It is very unfortunate to see the Venezuela issue become a quagmire for the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
To all those who have even the slightest interest in this seemingly interminable story, let us assume that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and company intentionally sold the fuel to Venezuela (whether directly or indirectly).
There can be no doubt whatsoever, that the government felt it was conducting a financial transaction in the country’s interest.
Yes, considering the threat of sanctions, if detected, the action was risky. T&T therefore found itself in the precarious situation of having to thread a fine line between exercising its sovereignty or seemingly giving in to US pressure.
Quite simply, the country was caught in the middle. It goes without saying, that it must have been an agonising decision.
Anyone who does not believe that to be the case is not being straightforward.
Under normal circumstances, the US would have issued a stern diplomatic note to the T&T government, that further violations could result in sanctions being imposed. Quiet diplomacy is always a first option, and it would have allowed the Rowley government to save face. That’s what diplomats do, and that’s the way controversial issues are resolved sometimes between countries—unless or until, things escalate. This situation should have been no different.
But these are not normal times. During the past few months, the government has had a lot more than Venezuela on its plate. It has had to navigate the ship through the perilous waters of a global pandemic, and from all indications, it has earned kudos for successfully weathering the storm.
However, while calmer waters are forecast, a new storm has emerged that is threatening to wreck the ship. Confidential government documents about the Venezuelan visit mysteriously ended up in the hands of UNC members.
In many other jurisdictions (including the United States), an investigation would have been launched, and the source of the leak unceremoniously unmasked. The culprit would have been charged with breach of trust and made to face the consequences.
But, it seems that in T&T, such malfeasance, like the leaking of personal and confidential information with impunity, is all par for the course. And that’s how we have found ourselves in this mess.
Whether it’s for political gain or some other reason, the detractors seem hell bent on embarrassing the government over this matter—even if it means shooting ourselves in the foot.
The most recent development has the US Ambassador—Joseph Mondello wrapping himself in a cloak of virtue, and wading into the political arena of this country.
Surely Mr Mondello must know that this is an election year in T&T, and that the Venezuelan issue is a very sensitive one. So, when he makes a calculated decision to throw Mr. Young under the bus, there must have been an agenda.
It is no secret that the United States finds Dr Rowley to be intractable. Let’s be honest, the US does not like that. It is accustomed to asserting itself around the world, and always having things its own way.
In pursuit of its self-serving objectives, the US routinely pressures and bullies its allies, while threatening and blackmailing all others with economic sanctions or military intervention. This is not some outlandish statement, the record is there and it’s incontrovertible.
Tulsi Gabbard, a US Congresswoman from Hawaii, was one of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for President in November. She is known to be a strong advocate for the curtailment of US involvement in foreign wars, and interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Joe Biden ultimately won the nomination, and it is widely expected that he will choose a woman as his running mate. She could very well be the one.
In the meantime, let us look at what US Ambassador Mondello achieved, by going public with his statement. Mr Young’s credibility has taken a tremendous hit, even though he has been one of the hardest working Ministers in the government. The Prime Minister has been painted into a corner, with no face-saving way out. And all the magnificent work done in combating COVID-19, has been undermined. All of these things have taken place, with an election right around the corner. If this was not the Ambassador’s intention, then we are left to believe that it was all just pure coincidence.
As it stands, T&T is caught between a rock and a hard place—figuratively, geographically, economically and politically.