Trinidad and Tobago will not participate in voting during any matter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) until it reinstates a representative from Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and removes the representative of his political challenger Juan Guaidó.
“We go to the meetings but we not voting on any resolutions or supporting any resolutions where the people who are sitting there representing countries are not proper,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said on the issue yesterday.
Rowley made this clear while addressing the media during the post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, as he declared his displeasure at OAS secretary general Luis Almagro’s statements on recent incidents involving Venezuelan migrants in relation to T&T.
Rowley said Almagro was a public servant and should not allow his personal opinion to become the position of the OAS. He replayed a clip for the media from back in 2017, when he had returned from a meeting in Chile, where he had called for Almagro’s removal over his stance on the Venezuela political situation.
“The head of the OAS has no right engaging in derogatory conversation with the head of any government anywhere in the region,” Rowley said.
“Today is Venezuela, tomorrow is T&T. We are a member, but we are not a sheep.”
The Prime Minister will soon sit as chairman of Caricom in January but said that he did not need the joint strength of the other regional members to stand against the current OAS leadership
“I have made my position very clear in 2017, speaking as the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, standing alone,” he said.
Rowley said he when stood on principle against the OAS head then, he was mocked by the United National Congress (UNC) and told that he supported an illegitimate Venezuela president Maduro over Guaidó.
“Look at the Opposition, they spent all their time supporting MP Guaidó because it was said that that was the new president, and they denigrated us, they undermined our policy,” he said.
Rowley said that he, in fact, paid more attention to the election in the United States than the recent one in Venezuela.
“Good election, bad election, I don’t know, but the bottom line is he (Guaidó) did not take part in the last election, that is not unknown to us in T&T,” he said.
The Prime Minister recalled a similar incident here in T&T one year, when the then second major political party, then the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), did not take part in an election and the People’s National Movement won all 26 seats. He thus questioned the validity of Guaidó’s current tenure.
“Therefore, I don’t think he (Guaidó) is part of the (National) Assembly,” Rowley said.
Rowley pointed out that the British Supreme Court, the highest court in this jurisprudence, ruled a few weeks ago on a matter involving the $1.3 billion in gold owned and deposited by Venezuela in the Bank of England.
The Bank of England had seized the gold after questions about the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency and Rowley said the fact that the British Supreme Court ruled that the gold be returned was evidence that it recognises Maduro’s claim to the presidency.
“England did the unthinkable, the Bank of England seized Venezuelan’s gold. The British Supreme Court ruled that Mr Guaidó is not the president of Venezuela and that Mr Maduro is the president. A ruling from our own court,” he said.
Rowley said while this country’s highest court had deemed Maduro to be president by virtue of that ruling, the Opposition had kept pushing the dialogue that he (Rowley) was supporting Maduro although he was not legitimate.
This is not Rowley’s first clash with the OAS over the Venezuela situation.
In 2017, he called for Almagro to be removed.
But in 2019, tensions over the political collapse of Venezuela rose after the countries of the Caricom distanced themselves from Almagro and his support of Guaidó.
Speaking on the matter back then, Caricom said that the OAS did not speak for them. The Caricom instead maintained a stance of non-interference and has not picked a side in the clash between Maduro and Guaidó.
The member states of Caricom said then that Almagro spoke in support of Guaidó on the OAS platform but did not have the authorisation of the body.
Again in November, Rowley posted a scathing criticism of Almagro.
In that post, Rowley blamed Almagro for “almost singlehandedly” “triggering and fuelling the current Venezuelan” migrant crisis in T&T. He described Almagro then as “misguided.”
Most recently, in another social media post on Monday, Rowley lumped the OAS and members of the Opposition together and labelled them “imps” pushing a false narrative about the traffickers bringing their “cargo” into the closed borders of T&T
“That is not what the OAS is about and we have to stand on principle,” he said on Thursday.