“You are a traitor lady.”
This was the accusation Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley levelled against Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday, as he accused her of conspiring to get the United States to sanction Trinidad and Tobago over a fuel deal emanating from this country which may have eventually Venezuela.
At a media briefing earlier in the day, Persad-Bissessar produced a manifest from the March 27 flight that brought Venezuelan Vice-president Delcy Rodriguez to the country for a brief meeting. According to Persad-Bissessar, executives from the Venezuelan-owned energy company, PDVSA accompanied Rodriguez and were in the meeting with the PM.
She queried whether the T&T Government had had talks on the Paria Fuel Company fuel deal during that meeting although it was announced Rodriguez had come to discuss COVID-19-related matters.
During a hastily called press conference on the issue, in between the Parliament sitting, Rowley said, “The meeting took place at the Diplomatic Centre, on the Trinidad side, we had (National Security) Minister (Stuart) Young, (Foreign Affairs) Minister (Dennis) Moses, myself and actually she did not discuss before, the details of what she wanted to talk about,” Rowley said.
He said while Rodriguez came with a delegation, no one was introduced to him before, during or after the meeting which they all attended.
“Present with her, I am now discovering was some person called Asdurbal Chavez, who I am now discovering is part of the commission that worked on the PDVSA restructuring,” the PM said.
Rowley was referring to Asdurbal Jose Chavez Jiminez, who was appointed president of PDVSA on April 28. Jiminez is also the cousin of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
“Nobody in the meeting was introduced to us as president of PDVSA and I can confirm now that at that meeting on that day that no president of PDVSA was there,” he said, noting Jiminez was appointed after the meeting took place.
“I am discovering now that subsequent to that meeting, that individual had been promoted but on that day, March 27, no person was introduced as president of PDVSA nor to the best of our knowledge was the president of PDVSA.
“There was an individual on some commission for PDVSA restructuring, I am discovering that now.”
Rowley said half of Persad-Bissessar’s press conference yesterday was centred on the plane that was allowed to enter the country.
“An aircraft that was sanctioned by the United States, but let me just say this, the Venezuelan presidency has been to T&T on many occasions, coming on a presidential aircraft, not by commercial travel.
“I have never asked and I have never been told and I don’t know if it’s the protocol to find from the president or the presidency what aircraft they coming on, what is the aircraft number,” he said.
Rowley said once the Government gave approval for the plan to allow Rodriguez to enter T&T’s closed borders, the landing became a matter for Civil Aviation.
“As far as I am aware, I know nothing nor did anybody in my delegation know anything about a particular aircraft,” Rowley said.
“We now discovering this today by the great amount of work done by the Opposition in trying to fuel American anger. We discovering today that the aircraft that came in, today, a Venezuelan aircraft, which we expected is a PDVSA aircraft which was sanctioned by the US and therefore this was grounds for the Opposition leader to be calling down fire and brimstone on the head of T&T.”
Rowley said Trinidad and Tobago allows all kinds of private and governmental aircraft to enter the country. He said most recently, border restrictions were lifted to allow two private planes owned by international energy companies to enter the country.
“We don’t ask who owns the jets, that is a matter for Civil Aviation,” he reiterated.