The five Caribbean leaders invited to meet US President Donald Trump today are members of the Lima Group whose objective is regime change in Venezuela.
That's the view of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who has brushed off T&T's exclusion from Trump's meeting with the leaders of Jamaica, St Lucia, Haiti, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas today.
Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet media briefing and responding to whether he felt the meeting may be an attempt by the US to coalesce some Caribbean nations to agree with military intervention in Venezuela, Rowley replied in the negative.
The leaders were invited by Trump to meet at his Mar-a Lago, Florida home. US media stated it's a "thank you" to leaders for their support "for peace and democracy in Venezuela" and those discussions will focus on strengthening co-operation on security and trade issues.
Apart from Rowley, the meeting excluded Caricom chairman St Kitts Prime Minister Timothy Harris and Barbados PM Mia Mottley, who were all involved in recent efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to Venezuela's crisis. T&T and Caricom hold a non-intervention position. But Government's statements on the matter last month were viewed with "concern" by US Ambassador Joseph Mondello. Rowley, who took umbrage, proceeded with Caricom to seek peaceful resolution of Venezuela's crisis.
On whether the five countries attending Trump's meeting had consulted Caricom on it, Rowley said T&T wasn't consulted and wasn't aware until it was announced. Nor was Caricom's secretariat able to say it was before Caricom for consideration. He said the action of any Caricom members acting outside of Caricom was their own.
He added, "There are people in T&T who believe because T&T wasn't invited to the private home of an American president, we're somehow diminished!
"A man's home is his castle - you free to invite who you want to your house. We can't stay outside and say we shoulda be invited. Since when are we measuring our stature and station by who invites us to their house?"
"But we've never stood taller or stood prouder. If it is we're being 'blanked' or 'snubbed' for steadfastly standing for the principles of the United Nations Charter, history will absolve us," he said, detailing the Charter's principles to which T&T has been a signatory since 1962.
Saying the Charter was the basis of T&T's non-intervention position on Venezuela, he added, "Article Two of the Charter is where the terms 'non-intervention and non-interference' came from, I Keith Rowley didn't invent those terms."
Noting that the Caricom delegation of which he was a part was authorised to represent Caricom, he said there are 14 Caricom countries.
"Yet the conversation is about four," he said of leaders attending Trump's meeting and noting the Dominican Republic isn't a Caricom state.
"There are 14 Caricom countries, how many have gone to Mar -a-Lago? The ones who've agreed are part of the Lima Group. What's the group's objective? Regime change in Venezuela. How that's to be achieved is for those who've embarked on that course."
The Lima Group also includes Latin states which supported Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido against embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Rowley said T&T, St Kitts, Dominica and St Vincent didn't sign on to the Lima Group
"Our foreign policy has always given us an indication of the road ahead. What we're reacting to is an invitation to a man's house - a meeting of the Lima Group at the private residence of the US President."
He said the Lima Group's decision-making had totally ignored Caricom.
Despite Trump's meeting, Rowley said there was no need to remind the four Caricom countries of Caricom's position on Venezuela: non-intervention and peaceful resolution. He said at the recent Caricom Intersessional Venezuela was discussed and "people had all kinds of positions." But he said all Caricom members voted to support Caricom's position and that resulted in Caricom's delegation attending overseas meetings on Venezuela.
"Since then we had contact with Canada and Europe and now some of our members have gone to the US. (Venezuela) is an issue we need to talk about - not fight about," he noted.
Nor did Rowley feel the situation might strain T&T's relationship with the US.
On the timing of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's meeting with the US Ambassador the same day Trump's meeting was announced, Rowley said the US Ambassador was free to talk to anyone,
"...And I have every confidence that in sober reflection, the Opposition Leader will familiarise herself with the position of the then Barbadian Opposition leader Errol Barrow during the Grenada invasion," he added.