T&T Government, Opposition in war of words over Venezuela

T&T Government, Opposition in war of words over Venezuela

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Government yesterday accused the main Opposition United National Congress (UNC) of seeking to create “fear about a change in relations” with the United States over the unfolding situation in Venezuela.

Washington is leading the call for countries to support Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaido who has proclaimed himself as interim president.

The US has called on countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, to denounce the Government of President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this month.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley over the weekend criticised the US ambassador here after he publicly criticised the Rowley Administration’s position on the ongoing political and economic situation in Venezuela.

Rowley told reporters that he was taking “umbrage” at the statement by the US diplomat, Joseph Mondello, who in a brief statement had earlier said that the position by Port of Spain “was deeply concerning”.

Mondello had called on Port of Spain to back Guaido, who last Wednesday had declared himself the interim president of the South American nation and who immediately received the support of Washington and some other countries.

Speaking at the UNC National Assembly on Sunday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar reiterated her support for Guaido and warned that Port of Spain could feel the wrath of Wasington in coming years.

“It is either we move with the times and realise our geopolitical environment has changed from the 70s 80s and 90s. We cannot be like dinosaurs extinct but still hope to be relevant. Today’s diplomacy, as Ambassador Mondello has stated requires tough choices and if anything, as your prime minister, I was known for taking tough choices,” she added.

She said the United States was a major trading partner with Trinidad and Tobago and that the Caribbean country is the “biggest beneficiary” of the US-backed Caribbean Basin initiative (CBI).

But in a statement, National Security Minister Stuart Young said that the Government “is compelled to reassure citizens that the attempt to cause panic by the UNC, and in particular …Persad Bissesar, by creating fear about a change in relations between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America is unfounded and a naked attempt to cover up the most recent overwhelming criticism of the Opposition”.

“We remind that Caricom, and many other countries, took an identical position of non-interference and non-intervention with respect to Venezuela. Caricom has sent a delegation, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to the United Nations to have discussions surrounding the Venezuelan issue and its potential threat to regional security, social and economic disruption,” Young said.

He said that notwithstanding efforts by the UNC to undermine Trinidad and Tobago’s position, “particularly at this time of sensitive negotiations, Trinidad and Tobago reaffirms its principle positions and counts the USA among its treasured partners in observing and protecting these principles”.

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