Prime Minister gave this response to reporters yesterday when asked to respond to a press release from the US embassy which expressed deep concern over the TT Government recognizing what it described as the "undemocratic and illegitimate government of Nicholas Maduro."

In a release yesterday, sent while Dr. Rowley was speaking at a media conference in the Parliament building, US Ambassador Joseph Mondello chastised the TT government for supporting Nicolas Maduro as President of Venezuela, instead of US-backed Juan Guaido.

On Monday, Guaido, president of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s legislature, declared himself interim president in accordance with section 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution. The US and Guaido claim Maduro’s tenure is illegal since they say the country’s General Election in May was not constitutional and fraudulent.

Despite this show of concern from TT's biggest trade partner, Rowley, during a media conference at Parliament, did not waver from TT's position, which he described as a reflection of Caricom's position–that the political crisis in Venezuela needed a political solution and needed to be solved in an environment of peace, an environment which Caricom members were willing and able to facilitate and promote.

This, Rowley said, was in the best interest of the Venezuelan people and the people of TT and the region.

"I want to reinforce a position of TT is embodied in the Caricom position. We have no separate position. We got consensus at Caricom and we are there with that. And any position of TT on any matter, this or any other, regarding any country will be a position taken by TT's Government on behalf of the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago." Rowley said.

He added that the Government of the United States was free to take a position in the interest of the United States and TT would take no issue with the US.

Joseph N. Mondello US Ambassador to TT. Photo by ROGER JACOB

Asked how TT would deal with a situation that could potentially reach civil war, Rowley said it was an ongoing situation and the most important thing was that TT had a position useful to the situation.

In furthering Caricom's position, the current Caricom chair St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris will go to New York on Saturday, to be joined by Rowley on Sunday, as Caricom had taken a decision during emergency meeting on Thursday night to seek an audience with the secretary general of the United Nations.

The meeting is tentatively set for Monday but has not yet been confirmed. After meeting with the UN, the Caricom team will head to Washington DC to meet with stakeholders there.

He said this country has never taken the position of bringing about regime change of "Governments we don't like" unless people of such governments engaged in acts of genocide.

"Our agenda is for peace and security in our region and if Venezuela is the target TT is very close to the bullseye."

He said conflict in Venezuela had the potential to destroy not just TT's economy but the entire Caribbean tourism economy.

"If there is conflict in the area as there is elsewhere in the world led by these kinds of approaches the entire region will suffer.

We don't have to read and spell for you, if the situation is as it is where you have two countries, one our closest neighbour, the other our biggest trading partner, having differences where you are talking regime change by force, where do you think we are in that? Which side should we take?"

TT has been consistent in its position regarding the Venezuela situation.

In January, when the OAS put forward a resolution to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term as of January 10 of 2019.

The voting went as follows:

The resolution was approved with 19 votes in favour
(Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Saint Lucia); 6 against (Bolivia, Dominica, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Venezuela); 8 abstentions (Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, and El Salvador); and one absent (Grenada).

Rowley said, TT had condemned the action of the secretary general of the OAS then and called for his resignation. He said while TT had been courted to take sides, he would not say by which entities and would maintain the country's policy position.

Humanitarian policy

Meanwhile, Rowley said the Government was actively working to bring the legislation required to treat with the humanitarian side of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

He said he had met with the Archbishop of Port of Spain and agreed that Government would provide an identification card for the Venezuelan people who migrated to TT so that they would be protected from exploitation while within TT borders.

He said this was still in the policy stage and could not provide a timeline for the implementation of these measures.

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