PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, May 14, 2020 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, today, said he “reject being called a liar”, by the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, as the debate continues, as to whether or not the twin-island country had played a role in getting Venezuela to break a United States-imposed economic sanction.
The government has publicly denied any involvement in the sale of oil to Venezuela, insisting that the oil had been sold to a refinery in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.
But the country’s main opposition — the United National Congress (UNC) — has claimed the matter may have been discussed, here, during a visit, in March, of a Venezuelan delegation, headed by Vice-President, Delcy Rodriguez.
UNC legislator, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, has written to the United States Ambassador, here, Joseph Mondello, urging Washington to look into the sale.
The government has maintained that the discussions were about strategies to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the UNC has been releasing, what it said were immigration and aviation documents, showing that the delegation members were linked to that country’s oil industry.
In an editorial, today, the Trinidad Guardian newspaper said that the emergence, yesterday, of a document that purports to show that National Security Minister, Stuart Young, gave an exemption for Rodríguez’s delegation to enter Trinidad and Tobago, when the country is under a lockdown, “ is deeply disturbing, if it is proven to be true”.
The Guardian said the letter, “which was circulating on social media, has not been denied by Minister Young, nor the Government, and is so potentially damning it cannot go unanswered by the administration”.
“The importance of this letter is that, if true, it shows that contrary to denials from both the Prime Minister and Minister Young, the other members of delegation did not come here, as a surprise and were planned for and welcomed.
“If true, this is a major blow to Minister Young and the Government, for it would demonstrate that Minister Young was prepared to bend the truth. Did Minister Young misspeak, when he insisted the Government neither knew the names of all in the Venezuelan delegation, nor the aircraft they were coming on?
“The seriousness of this issue cannot be understated, because if this country broke US sanctions, or willingly sold fuel to Venezuela, there is likely to be a price to be paid,” the editorial noted.
But in a statement, posted on his official Facebook page, and addressed to “The people of Trinidad and Tobago”, Rowley said, “contrary to what has been published in today’s Guardian Editorial, I, once again, must confirm that, notwithstanding any list of names of passengers on any manifest or aircraft, the only persons from Venezuela, who attended a meeting with the Prime Minister, Minister of National Security and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Diplomatic Centre in March 2020, were Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, accompanied by one other person, Mr. Chavez, who was not the President of PDVSA, at that time”
He added, “none of the other persons (security or other officials), who accompanied Mrs. Rodriguez, conducted any meeting with any official/s of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago”.
“On the basis of these indisputable facts, today, I reject being called a liar by the Guardian newspaper, in furtherance of their interests,” Rowley said in the statement.