Embattled Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro has not approached Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley or the T&T Government about a potential mediation meeting between him and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in this country.
However, the Prime Minister said that if this suggested then this country would be open to such a meeting as he explained that Caricom had offered to be a neutral ground for talks for Venezuelan officials.
“If today he is saying that Trinidad and Tobago or any Caricom country is that place it goes back to our offer,” said Rowley at the Piarco International Airport. “I heard the Uruguayans also have made themselves available in a similar manner,” he added.
The Prime Minister addressed the matter upon his return from a meeting with the United Nations Security Council in New York. He explained that during the meeting Caricom presented their concerns about the potential conflict in the region following recent developments in Venezuela.
The already tense situation in the South American country grew even more volatile last week after Guido announced himself president on the grounds that Maduro’s was not properly elected in keeping with the Venezuelan constitution.
The situation has seen several countries around the world making pronouncements as to which regime they recognise with the United States and several Latin American countries who have called themselves the LIMA 14, recognising Guaido as the Venezuelan president. Russia, China and Turkey, however, have come out in support of Maduro.
Representatives from the United States, Russia and China were all present during the meeting and hear the concerns of Caricom, the Prime Minister said.
“These drums of war, that were rattling from Venezuela to Washington were being pounded by persons who either have not taken us into account or disregard our interest and the consequence of their actions on the Caribbean. Barbados was extremely strong in pointing out that once we get into a situation where the southern Caribbean becomes an area of conflict between our neighbours and partners of this way it would nothing but harm to the economy in the region,” said Rowley who added: ‘Tourists really don’t leave home to go to war zones on vacation.”
Rowley said the country’s position concerning the Venezuelan leadership was that of non-interference, as was Caricom’s.
He, in particular, slammed the Opposition for their stance, stating that it embarrassed the country as they approached the UN.
“It would have been easier if the opposition had seen the principle on which the government of Trinidad and Tobago was standing in leadership with Caricom because that is principal that protects small states more than any other. We cannot be convenient with principle,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the Venezuelan situation continued to be a concern, but he said it was in everyone’s best interest that it doesn’t escalate to use of force.
He said, “Whether the causative factors are as a result of internal political insufficiencies or external pressures and agendas that’s not the point. The point is the Venezuelan situation as a permanent situation is unacceptable, to all of us,” said Dr. Rowley, “To get up one morning and say the time for talk is over, that is where the danger lies. Closing the door to dialogue is not an option and never has been an option.”
The Prime Minister described the mission to address the UN as a success and said Mexico and Uruguay were interested in holding talks with Venezuela to settle the matter.