PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last Friday said he had never discussed the ongoing political situation in Venezuela with President Nicolas Maduro when the head of the government in South America paid an official visit to the twin-island republic last month.
Rowley also made it clear that Port of Spain would not participate in any event aimed at removing the Maduro government from office, telling legislators “any change of government (there) is for the people of Venezuela”.
Opposition legislators had called on Prime Minister Rowley to indicate his administration’s position at the Organization of American States (OAS) plenary session due to take place on June 23 called to discuss the threat to democracy in Venezuela.
Rowley acknowledged that a Permanent Council meeting will be held on that date where it will receive a report from OAS Secretary General on the situation in Venezuela.
“The meeting is being convened at the request of the OAS Secretary General,” he said, noting that the Council will be called upon to make its decision by the majority of the 18 votes as to whether “an un constitutional alternation of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order” exists in Venezuela.
He said the Permanent Council will have three options in dealing with the situation and that “Trinidad and Tobago has supported the re-opening of an effective dialogue between the opposition and the government in order to find ways to encourage political stability, social development and economic recovery”.
He said this was done most recently by the special Committee on Venezuela adopted by the Association of Caribbean states (ACS) summit in Cuba and an OAS Declaration earlier this month.
“Given that the Charter has been invoked by the Secretary General as opposed to an OAS member state, particularly one not linked to imperialism, the credibility of the entire process could be called into question.
“The ability of the Permanent Council to determine whether there has been an unconstitutional alternation of the constitutional regime that’ seriously impair the democratic order is constrained by the fact that it will be making an assessment on the basis of a report to be tabled by a secretary general who in his previous intemperate and unsanctioned remarks can no longer serve as a force for peaceful dispute resolution in the Venezuelan context”.
Rowley said that Trinidad and Tobago’s position at the OAS meeting “is to stick and sail very close to the wind with respect to the founding principles of the OAS”.
“So at this stage we have no other position but to recognise the duly elected government of Venezuela whether it be the President of the Congress and to not interfere in the business of Venezuela in a way that is inimical to the interest or runs counter to our principles in the OAS.
“Trinidad and Tobago as Venezuela’s closest neighbour in the Caribbean, we acknowledge that the choice of the government of Venezuela is for the people of Venezuela,” Rowley said.
Asked whether the Trinidad and Tobago position at the OAS was raised during Maduro’s visit here, Rowley replied “this matter was never raised at any time in my contact with President Maduro”.
Maduro has said that a referendum to recall his government will now take place next year angering opposition politicians who have been pushing for the recall next month as claiming that hundreds of people are suffering as a result of the policies of the present administration.