Why did it take almost two months for Government to clearly say it did not consider T&T bound by the decisions of the Rio Treaty on Venezuela and does not recognise sanctions on the Bolivarian Republic, including the travel ban on its Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez?
Has the Government, in so doing, also again put the country at risk of US sanctions, or is this a case of a small island state standing up for what it sees as international law and in keeping with its own foreign policy?
In response to a matter on the adjournment of the Senate, Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses alleged the distortion of the Rio Treaty 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.
This view is at variance with that of the Americans, whose Ambassador to Port-of-Spain Joseph Mondello, has insisted T&T’s obligations as a party to the treaty are unambiguously clear that all measures imposed—like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodriguez—are binding on all treaty parties.
T&T as a sovereign country must have its own foreign policy position, which should be aligned to Caricom’s position and in keeping with international law and convention on the issue.
We should have had these conversations with the Americans since the vote on the adjustment to the treaty in 2019. All talk of sanctions may not have reared its head then, especially since the jury remains out on whether the fuel from Paria Fuel Trading was allegedly sent to Venezuela with T&T’s knowledge.
It is why we accept Government’s position that T&T should continue to recognise President Nicolás Maduro and not Mr Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela.
As the Foreign Affairs Minister stated, to do otherwise would run counter to the position of Caricom and the United Nations.
To be sure, recognising a government is not the same as supporting it and T&T must continue to have good neighbourly relations with Venezuela but keep out of its internal affairs, unless invited to be part of a solution.
The problem with Tuesday’s announcement is that it took so long for Minister Moses to articulate a policy. Where was he before and what advice had he given to Government? Has he been a focal point for the administration in this issue? If so, why did National Security Minister Stuart Young so often lead discussions on foreign policy in the matter?
From the fallout with Jamaica, to the disagreement with Barbados to the disaster in the vote at the OAS, Minister Moses has failed to lead.
The Prime Minister was forced by public pressure to appoint an investigator into the circumstances that led to T&T abstaining from the OAS vote on the Rio Treaty adjustment and has kept the findings out of the public’s sight.
Mr Moses may have been the Prime Minister’s childhood friend but his lethargy has done Dr Rowley and the country no favour.