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Local Venezuelans wary of Trinidad’s support of Maduro

By Trinidad Guardian

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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A group of Venezue­lans who are liv­ing in Trinidad and To­ba­go are ques­tion­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and Nico­las Maduro regime, in light of the ques­tions sur­round­ing the le­git­i­ma­cy of Maduro’s new regime.

Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Den­nis Moses at­tend­ed Maduro’s pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mo­ny on Thurs­day. Sev­er­al oth­er coun­tries around the world opt­ed not to recog­nise Maduro’s new term.

The Venezue­lan pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, held last May, were held sev­er­al months be­fore they con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly due and ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al ob­servers did not meet the min­i­mum stan­dards for trans­paren­cy.

This has lead to the Eu­ro­pean Union, the Unit­ed States, as well as mem­bers of the Li­ma Group, which com­pris­es of 13 Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. Cana­da as well as the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States not to recog­nise the Maduro’s pres­i­den­cy.

Pe­ru banned Maduro and 93 of­fi­cials of his gov­ern­ment from en­ter­ing their coun­try while Paraguay cut diplo­mat­ic ties with Venezuela on Thurs­day.

How­ev­er, based on the Min­is­ter Moses’ ap­pear­ance at the event, it ap­pears Trinidad and To­ba­go does recog­nise his of­fice. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Stu­art Young told re­porters at Thurs­day’s post-Cab­i­net press con­fer­ence that T&T is a sov­er­eign coun­try that con­tin­ues to have good re­la­tions with Venezuela. Venezuela is T&T’s clos­est neigh­bour, just sev­en miles away.

Austin Agho, a Venezue­lan ob­serv­er who re­sides in Trinidad but con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion at home, said the T&T Gov­ern­ment is an awk­ward po­si­tion.

“T&T is in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion, need­ing to ap­pease Maduro in or­der to ac­cess the Drag­on Field,” said Agho.

The Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent came to Trinidad in De­cem­ber 2016, to dis­cuss the Drag­on Field gas deal with Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley. The deal was of­fi­cial­ly signed in Venezuela in Au­gust last year.

But the le­git­i­ma­cy of Maduro’s sec­ond term may al­so be prob­lem­at­ic for that agree­ment, Agho said.

“Un­for­tu­nate­ly, the le­gal­i­ty of the deal is very much in ques­tion, giv­en that one, the ap­proval of the Venezue­lan Na­tion­al As­sem­bly is re­quired for treaties and deals; and two, the fact that Maduro is no longer Pres­i­dent,” said Agho.

Mem­bers of Caribbean Refugee Voic­es, Beat­riz and Mon­i­ca Joseph, two Venezue­lan res­i­dents in Trinidad, al­so ques­tioned the sta­tus of T&T deals with Venezuela dur­ing an in­ter­view on CNC 3’s the Morn­ing Brew yes­ter­day.

Mon­i­ca Joseph said the coun­try had seen lit­tle re­turns from their ex­changes with Maduro so far, point­ing to the dis­tri­b­u­tion of sup­plies to the South Amer­i­can coun­try pri­or to Drag­on Gas deal be­ing fi­nalised.

“I think it is some­thing we need to ques­tion here in Trinidad, our re­la­tion­ship with Venezuela, what does it ben­e­fit to us?” asked Joseph, “As the pub­lic, we need to ques­tion our gov­ern­ment and find out ex­act­ly what are their deal­ings are with Venezuela.”

They al­so raised con­cerns about the gov­ern­ment’s stance giv­en the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state of af­fairs in the coun­try.

“It’s pret­ty grim, it’s kin­da like the rot­ting of a coun­try from the in­side,” said Mon­i­ca Joseph who, how­ev­er, felt Venezuela was not to­tal­ly lost from a de­mo­c­ra­t­ic stand­point.

She be­lieves out­side in­ter­ven­tion is need­ed.

“From the in­side, it’s a bit hard to do any­thing, you come up against a lot of walls if you try to do any­thing de­mo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly,” said Joseph.

Maduro first as­sumed the Venezue­lan Pres­i­den­cy fol­low­ing the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013.

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