Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses says Trinidad and Tobago is not bound by recent decisions made in relation to the Rio Treaty, including the travel restrictions imposed on Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez.
Speaking on the adjournment of the Senate yesterday, Moses said T&T had been consistent in that position at the OAS General Assembly last June and at a September 2019 meeting of the Rio Treaty member countries.
Moses said the hemispheric pact had been distorted by recent efforts to impose sanctions on Venezuela.
Breaking his silence on the controversial March visit to T&T by Rodriguez and claims that this county had violated the Rio Treaty, Moses said: “Notwithstanding the difficulties within Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago stands on solid ground in being in harmony with the position of the United Nations and the stated position of Caricom in recognising the government led by President Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate government of Venezuela.
“Given our understanding of the Charter of the United Nations, Trinidad and Tobago does not recognise Mr Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela. To do otherwise would run counter to the stated positions of Caricom and the United Nations.”
He added: “The distortion of the Rio Treaty, a collective self-defence pact, to treat with matters internal to Venezuela without the request or consent of that country is questionable and does not sit well with the intended purposes of the Treaty.
“Indeed, as the Rio Treaty explicitly informs, none of the provisions of the Treaty shall be construed as impairing the right and obligations of the high contracting parties under the Charter of the United Nations.”
Shortly after a delegation led by the Venezuelan Vice-President was granted an exemption to enter T&T for a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in late March, officials of the United States Embassy in Port-of-Spain warned that Rodriguez was subject to travel sanctions that are binding on all Rio Treaty parties, including T&T.
Last week, US Ambassador Joseph Mondello also issued a public statement confirming that he had a conversation with National Security Minister Stuart Young to address the T&T’s obligation to the treaty.
Mondello said, “I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port-of-Spain with T&T’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty. 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.”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley subsequently initiated a discussion with the Mondello, along with Young and Moses on the issue the next day (May 20).
Brief details of those discussions were given in a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, indicating that the meeting was in furtherance of “our mutual interests, buttressed by respect for each other’s sovereignty and a clear understanding of each other’s foreign policy positions.”
At a meeting on September 23, 2019, in New York, Rio Treaty member countries agreed to impose sanctions against the Maduro regime.
The resolution stated that member countries may sanction and extradite members of the Maduro administration who participate in drug trafficking, terrorist activities, organised crime and human rights violations, as well as freeze their assets.
It was approved by 16 countries but T&T abstained from the vote and Uruguay voted against it.