In yet another development in the highly controversial ‘Fuelgate’ fiasco, media reports note that the US Embassy has sent T&T’s Foreign Affairs Minister a US Government ‘blacklist’ of all nations, companies and persons currently under its sanctions.
This includes the Venezuelan Vice President and PDVSA energy officials, who Prime Minister Rowley met with in March 2020. Incidentally, I have noticed some public figures commenting on whether this matter is about T&T’s right to treat with Venezuela despite these US sanctions.
To them I say that this issue is about our crucial need to ensure that our nation’s economy survives the drastic and devastating global and domestic economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. We therefore simply must act to strategically preserve our very existence, and recognize that:
– The United States has always been our greatest, most valuable and beneficial trade and national security global ally
– They are so significant to our economic well-being that our very ability to feed our people right now is dependent on the US since 70 percent of our food imports come from them
– As a global superpower, the US has always been a very good friend to T&T, treating us in a very fair, humane manner
Let me make it very clear that I am NOT in any way advocating that T&T takes any sides in any bilateral dispute among other nations. However, in maintaining our neutrality, we must also ensure that we respect all international Treaties and arrangements we have signed with our global allies.
Indeed, this is a position I have always endorsed. You may have seen a video circulating on social media, by political detractors, of my attendance as then Prime Minister at the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama. A month before, in March 2015, then US President Barack Obama had declared Venezuela a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials there.
At the Summit, I had then noted that such major regional bilateral disputes would inadvertently affect its Caricom neighbours. I also stressed that T&T stood for sovereignty of all nations, and requested that President Obama removed the Executive Order. At that time, Mr Maduro has been legally elected by the Venezuelan people and his Presidency was not in any dispute.
My position today is still based on this principle. What is different now, however, is the fact that, since Venezuela’s highly controversial elections in 2018, Mr Maduro is no longer considered to be Venezuela’s legitimate president by more than 50 countries globally.
Notably, my comments then did NOT endanger T&T’s historical good relations with the US, for I had simply kept up the trend then of all my Prime Ministerial predecessors. We had ensured that T&T always treated with bilateral disputes in the region competently, strategically and intelligently, in order to preserve the best interests of our citizens.
Prior to this Fuelgate fiasco of the Rowley Government, NO Prime Minister of T&T had deliberately or foolishly jeopardized this neutral stance. This is why the US sending this blacklist to Minister Moses, and by extension, the Government, is something that Prime Minister Rowley must treat with respectfully and strategically.
Already, his Government’s actions have caused a US investigation into this country for violating its sanctions against Venezuela, and the Rio Treaty. He must therefore immediately make amends to protect the economic interests of the citizens of this country.
I am there calling on PM Rowley to ensure that he will refrain from any further action that could unnecessarily and recklessly breach any international Treaty with the United States. He must also publicly explain to T&T what this ‘blacklist’ from the US embassy means for this country.
And PM Rowley must give a public reassurance that he will now treat with the US Government with due respect and mutual, shared friendliness, as befits an international ally which remains in our corner.
Stay safe and God bless.