After a request from the National Security Ministry for guidance on how to proceed after dozens of Venezuelans waiting for a flight home were stranded at Piarco Airport, the United States Embassy has said it is willing to assist in the repatriation.
The flight was refused permission to land on Thursday because the plane had sanctioned by the US.
In a statement, the ministry said, “Within the past week the Venezuelan Government made a request of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to facilitate their provision of a repatriation flight from Trinidad to Venezuela. This request was made via the normal diplomatic channels to the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.”
The Ministry of National Security granted preliminary approval for this repatriation as a humanitarian effort by the Government of Venezuela. “All arrangements were made by Venezuela.”
But when details were provided of the aircraft that the Venezuelan Government was proposing to use to repatriate about 100 Venezuelans, it was discovered that the aircraft was amongst those sanctioned by the US. So, the ministry said, “Unfortunately in those circumstances, the Ministry of National Security could not grant approval for the aircraft to come to TT.
It said it had contacted the US Embassy in Port of Spain for guidance "and will work with the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, with respect to the possibility of a future repatriation exercise by the Venezuelan Government.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Amery Browne took time out from attending the Caricom leaders’ intersessional meeting to reply by text message to Newsday’s queries, ahead of the Ministry of National Security statement.
Browne wrote, “The flight was deemed not to be possible as planned by the Venezuelan authorities, as the aircraft they were seeking to use is one that is on a sanctioned list.”
Asked for details of the Venezuelans' welfare as they awaited an approved plane, Browne replied, “The Embassy of Venezuela in Port of Spain is fully informed and engaged in resolving the situation and addressing the immediate needs of their citizens.
“It is anticipated that suitable arrangements would be put in place in the near future to transport the prospective passengers via an aircraft that is not sanctioned.”
Newsday could not contact Minister of National Security Stuart Young, but he forwarded his ministry’s statement.
The US Embassy in a texted response to questions sent by Newsday, said it was aware of the ministry's request concerning the use of a sanctioned aircraft for a repatriation flight.
It said, "US sanctions targeting (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro, his allies, and those who support them are designed to permit the continued provision of assistance to the Venezuelan people. The US maintains broad exemptions and authorisations that allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance, including related to repatriation.
"US Embassy, Port of Spain, will work closely with the ministry to provide any necessary information to facilitate the safe and lawful repatriation of Venezuelans."