Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security Gary Joseph informs the Chief Immigration Officer that permission has been granted for Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, Asdurbal Chavez, Juan Vicente Santana, Alejandra Bastidas, Manuel Jiminez and Major Kenny Jiminez to enter T&T.
The Office of the Prime Minister issues a brief statement on a meeting with the Venezuelan Vice President.
“Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley met with Vice President of Venezuela, Her Excellency Delcy Rodriguez at the Diplomatic Centre today (Friday March 27). The meeting focused on the strategy being deployed in both countries to combat COVID-19. The vice president is directly responsible for the COVID-19 response in Venezuela.”
Paria chairman Newman George confirms he was contacted by ES Euro Shipping SA about purchasing 150,000 barrels of fuel to be shipped to Aruba. The principal of the company is Wilmer Ruperti, a Venezuelan shipping tycoon with close ties to Nicolas Maduro.
National Security Stuart Young says special permission was granted for Venezuela Vice President Delcy Rodriguez to enter the country. Young said the meeting was short and the Venezuelans left immediately after the meeting.
House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George denies a motion to discuss the gas deal by Paria.
Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal writes to US Ambassador Mondello about the actions of the Government and expresses concern about the potential impact for T&T.
During questions to the Prime Minister in Parliament, Naparima MP Rodney Charles asks: “Is the Prime Minister aware of allegations that our country is involved in trading with energy interests in Venezuela in contravention of the United States sanctions imposed against that country?”
Prime Minister Rowley responded: “I am aware of no such thing, Madam Speaker.”
Energy Minister Franklin Khan also told a newspaper that we sold fuel to Aruba and cannot be held responsible for the end-user of that product.
The US State Department and the US Embassy say they are “aware” of the shipment of fuel from Paria Fuel to Aruba and warns that any country assisting Venezuela in skirting sanctions could themselves face sanctions.
PM Rowley tells reporters: “I as Prime Minister, on Wednesday in the Parliament, answered a UNC question and I denied any knowledge of T&T fuel business making any sales to Venezuela. The Minister of Energy also responded saying that we sold fuel to Aruba and cannot be held responsible for the end-user of that product. The chairman of Paria also explained how it has transacted business and all of these responses are clear and truthful denials.”
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar produces a passenger manifest of Venezuela Vice President Delcy Rodriguez’s entire delegation which shows it included Asdurbal Chavez, who was later appointed PDVSA president. PM Rowley tells reporters: “Nobody in the meeting was introduced to us as president of PDVSA. I can now confirm that at that meeting on that day, that no president of PDVSA was there.
“I have never asked and I have never been told and I don’t know if it’s protocol to find out from the presidency what aircraft they coming on, what is the aircraft number.”
Director general of Civil Aviation Francis Regis says monitoring sanctioned and embargoed assets is not part of the body’s mandate.
“Any issue at this point in time in T&T anything to do with borders, you have to speak with the Ministry of National Security,” he said.
US Treasury Department warns that meeting with Rodriguez and refuelling a sanctioned plane raised red flags. “Persons may also be designated under other Venezuela-related authorities for engaging in certain activities involving Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA) or other Government of Venezuela persons,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said.
Young defends the fuel sale to Aruba, saying: “We have investigated this and I am happy to say the contract was a very clear contract with sale of fuel to Aruba, which has happened in the past because Paria supplies fuel throughout the region including to Aruba.”
Commenting on meeting with Venezuelan delegation he said: “We discussed matters regarding COVID and also about the Venezuelan population in T&T. We asked about COVID in Venezuela. There was an offer of test kits from them but we declined since they have a larger population. Chavez was quiet in the meeting. At the time it wasn’t known what his role was.”
US Embassy says T&T violated the 73-year old Rio Treaty when it facilitated a meeting with Delcy Rodriguez.
“Persons may also be designated under other Venezuela-related authorities for engaging in certain activities involving Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PdVSA) or other Government of Venezuela persons,” a spokesperson said.
Commenting on it, Young said: “I’d like to put it on record that the United States continues to be one of our strongest allies, we continue to have open channels of communication with them.”