By Sunshine Reporter PETER L. GREEN
The current spat between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Opposition over an alleged shipment of oil to Aruba but which ended up on Venezuelan soil was bound to create controversy and be of national interest. Even after two weeks, it still is cause for concern.
Dr Keith Rowley ought to have known that regardless of the explanation proffered by his Government, not only the Opposition and the sycophants of Opposition politics, but many who are patriotic to this country will have their doubts concerning the veracity of the account of this PNM administration.
The basis for this discomfort is the failure on the part of the Government to fully disclose the reason for the visit of the Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez who sneaked into our country at a time when our borders were closed and at a time when calls for the Government to open the borders to allow our nationals entry were denied.
Up to this time, many see no justification in Rowley’s account for opening our borders to let her in, even if it were for one day. Based on this clandestine meeting, many conspiracy theories are making the rounds.
Delcy’s appearance on our shores
Everything was curious about Delcy Rodriguez’s appearance on our shores. It not only came at a time when our borders were closed but at a time when our biggest trading partner had declared the President of Venezuela, His Excellency Nicolás Maduro Moros, a pariah to the United States of America and placed a bounty of 15 million US dollars for information pertaining to his whereabouts.
Delcy Rodriguez, second in command to Maduro, also has difficulties with her assets being frozen across Europe. Switzerland sanctioned Rodriguez by freezing her assets and imposing a travel ban on her and the European Union sanctioned her as well as 10 others from the Maduro Administration on the grounds of being responsible for human rights violations and for undermining the democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.
In Canada, there is also a sanction against Delcy Rodriguez. Neighbouring Colombia and Mexico have also sanctioned this Vice President from entering into their country and have frozen her assets based on corruption and humanitarian issues in Venezuela.
Having full knowledge of these sanctions, the people of Trinidad and Tobago wisely raised a red flag when she came because her visit to our country was a breach of the very rules enacted by our Government. The lockdown policies which were enforced and the very act of maintaining a social distance which appeared to have been compromised seemed to be too trivial for our Government to make such a rash decision to open our borders.
The Rowley Administration did not come straight with the public regarding this visit by Delcy Rodriguez and therefore the Government cannot now blame the Opposition or any sector of the national community if allegations of misplaced loyalty towards Delcy Rodriguez and Venezuela now form part of the national conversation.
There are too many issues that the Rowley administration must clear up
Many are now wondering, having heard about the 150,000 barrels of gas which were purchased from Paria Fuel Trading Company by Aruba that ended up in Venezuela, whether that was the sleight of hand that brought Delcy Rodriguez to our shores after our borders were closed. If it were, then this country now has a very serious problem. It has gas pain but no orange peel tea to drink for it!
The Prime Minister’s response to questions raised and the vitriol against the Opposition Leader on Sunday’s Express of May 3, 2020, under the caption “PM: Kamla damaging T&T’s relations with US”, have provided no sense of clarity or even comfort on this visit. The Minister of Energy’s denial and excuses on our inability to control what consumer countries do with the oil that we sell to them came across as puerile and pathetic. If there is any truth to the story published by Renuka Singh on Friday, May 1, 2020, under the caption “US probes T&T fuel shipment linked to Venezuela” then it is clear that the due diligence that is expected of our leaders may not have been properly conducted in the sale of this shipment of fuel.
There are too many issues that the Rowley administration must clear up if the country is to repose confidence in his leadership and not raise questions whether the visit of Delcy Rodriguez was a betrayal. What citizens will really like to see, is the response to the many questions raised by Ms. Renuka Singh to quell the discomfort that this seeming conspiratorial network has created.
There are other issues which contribute to this discomfort which have to do with the support for Maduro. Dr. Rowley is treading on thin ice if he wishes to convince us of a position of neutrality and that also, he is on the safe side of the United Nations since many of the United Nations’ members have imposed sanctions on members of Maduro’s administration including Rodriguez.
The country has no problem with a position of neutrality, but if that is the position that we are taking, it must not be perceived as a position of convenience to favour one side over the other.
The other issue is the possible threat that a seeming alleged conspiracy or careless due diligence poses for us as a nation State. We cannot afford during this period of our history to be sanctioned by the US.
As late as last Friday a US communique seemed to suggest that sanctions were imminent.
The Speaker of the House
The difficulty that comes from being embargoed would be way beyond the threshold that our citizens would be able to bear. Remember that we import close to 800 million dollars’ worth of food from the USA. On the import/export binary alone, our economy can be brought to a screeching halt.
Another issue is the failure of the Speaker of the House to recuse herself from adjudicating on the motion whether or not to allow the Government to report to this nation concerning alleged involvement in an illegal gasoline trade with Venezuela. The Speaker, a lawyer by profession, ought to have known that to adjudicate on this matter would be a conflict of interest given the active role played by her husband in the sale of the 150,000 barrels of gas to Aruba.
We need to know that our leaders have been above board because we cannot live in doubt wondering whether or not Delcy Rodriguez came to our country to cut a deal for gas because she could not allow a digital signature which could be traced to be registered as actionable evidence to be used against us.
These are the kinds of conspiracies that could arise because given the many digital platforms, citizens are of the view that one could have been used as was used by Caricom leaders on the Covid-19 issue last week and Delcy Rodriguez did not need to visit our shores during lockdown when we would not even open it for our own citizens.
Dr. Rowley should not be too eager to condemn the Opposition Leader.
Before doing so, he should fully disclose the reason for Delcy Rodriguez’s visit during the lockdown. He should also invite the US Government to investigate whether the Government has run afoul of the international world view that has sanctioned Venezuela and its Government and wait to be cleared by this investigation before issuing a statement of condemnation.
As the saga continues, the country waits with bated breath to determine whether this Government has betrayed the sacred trust to the people.