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Sunday 26 May 2019
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PM: Caricom trying to avoid chaos in V’zuela

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

TT’s position on Venezuela is not centred on the Dragon gas deal but rather opening the door to future projects with its South American neighbour.

The Prime Minister said, “This is not about the Dragon deal. The Dragon deal is a piece of business.

"We have a heads-of-government agreement between TT and Venezuela. You people in the media – and there are some ne’er-do-wells in TT – have been making this appear as though it is something personal between (Nicolas) Maduro and me and I think you all are insulting me as Prime Minister of TT and insulting your country. This is not a personal matter.

If it (Dragon) never work out, well. it never works out because we tried to open the door. We got to the point where we now had a gas price so any future arrangement, it doesn’t matter who is in Venezuela, that is a useful place.”

What the country does not want, he said, is chaos in Venezuela, because: "Then we are all in trouble. because nothing can really happen. What we are trying to avoid is chaos by invitation.” (According to Dictionary.com , a ne'er do wells is “an idle, worthless person; a person who is ineffectual, unsuccessful, or completely lacking in merit; good-for-nothing)

The Prime Minister was speaking to reporters after a tour of booths at the TT Energy Conference 2019 at the Hyatt Regency conference hall in Port of Spain today.

Rowley, who is due to attend a conference with other Caricom heads in Uruguay with that country’s president and the Mexican president to discuss the Venezuelan impasse, said the meeting had been brought forward from Thursday to Wednesday.

“The meeting now takes place on Wednesday, and there is another meeting that might take place on Thursday.

"The most important thing is that we at Caricom, we will not be ignored and we will express our views and our views are not fleeting, capricious actions. They are views that are rooted in our very existence as independent nations in the Caribbean, and we are not prepared to compromise those views even for temporary gain.”

He said there were no strained relationships between the US and Caricom or with TT.

“We have a difference of opinion and an approach on a matter which is very important to us, and I daresay to the world as well.

“However, we reserve the right to entertain, advance and defend that point of view without compromising our position with any other party.”

Asked whether the region would be able to maintain its position should pressure be brought to bear by the US, Rowley used an analogy involving domestic abuse.

“Whenever I hear that concern, it reminds me of the woman with a man in her house with a daughter and the daughter complains to her about the man’s behaviour, and she takes a position that if I stand up on principle with this child, the man might leave me.

“We in TT, and in Caricom, we don’t subscribe to that. Principles are not of convenience. We have to stand on those principles, and we have every confidence that the majority of people in the US will understand our position.”

Returning to the Dragon gas deal, he said while government’s intention was to build collaboration with Venezuela, certain “myopic, treacherous” TT politicians were “forever” linking the discussion with the gas deal.

“The Dragon gas is 200 tcf as compared to our four billion (cubic feet of gas). It's not a major thing for us at this stage. We don’t have it, so you can’t lose what you don’t have.”

What it does, however, Rowley said, is "open a door which we never had, a door to accessing gas from our neighbour, whether it is next year or ten years from tomorrow, we have opened that door.

"To us it matters not who is the government of Venezuela. This is a matter between the people of Venezuela and the people of TT.”

Asked whether Caricom heads have held talks with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, he said while he is unaware of any such development, “Many heads are talking to many people, and our position is we are open to speaking to anyone who is involved in the issue.

“We don’t know him, he is a new entrant into the scene. We have not taken sides, we are neutral on this matter, we have no horse in the race.

"But we have a grave concern at the outcome of the issues.”

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