Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is maintaining his silence on much of what was discussed at the May 20 meeting with US Ambassador Joseph Mondello and is also standing by this country’s decision not to abide by the amended Rio Treaty protocol regarding sanctions on Venezuela.
Rowley also yesterday denied that he had been hiding from the media since the fallout between Mondello and Minister of National Security Stuart Young became public knowledge on May 19.
The PM said he was the only Prime Minister to make himself so available to the media but then refused to respond to a question about his meeting with Mondello.
On May 22, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dennis Moses revealed that Rowley, Young and himself met with Mondello but no details of the meeting were given.
Asked what transpired at the meeting, which came one day after Mondello broke protocol to say he addressed the issue of T&T possibly breaking the Rio Treaty by allowing Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez into T&T, Rowley said, “I am not going to respond to your question in the way that you put it.”
Instead, Rowley replayed the recording of his statements after the United National General Assembly in October 2019. In that recording, Rowley talked about the clause in the Rio Treaty and said that Caricom was resolute that it was opposed to military intervention and supported peaceful resolution in Venezuela.
“I am not answering you about what I told Mr Mondello, I am answering you on what T&T told the world,” he said.
Rowley also yesterday stood by Moses’ statement in the Senate on Tuesday that T&T was adhering to the UN General Assembly and Caricom stance which recognises the legitimacy of the Nicolas Maduro Venezuelan government.
“We do not recognise any government in Venezuela other than the government that is recognised by the United Nations,” he said.
When pressed on whether T&T’s position on the Rio Treaty as it relates to Venezuela was ventilated at the May 20 meeting with Mondello, the Prime Minister once again said, “I am not engaging in any discussion with the Ambassador, I went to the United Nations, I went to the world.
“Last week you (media) had a field day with the Ambassador, I am not dealing with that because the Ambassador does not change what I said there.
“You spent the whole of last week on that, you had a publication from the US Ambassador which you exercised yourself with whole week, you had a call for the resignation of the Minister, you had editorials on me.”
He added, however, that he and Mondello speak all the time.
“We have no barriers anywhere,” he said.
However, he did say the May 20 meeting with Mondello discussed the five tankers that left Iran loaded with fuel for Venezuela.
On May 13, the US Embassy wrote to Minister of Foreign Affairs Dennis Moses alerting him of the tankers and warning that any assistance meted out to the vessels could create “exposure to the enforcement of sanctions”. The meeting with Mondello came on May 20, one week after that letter to Moses and one day after the fallout between Mondello and Young over what transpired at their May 6 meeting.
However, Rowley said the warning against assisting the Iranian vessels only came about because of the Opposition “feeding” stories to the media.
“Nothing to do with us,” he said.
He insisted it was the Opposition that alerted the US Embassy and fed the media false stories.
With regards to the Rodriguez visit, Rowley maintained he only met with two people from that delegation and the discussion was on COVID-19, during which time he was offered COVID-19 test kits.
“I said I met with two Venezuelans. One was Delcy Rodriguez, the other was Mr Chavez, who was not the president of PDVSA and therefore no one was introduced to me in that meeting as the president of PDVSA. I said that more than once,” he said.
“The Venezuelans offered us test kits, we did not accept it because we did not want to run two parallel situations in the country.”
He said they also discussed keeping the borders closed and patrols to keep illegal migrants out of the country.