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(CMC) – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has defended his government’s decision to abstain from an Organization of American States (OAS) vote not to recognise the Nicolas Maduro government in Venezuela.
He said while Port of Spain had three options during the vote last week Thursday, “we in making these decision, we put the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago paramount at all times, and in voting nay or yeah as others have done, we maintain in the presence of large, small, powerful and weak that Trinidad and Tobago is a sovereign country and we are free to make that decision”.
“We make it in our own interest,” Rowley told reporters Thursday during a more than three-hour “conversation and an opportunity to engage with him on matters of national interest”.
Jamaica, along with Haiti, The Bahamas, Guyana and St. Lucia, supported the OAS resolution in not recognising the second five-year term of President Maduro, while Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname voted against the measure.
St. Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained during the vote earlier this week, while Grenada was not present when the matter was put to the vote.
In the resolution, the OAS urged all member states and permanent observers to the hemispheric body to adopt “in accordance with international law and their national legislation, diplomatic, political, economic and financial measures that they consider appropriate, to contribute to the prompt restoration of the democratic order of Venezuela”.
The OAS is calling “for new presidential elections with all necessary guarantees of a free, fair, transparent, and legitimate process to be held at an early date attended by international observers”.
Rowley told reporters that Trinidad and Tobago “has very good neighbourly relations with Venezuela — notwithstanding whatever may be happening in Venezuela — as we do with Brazil, Guyana and the United States.
“One doesn’t cancel out the other. We have an embassy in Venezuela as they have in Trinidad and Tobago. We have that good relationship. That event of a swearing-in of a president, we are not the elections and boundaries commission in Venezuela, and we are not to be encouraged to do otherwise than to be a good neighbour to all of our neighbours,” Rowley said.
“It is not an either or situation,” Rowley said, defending the cross-border gas deal between Port of Spain and Caracas.
“It is no longer a matter with the governments because once we have the heads of government agreement where the two countries have agreed for it to happen it is now with the operators,” he said, adding that it is now up to the Venezuelan state company and Shell and the National Gas Company here “to work out the pipeline arrangements”.
“This is a commercial arrangement…so it moves from one stage to another. Because things do move from one stage to another. Originally we started with the president meeting with the prime minister here …. We got passed all of that successfully,” he said, defending the decision also not to make public the gas price negotiated under the deal.
“You don’t ever know the gas price, but today because you don’t know the gas price we negotiated with Venezuela, it is a secret government deal, it is secrecy and a scandal. In this business of marketing gas, the gas price is a trade secret and if anybody should know that it is Trinidad and Tobago, we have been in this business long enough,” Rowley said, brushing aside comments by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar on the deal.
He said successive governments, including the one headed by Persad Bissessar, have maintained that “gas prices in these contracts are a trade secret”.
“All we could say to you is that we have gotten a good price from Venezuela. Good for the people of Venezuela, good for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and we can now buy that gas from Venezuela, bring it to Trinidad and Tobago, process it here and sell it and have a profit made in the process,” Rowley told reporters.