The Prime Minister has accused Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar of making accusations against his Government for breaking US sanctions against Venezuela by sending fuel to that country.
He said as a failing Opposition it was the UNC’s position that for them to succeed, this country must fail. He said it was one thing to undermine TT’s foreign policy, but to invite others to do so was “dastardly and disgusting.”
Dr Rowley made this statement on Saturday after it was reported that the US was investigating a shipment of fuel from Paria Fuel Trading Company that was sent to Aruba, but ended up being sent to Venezuela.
Rowley, in the Parliament on Wednesday, denied any knowledge of TT making any sales to Venezuela. Energy Minister Franklin Khan had said the deal was made with Aruba and Government could not be held responsible for the end user of that product.
The US said any nation that assists Venezuela in avoiding embargoes will face sweeping sanctions imposed by that country. Rowley said he answered the question in the Parliament and denied that TT had broken US sanctions.
He said the chairman of state company Paria also explained how it has transacted business. Rowley said Persad-Bissesar was creating unfounded allegations against TT hoping to damage sanctions which would destroy the economy and the relationship between TT and the US.
A response from the US Embassy public affairs said “all entities and individuals risk exposure to US sanctions by operating in the Venezuelan oil sector or materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, (Petroleos de Venezuela South America) PDVSA or other persons designated or identified under relevant sanctions authorities.” The embassy said this will stay in place regardless of how the transactions with Venezuela are conducted.
The US has imposed sanctions on Rosneft Trading, South Africa, TNK Trading International, Cubametales, Corporacion Panamericana, and PB Tankers for operating in the Venezuelan energy sector.
The embassy said some of the companies engaged in the Venezuelan oil trade attempt to disguise their activities to help them evade US and other countries’ efforts to prevent corrupt activities and to preserve assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.
Former foreign affairs minister Dr Basil Ince said he could not say whether TT will be penalised for this transaction.
“The man making that decision is (Donald) Trump and it will be difficult to foretell what he will do because he makes up his mind in two minutes or two seconds. There is not much we can do about it, but we can prepare for it. If he decides to take actions...that is a big powerful state you know... and it is very useful for us for trade generally, so if we get the big stick, is real trouble.”
Another former foreign affairs minister Ralph Maraj said TT does run the risk of being penalised for violating the US sanctions against Venezuela.
“I am sure this matter is being thoroughly investigated by the US authorities. I am sure they find it very strange that the PM could claim that he knows nothing about about the report when it was done by a state-owned company. A lot of questions surround it.”
Maraj said it was “strange” it was just one day after Venezuela vice president Delcy Rodriguez visited TT to speak on covid19 that the shipment took place.
“If TT is not culpable then fine, but if we are culpable the US is not going to keep it hanging. If we are culpable we run the risk of severe sanctions of losing revenue for trade and investment flow. We are not implicated, but one can’t take at face value what the PM is saying.”