War over Venezuela VP visit deepens in Senate

The war of words on Venezuela deepens.

The Opposition UNC says Government has violated the Rio Treaty by allowing Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez to meet Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in March – but Government says conversations were held with the US Ambassador recently and the breach of any treaty wasn’t raised.

National Security Minister Stuart Young, alluding to Opposition “mischief” yesterday, added, “I lay this caution: that all that seems and they seem to be relying on here with respect to the Rio Treaty, may not, in fact, be as they believe it to be.”

Young made the comment in response to a query from UNC senator Wade Mark regarding a statement from the US Embassy’s Public Affairs section.

The Embassy has said Rodriguez is subject to travel sanctions that are binding on all Rio Treaty parties, and Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the treaty. The statement also noted the US government’s aware of reports indicating a shipment of gasoline from T&T may have gone to Venezuela and warned of the consequences of assisting Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in conducting energy deals.

The Embassy’s statement placed fully into focus the Opposition’s allegations on the two issues concerning Venezuela. The Opposition’s alleged that the fuel shipment from Paria Fuel Trading Company which departed for an Aruba refinery in April may have eventually been sent to Venezuela despite US sanctions against that country. The refinery, owner by fuel tycoon Wilmer Ruperti, is allegedly linked to Citgo, a PDVSA subsidiary. Government has argued that a clause in Paria’s contract prevented the shipment being resold to any sanctioned state.

The Opposition’s also demanded answers on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s March 27 meeting with Rodriguez. Rowley said he didn’t know the type of plane Rodriguez arrived on or whom her delegation involved. Young’s confirmed that a second Venezuelan person in the meeting was a Mr Chavez who was on a team restructuring PDVSA. Young said Government didn’t know Chavez’s role in the meeting but he became PDVSA head a month later.

As a result of the US Embassy’s statement on the issues, Mark listed a query on yesterday’s Senate agenda for the Prime Minister on whether Government initiated discussions with the US to avert any repercussions on T&T.

Young, in replying, recounted T&T’s position of non-intervention and non-interference regarding Venezuela.

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