Charles: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” – UNC warns Dr Rowley: be more nuanced in our relations with Venezuela
While the whole world is watching carefully developments in neighboring Venezuela and adopting extremely cautious and nuanced approaches, Trinidad and Tobago seems to be doing the opposite, signing not well thought out agreements with President Maduro, in trade and cross border gas exploitation, that may not sit well with future Venezuelan governments.
The UNC supports any action that will improve the lives of average Venezuelan citizens but we, like regional governments and global businesses, have to be extremely nuanced in our approach. We are not seeing that level of sophistication and long term thinking by this Rowley-led government.
Unlike us, many have adopted a wait and see approach.
The Chile based LATAM Airlines, the biggest Latin American carrier, has suspended flights from Sao Paolo, Brazil and by August will suspend service from Lima, Peru and Santiago, Chile.
Last week, Lufthansa, one of Europe’s biggest airlines stopped services to Venezuela citing inability to fill flights and trouble converting Venezuelan currency which uses complicated multi-tiered conversion rates.
Coca Cola announced recently that it has temporarily stopped production in Venezuela.
On the regional front, reports are that Brazil may this month block Venezuela from taking the rotating presidency of Mercusor, the important regional trade group, in a bid “to prevent President Maduro from strengthening his powers”.
In addition, Reuters reports that the Caribbean leaders’ summit in Havana did not produce a strong statement of support for President Maduro, suggesting only that mediation talks between his government and the opposition should commence.
Trinidad and Tobago, unique among global businesses and regional governments, has offered a lifeline to Maduro in the form of increased trade in part through a US$50 million revolving fund for the supply of manufactured goods, dairy products, pork and medicines.
Will the money come from Venezuela or will it further deplete our foreign exchange reserves which are in very short supply with troubling reports yesterday that already this Keith Rowley government has withdrawn some TT$2.5 billion from the HSF with a further US$1 billion drawdown, since September 7th 2015, from our FX reserves.
Unlike Lufthansa, is our PM unmindful of the lessons learnt from the millions of US dollars’ debt Venezuela’s still owes us on CAL?
Dr Rowley needs to be more forthcoming regarding operational details of the revolving fund. Like a drunken sailor or a little child in a candy store, he appears to be spending like crazy our stock of US dollars which the UNC left him, unmindful of tomorrow’s needs or those of future generations.
Will Trinidad and Tobago end up subsidizing the FX needs of Venezuela without a careful analysis of Venezuela’s capacity to repay, the likely impact on our challenging FX situation and whether a future Venezuelan government may see our present lifeline to Maduro, not as support for the Venezuelan people, but instead as a not well thought out “on the fly” facility and an unwelcomed and untimely interference in their domestic politics.