Trinidad and Tobago’s foreign policy is anchored on three fundamental tenets, namely respect for the sovereignty and sovereign equality of all states; non-interference in the internal affairs of other states; and respect for and adherence to international law and to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Accordingly, Trinidad and Tobago has continued to recognize H.E. Nicolás Maduro as the democratically elected President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, consistent with his uninterrupted recognition at the United Nations, and rejected the purported Interim Government of the Venezuelan National Assembly, which emerged in January 2019, led by Mr. Juan Guaidó at that time.
Since 2017, Trinidad and Tobago made it clear that, although a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), neither the OAS nor its Secretary General spoke for Trinidad and Tobago viz-à-viz its foreign relations. It should be noted that on May 31, 2017 at a Media Conference at Piarco International Airport immediately after having returned from a State Visit to Chile, Prime Minister Rowley distanced Trinidad and Tobago from the statements made by the Secretary General of the OAS towards Venezuela from the first instance. Trinidad and Tobago maintains that the personal opinion of such office holders ought not to become the position of the organisation. When the OAS moved to recognise the Ambassador of the so-called Interim Government of Venezuela in the OAS on April 9, 2019, a few weeks before the Maduro-led Venezuela OAS withdrawal took effect (upon the expiration of the statutory period of two years since the formal notification of that intent in April 2017) Trinidad and Tobago was not in support. Furthermore, at the Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS in Colombia in June 2019, Trinidad and Tobago both stated and formally registered a footnote to advise that the “Government of Trinidad and Tobago reserves the right not to be bound by... any decision taken at the OAS, which is based on, principally includes, or in any other manner involves the participation of the representative of the Venezuelan National Assembly, purportedly seated as the Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” and has maintained this position since then.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has further maintained the position that there is a need to foster constructive and peaceful dialogue amongst all the relevant stakeholders in Venezuela. To this end, Trinidad and Tobago has remained open to discussion with all sides on plausible options for a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the situation in Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago has joined with CARICOM Member States in pursuing a regional approach to addressing the political situation in Venezuela and has played a leading role in CARICOM’s efforts to encourage dialogue amongst all parties in Venezuela including as follows:
- The discussions about Venezuela at Special Emergency and Regular Meetings of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and the Council of Foreign and Community Relations throughout 2019;
- Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago joined Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the then Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM; the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados; and His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, the then Secretary General of CARICOM, in meetings with the United Nations Secretary General in New York to discuss the situation in Venezuela on January 28, 2019;
- Prime Minister Rowley participated in the CARICOM-Mexico-Uruguay Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay on February 6, 2019 along with CARICOM representatives Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis; the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados; and His Excellency Irwin LaRocque. The Conference, agreed, inter alia, that the most appropriate way to address the complex situation in Venezuela was through dialogue for a negotiated resolution, from a position of respect for International Law and Human Rights and established the Montevideo Mechanism aimed at creating all necessary conditions for a comprehensive and lasting solution to the situation in Venezuela, with the participation of all parties;
- The Third Ministerial Meeting of the International Contact Group on Venezuela, which took place from May 6 to 7, 2019 in San José, Costa Rica, and included Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis (who was still Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government), who led a CARICOM delegation which included His Excellency Irwin LaRocque and His Excellency Colin Granderson, Secretary General of CARICOM and Assistant Secretary General of CARICOM for Foreign and Community Relations, respectively, at that time;
On September 23, 2019 in New York, United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago also participated in the Thirtieth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, acting as the Consultative Organ in Application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR/Rio Treaty), and did not support the Resolution (RC.30/RES. 1/19) adopted to invoke the provisions of Article 8 of the TIAR in relation to the Situation in Venezuela.
It is also noteworthy that throughout the ongoing five year (2017 – 2022) period of consultations for a principled approach to the peaceful resolution of the situation in Venezuela, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has not received the support of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago, which has repeatedly sought to advance its dissenting opinion, even when patently or potentially prejudicial to the enduring national interests of Trinidad and Tobago.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the national and regional agenda since 2020, Trinidad and Tobago and, by extension, CARICOM, has continued to support and promote the call for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Venezuela through dialogue among all interested parties in Venezuela. Furthermore, Trinidad and Tobago stands ready to use its Good Offices to facilitate this process.
Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs
June 30, 2022
Article from the Trinidad Express Newspaper:
CORRECTING A FOOLISH WRONG
(June 27, 2022)
It is time that several nations, led in the Western Hemisphere by the US and Canada, correct a foolish wrong. Among those countries are two member states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), namely, Haiti and Jamaica.
That wrong was not only their anointment of Juan Guaidó as the ‘interim president’ of Venezuela on January 23, 2019, but also the subsequent imposition of this fallacy on organisations such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The wrong was foolish because it was conceived and imposed to suit narrow national political objectives. It was not grounded in international law or practice, nor was there any wide agreement on it. Therefore, it was never sustainable.
Seven of the 13 countries in the Western Hemisphere, which originally joined the US and Canada in aggressively supporting that notion that Guaidó was in charge of Venezuela, have now abandoned that position and reverted to dealing with the de facto Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.
The seven countries that have ditched support for Guaidó are Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Chile, and Honduras in Latin America, as well as The Bahamas and St Lucia in the Caribbean.
Significantly, an eighth and very important country is seeking to normalise relations with the Maduro government. This country is Venezuela’s neighbour, Colombia, whose newly elected president, Gustavo Petro, revealed on his Twitter account that he has “reached out to the Venezuelan government to open the borders and restore the full exercise of human rights on the border”.
The conversation was confirmed by Maduro. Petro will assume office on August 7.
Many adverse consequences arose from the wrong that was perpetrated in January 2019. Among them were violations of the rules of the OAS to compel accreditation of Guaidó’s nominee as Venezuela’s ambassador on April 22, 2019.
There was a similar dubious procedure, one month before, on March 15, 2019, to appoint Guaidó’s representative as a governor of the IDB. Those wrongful actions continue to divide the member states of both organisations, and to adversely affect their operations both financially and functionally.
For instance, since Guaidó has no control over the finances of Venezuela, including its treasury, his so-called interim government has not paid one cent in contributions to the OAS or the IDB, nor has it serviced the outstanding loans to Venezuela.
In the IDB’s case, at the end of 2021, the total amount of Venezuela’s sovereign-guaranteed payment arrears amounted to $1,088 million, including interest.
Further, since 2018, all loans to Venezuela, amounting to $2,011 million, were placed in non-accrual status. Interest income not recognised amounted to $51 million during the year ended December 31, 2021, and the related individually assessed allowance for credit losses was $77 million.
How any bank can operate in this way is alarming. It demonstrates a woeful politicisation of a financial institution with little regard for fiduciary responsibilities. Left unchecked, it will cripple the bank, severely restricting its capacity to cater for the needs of its borrowing members and threatening repayments to its lending members.
The OAS is equally affected financially. As of June 30, Venezuela owes the organisation $17.4 million in unpaid dues. Every year, $1.9 million is added to that sum. The cumulative effect is to deprive the OAS of money it desperately needs to recruit competent staff and to retain the ones it has.
Projects are also affected by the lack of finance, forcing the organisation to become increasingly dependent on “special funds” solicited mostly from the US and Canada, giving these two countries even greater influence on the organisation than they already have.
When, on April 22, 2019, the US and Canada imposed Guaidó’s representative on the OAS, they did so by the slenderest majority of 18 votes, and only with the support of six of the Latin American and Caribbean countries, which have publicly changed their stance.
Today, it is most unlikely that 18 countries would support retaining Guaidó’s nominee as the legitimate representative of Venezuela. But the anachronistic rules of the OAS are such that while only 18 votes were required to impose a
representative, a two-thirds majority or 22 votes is needed to reverse the imposition, and thus to correct this wrong.
It may very well be that, given that 15 of the 33 voting member states of the OAS did not support the April 2019 decision, and eight countries have now publicly changed their position, there are 23 countries that could overturn it.
All of this sets the stage for a completely different conversation concerning Venezuela; importantly one that will not include the myth that Guaidó is the interim president of the country.
That is not to say that he would not remain a participant in any negotiations among the parties in Venezuela to find a solution to the political impasse in that country, but he would not be doing so on the unrealistic premise that has so far been promoted.
Both the OAS and the IDB, in their functional and financial interests, need to remedy the situation regarding Venezuela. On a wider hemispheric level, credible and practical discussions should be initiated with the government that is in charge of Venezuela, in order to reintegrate the country and its resources into the global trading and financial system.
In that way, desired reforms in Venezuela could be achieved with benefits to its people, and to the role it could play in the peaceful development and prosperity of the hemisphere.
Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s current Ambassador to the Organization of American States and the USA.