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Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses

Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses has reiterated that Trinidad and Tobago will continue to abide by the United Nations General Assembly Charter and the Caricom position on Venezuela.

Moses was responding to questions from Opposition Senator Saddam Hosein in Senate yesterday on the issue. But instead of responding to questions about whether T&T would withdraw from the Rio Treaty, as suggested by the United States’ State Department, Moses gave the Government previously announced stance.

“Recently, only but last week, this matter, meaning whether T&T should cease being a member of the Rio Treaty, was the focus of a question to the Prime Minister during a press conference,” Moses said

“The Government of T&T, of course, continues to persevere notwithstanding local efforts to counteract the foreign policy of T&T. The Government is insistent and resolute in safeguarding our population.”

On Monday, the US State Department suggested that if T&T was not willing to abide by the tenets of the Rio Treaty it should withdraw from it altogether.

Moses, without saying whether he was referring to the US statement, said that any “attempt to foist any other policy upon us is tantamount to undermining the foreign policy of T&T.” He said such a move would be “imperilling the welfare of citizens and protection of the national interest of T&T”.

“Contrary to logic, the stated position of Caricom and the Charter of the United Nations, some right here in T&T have decided to recognise the leader of the National Assembly as the president of Venezuela,” Moses said.

“The Government has made it clear that it supports the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Much flows from this interference in the mandate of our duly-elected Government. The potential for increased vulnerability of our country in this period is highly unfortunate.”

He said attempts to thwart the country’s foreign policy objectives would be detrimental to T&T citizens.

“The Government continues to act as a bulwark against successive any such attempts in this, the population can find some measure of comfort,” he said.

When Hosein pointed out that Moses did not address the question, Moses said he was not going to “be party to ignorance.”

Hosein continued to press for a response, asking then if T&T would continue to facilitate meetings with sanctioned Venezuelan individuals.

However, Senate President Christine Kangaloo did not allow the question.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s stance on the issue was a “clear violation of T&T’s historic, neutral and diplomatic stance in all regional and hemispheric bilateral disagreements.”

“He’s actually now clearly dangerously siding with one party in the current dispute between Venezuela and the United States. And the question is—why?” she asked.

Persad-Bissessar said the United States has always been T&T’s “greatest, most valuable and beneficial trade and national security global ally.”

“They are so significant to our economic well-being that our very ability to feed our people right now is dependent on the US, since 70 per cent of our food imports come from them,” she said.

She questioned why Rowley chose to side with Venezuela in this matter.

Persad-Bissessar also warned against T&T abandoning the Rio Treaty, noting the country would lose valuable allies and if there were any act of aggression or social upheaval in the region, would be without the automatic security aid of powerful military nations.

“The Rowley Government has so far plunged the unwitting citizens of T&T into this dangerous imbroglio without our knowledge, consent, or even awareness of the full extent of the damaging economic consequences it can have on us as a nation and individuals,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She described the Government’s response to the issue as “wrong, undemocratic and a possible abuse of office.”