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SCARBOROUGH, Tobago, Feb 13, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says the ongoing political and economic situation in Venezuela “is the most challenging foreign policy issue” for Trinidad and Tobago as he reiterated the country’s support for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) position of non-interference and open to constructive dialogue.
Rowley, speaking at a public meeting of his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) here on Tuesday night, said the situation in Caracas where Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó is seeking to unseat President Nicolas Maduro, is the most challenging the twin island republic, situated seven miles from Venezuela “has had to deal with.
“I give you the assurance that Trinidad and Tobago will not be found anting,” Rowley said, adding that it was imperative for small island states, as those in CARICOM to maintain the position of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.
“Our sovereignty is not as a result of or to be sold to an individual. Country to country. It doesn’t matter who wins the election in Trinidad or who wins it in Venezuela, Venezuela has an ongoing friendly relationship with Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, dismissing opposition calls here for the government to support Guaido.
“There are those who decide that whoever is President in Venezuela, I want to annul that election and out a different president in place. You could do that if you wish, but please allow me to say that I am not joining you in that. We are preserving our position of neutrality, we have no business in other people’s business like that.
“This is not Keith Rowley. This is the fundamental principle of Caribbean people. Not only Trinidad and Tobago. This is the fundamental principle that protects small states because if you say anybody who could do it should be allowed to do it what is to protect St. Kitts-Nevis, what is to protect Trinidad and Tobago, what’s to protect Barbados or the Maldives Islands.
“So all over the world small states have a duty to ensure that the UN’s fundamental principle of non-interference is not squandered for political or other gains of individuals….”
Rowley recalled a situation where the former Barbados prime minister Errol Barrow, had strongly opposed interference in the affairs of another country in the region, saying Trinidad and Tobago’s position is guided by the principles of Caribbean stalwarts like Barrow, Dr. Eric Williams, Michael Manley, V.C. Bird and George Chambers, the latter, who had opposed United States military invasion of Grenada in 1983.
“I am standing on their shoulders,” he said, taking yet another swipe at the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro, who has endorsed the Venezuelan opposition leader without the matter being debated at the OAS.
“He stayed in his office in Washington and he, this public servant, speaking for the OAS, not having consulted the CARICOM countries (and) I don’t know who else he consulted, he recognised a new president in Venezuela.
“So he now has put the OAS in a position where the OAs cannot take part in any mediation because if the OAs has acknowledged and recognised a new president what is there to talk about, and who can you talk to.
“But Trinidad and Tobago standing on our principle we can talk to any and everybody and we have been talking to any and everybody on this matter. And that is what our sovereignty allows. We are not choir boys and choir girls for any orchestra” Rowley said.
He said he strongly believes that the Montevideo Mechanism, which was agreed upon at the talks in Uruguay provides a good opportunity for bringing about a peaceful solution to the crisis in the South American Country.
The Montevideo Mechanism is regarded as the initiative in response to the call by the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to find a pathway to a peaceful resolution through dialogue and from a position of respect for International Law and Human Rights.