By GUEST WRITER ANDY WILLIAMS THE PITBULL OF RADIO
The statement by Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign Affairs, that T&T is not bound by the recent decisions of the Rio Treaty, including the travel restrictions placed on the Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodriguez, is a foreign relations blunder of epic proportion.
Additionally, Delcy Rodriguez is under investigation in Spain for alleged corruption, money laundering and diverting funds from state-owned oil company PDVSA.
Travel sanctions have been placed on her by the United States, European Union, Canada, Switzerland and Mexico.
Minister Moses reports directly to the Prime Minister, who is the Head of the Cabinet and the Government of Trinidad & Tobago and who is therefore ultimately accountable for our international reputation.
In this regard, any official position, pronounced or taken by Rowley’s Cabinet colleagues, reflects the position of the Cabinet, Government and ultimately, the Prime Minister himself.
On May 13, 2020, the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young informed the Parliament that, at a previous meeting on May 6, 2020, with US resident Ambassador Mondello, there was “no raising of any breach of any Treaty” by the Ambassador.
In an attempt to clear the air on this matter, on May 19, 2020, Ambassador Mondello issued a press release, stating, “I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port of Spain, with Trinidad & Tobago’s obligation as a party to the Rio Treaty”.
It would appear that someone is being disingenuous by playing smart with foolishness, the question, therefore, is who and why? Ambassador Mondello’s Press Release also stated, “Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation, like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodriguez, are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures”.
The Ambassador’s response is an unambiguous and a pointed rebuttal of the statement made by Minister Moses, that T&T is not bound to comply and honour travel restrictions place on Delcy Rodriguez, under the Rio Treaty.
The high-handed and risky
It is inconceivable and embarrassing to know that the resident US Ambassador had to descend into the domestic arena, to hold our hand and tell us that we are indeed bound by the Rio Treaty.
One must reflect on the recent utterances of the Prime Minister in the Parliament when he said, “…I take umbrage, I take umbrage at the United States Ambassador in Trinidad & Tobago making a public statement criticizing the actions of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago….”. The situation became even more incredulous when in that sitting of the Parliament, a voice that sounded like Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, crudely quipped, “What Trump go do we?”.
The high handed and risky position taken by both Moses and Rowley to the resolution adopted under the Rio Treaty is puzzling since the adopted resolution was that treaty parties will abide by the Rio Treaty and collaborate on law enforcement operations and economic sanctions against President Maduro and his associates, including travel restrictions. T&T abstained from voting.
Speaking to the media after the abstention, Prime Minister Rowley made a gargantuan leap in enigmatic logic, when he said that the vote was an “attempt to put pressure on Venezuela by the use of a military intervention”.
In making the claim that T&T is not bound by the Rio Treaty, Minister Moses selectively referenced certain Articles of the Rio Treaty in an attempt to legitimize his position.
Had he been diligent and conducted a more thorough examination of all the Articles of the Rio Treaty, he would have discovered his stated position was misguided, misinformed and flat out wrong.
To illustrate, Article 19 of the Rio Treaty specifies that no State has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of any other.
However, Article 23 specifies that measures to maintain peace and security in line with existing treaties were not a breach of Article 19.
It was on this basis that sixteen of the member states passed a majority resolution in September 2019. Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures, including the travel restrictions on Delcy Rodriguez, are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures.
Therefore, T&T’s obligations under the Rio Treaty are unambiguous and binding.
Indeed, if T&T has gone rogue in abandoning these obligations, the consequences of such reckless actions will manifest itself in several forms, including possible US sanctions.