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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 30, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Wednesday said he believes progress had been made in the efforts to prevent an escalation of the political situation in Venezuela and defended the decision by the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to hold talks with senior officials of the United Nations rather than the Organization of American states (OAS).
Rowley, who was part of a CARICOM delegation that met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterras as well as the permanent representatives of several countries at the UN, told reporters “we think we are making progress because the ultimatums and the deadlines were a guarantee pathway to conflict.
“We can’t say we have finished this or finished that and you have to respond to what is happening. So I don’t know what tomorrow morning news (out of Venezuela) is going to be. They may decide they do not want to talk to anybody, the time for talk is over, the previous attempt at dialogue has failed and those are some of the conversations some people had.
‘Our role is to try and say no. We don’t agree that is so and that is where I hope our position prevails through calmer heads and the one thing we don’t want is to end up in the situation where there is conflict and it results in consequences for our region,” Rowley told reporters.
The United States is leading a number of western and Latin American countries in recognising the Venezuelan Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó, who last Wednesday declared himself the interim leader of the South American country.
But Russia, China and Cuba are among countries that are supporting President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office earlier this month for a second consecutive term as head of state.
Washington and its allies have accused Maduro of suppressing democratic rights in the country and have called for his removal. Caracas has broken off diplomatic relations with Washington and Maduro has accused the powerful North American country of engineering a coup to remove him from office.
Rowley said it was important for CARICOM to be viewed as “an honest broker in this matter” and that he is certain any Caribbean country would be available to host any possible meeting between Madura and the opposition in Caracas in a bid to solve the conflict.
“We will be very happy to host them and entertain them in a search for peace,” he said, adding that CARICOM wants all stakeholders in Venezuela to accept “there needs to be dialogue and that the position of time for talk is over and time for other action is now is not what we want to hear about.
“We will be happy at CARICOM especially in Trinidad and Tobago if what we hear from the Venezuelans that they are moving away from this thing about time for talk is over, time for action because that action has the potential to affect us”.
He said all parties in Venezuela needed to stand down “and talk their political problem out and negotiation their way out” adding that since Guaidó, appears to be viewed in some quarters “as the alternative government, our call for all persons in Venezuela to come together and talk this out and negotiate it out applies to Mr. Guaidó, as it applies to Mr. Maduro and his government”.
Rowley defended CARICOM’s decision not to seek the intervention of the OAS in the matter, blaming the OAS Secretary General Luis Leonardo Almagro of “taking on personally the presidency of Venezuela and had been advocating, virtually an overthrow of the Venezuelan government.
“Trinidad and Tobago as a country under the rule of law and a long standing member of the OAS and knowing the OAS Charter had objected to that because we always knew that if the situation worsened, or even before it worsened that the OAS was our first port of call to have this matter dealt with through dialogue and negotiations.
“By the Secretary General without reference to us in the CARICOM, we don’t know who else he had referred to, but without reference to us here in the CARICOM, taking on from his office an attack on a member government that created a problem for the OAS.”
Rowley told reporters “now that this new parallel government was declared in Venezuela, once again without reference to us here as members of the OAS, the Secretary General went ahead and recognised the new interim president.
“Those development had the effect of deeming the OAS unsuitable to be an honest broker in a situation where we believe dialogue and negotiation is what is required to bring stability to the Venezuelan situation,” Rowley told reporters.