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International Relations expert Andy Knight

Former director of University of the West Indies Institute of International Relations Prof Andy Knight is appealing to gullible Caribbean leaders not to support US President Donald Trump’s strategy to remove Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro from office.

“Today it might be Maduro, tomorrow any Caribbean or Latin American lease could be next,” Knight warned.

Knight was weighing in on Trump’s announcement on Friday to deploy US navy warships to the Caribbean in an anti-drug crackdown to deal with what he called a “growing threat.”

The war of words between the two leaders has Caribbean countries on the edge and worrisome.

The move to send in military resources to the Caribbean came one week after the US charged Maduro with narco terrorism.

Trump’s administration also placed a US$15 million reward for information leading to Maduro’s arrest after they accused him of flooding the US with cocaine.

Maduro fired back at Trump telling him he has been creating a smoke screen to cloud his erratic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.

Shedding some light on the rising tension between the two countries, Knight said it was interesting that Trump who campaigned against the use of the US military for intervening in other countries internal affairs has now latched on to a strategy of military intervention as a means of removing Maduro from office.

“Why this strategy? Why now?”

Clearly, Knight said Trump has no legitimate right to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs and Venezuelans should decide their own future.

Yet, he said Trump has resorted to sanctions, a clamp down of the Maduro government’s assets, a de facto oil embargo, unfounded accusation of narco-trafficking, the backing of Opposition Leader Juan Guaido as a constitutionally illegitimate replacement of Maduro and now the threat and demonstration of naval military force in the Caribbean region to try to induce regime change in Venezuela.

“This recent move shows the extent to which Trump needs a shiny object to detract the American people and those gullible Caribbean leaders who support his strategy from his wholly incompetent domestic handling of the COVID-19 crisis.”

While Trump cannot be blamed directly for causing the thousands of Americans deaths due to the virus, Knight said “his handling of the situation leaves much to be desired.”

Knight said Maduro was right in suggesting that Trump has been using the threat of military intervention in Venezuela to “detract attention away from his mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and his absolute failure of leadership.”

Knight said Trump’s strategy of going in Maduro’s back yard is the only thing left for him to demonstrate his tough leadership.

“In fact, the so-called toughness is nothing short of weakness.”

He urged Caribbean leaders not to support Trump’s strategy of trying to remove Maduro from office.

“Caricom should make it quite clear to Trump that he should first tackle his own domestic problem before trying to intervene in other countries internal affairs.”

Knight said Maduro not only has article 2(7) of the United Nations charter on his side but also international laws which renounce aggression.

He said while there might be many flaws in Maduro’s leadership, Trump has many leadership faults as well.

“Trump’s policies overall are failing and demonstrating that the emperor has no clothes. People in glass houses should not throw stones.”

If Trump’s accusation that Maduro has been flooding the US with cocaine is true, Knight said the US President can raise the matter with the United Nations Security Council as well as tackle the domestic drug problem within the US.

“Essentially building a wall along the southern border of the US seems to be failing if drugs are still being smuggled into the US.”

Knight said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin who is Maduro’s friend will not take the US threat of intervening in Venezuela lightly.

“The fact that there are Russian bombers with nuclear capability now present in Venezuela should send a strong message to Trump that Russia is capable of assisting Venezuela. And don’t be surprised if China gets into the game.”

Questioned at yesterday’s press conference, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he was concerned about the rising tension.

He said T&T was part of Caricom “and we resolutely defend that position that we view the Caribbean as a zone of peace.”

The PM said if there are others who believe that it should be different “we don’t have any control over that. And in so far if we have any involvement we continue to reside under the umbrella of the United Nations where these matters are not one of size and strength but compliance with the rules based on principle.”

Such rules, he said, are determined for all.

“If the rules are observed then we should have nothing to fear. But we do have concerns,” he noted.

The PM said in today’s world it was not uncommon for rules to be disregarded not only here, but elsewhere in the world. He said T&T continues to stand “by non intervention” and the “absence of the military to political problems.”

These tension, he said have come to our borders.

He added: “We do not have the wherewithal to prevent that…. so we simply have to rely on the principles of international justice and international observance of the rules we have agreed to prior to these difficulties arising.”