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Sunday 19 January 2020
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Khan rejects US claim TT helping Cuba get LPG

Energy Minister Franklin Khan. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
Energy Minister Franklin Khan. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

ENERGY Minister Franklin Khan yesterday rejected claims by US Senator Marco Rubio that the ministry is helping Cuba circumvent US sanctions against Venezuela

He claimed TT was doing this by shipping liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) through a third party.

Rubio, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president in 2016 and was the former speaker of Florida's house of representatives, made these claims on Twitter on July 17.

Rubio said, "The US has an excellent and growing relationship with #TrinidadandTobago @mfagovtt."

But he alleged, "@TTMEEI helping #Cuba circumvent sanctions related to #Venezuela through shipment of LPG via a 3rd party would be an unnecessary irritant in our bilateral relationship."

Khan told Newsday the only truth in that tweet was about the continuing good relations between TT and the US.

"We cherish our relations with the US. We will not attempt to undermine any sanctions which the US has with another country."

The National Gas Company subsidiary Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd (PPGPL) used to sell LPG to a company called Cubametales, which provided it to the Cuban market. Cubametales is Cuba's state-owned oil import and export company.

On July 3, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted Cubametales for its continued importation of oil from Venezuela. The Treasury indicated that in exchange for Venezuelan oil, Cuba continued to support Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government with defence, intelligence and security assistance. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, "Treasury’s sanctions on Cubametales will disrupt Maduro’s attempts to use Venezuela’s oil as a bargaining tool to help his supporters purchase protection from Cuba and other malign foreign actors."

Khan said once Cubametales was blacklisted, PPGPL stopped making LPG shipments to Cuba.

PPGPL, he continued, sells LPG to the Swiss company Geogas Trading SA. Founded in 1979, Geogas has over 40 years' experience in LPG trading and shipping around the world. The company has business on five continents and has developed strong distribution networks in the Americas and Caribbean, West Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Far East, Australia and Pacific Islands.

Geogas is active in all types of markets, be it mid-size and large ships, small coastal trading or floating storage schemes, and Khan said it has a floating storage facility off the Dominican Republic. After noting its extensive distribution networks, Khan said whoever the company sells LPG to is not this country's business.

The Prime Minister has publicly said TT-US relations remain strong.

Dr Rowley has said TT maintains a non-interventionist position towards the crisis in Venezuela and hopes for a peaceful solution through dialogue.

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