PM unfazed by Venezuelan opposition ban, possible fallout on Dragon

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley –

THE Prime Minister on Thursday seemed unfazed by potential political fallout on the Dragon gas deal from a seeming ban on the main opposition candidate in next year’s presidential election in Venezuela, Maria Corina Machado.

Negotiations last month in Barbados between the Venezuelan government and opposition had agreed on steps toward a competitive election, including giving opposition figures until December 15 to challenge bans on them holding public office.

Dr Rowley boasted at a news briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, of TT and Venezuela signing a contract on the Dragon gas.

Newsday asked if any unresolved ban on Machado could lead the United States to revoke its OFAC licence which allows TT access to Venezuelan gas for two years, following trade restrictions imposed owing to US concerns over the last Venezuelan presidential election won by president Nicolas Maduro.

Rowley said, “Let me just say something here, and I hope it encapsulates all of this and for all time, because we don’t intend to be answering this question on a daily basis.”

He recalled recently deceased former US foreign secretary Henry Kissinger once saying that in international relationships countries don’t have friends, but have interests.

“I could tell you while we in TT want the best for the people of Venezuela and will continue so to do, it is our position that the selection of a Government in Venezuela is a matter for the people of Venezuela.”

He said if those policies and programmes ran counter to democratic principles held by TT, this country must acknowledge its place as a commentator not an enforcer.

“We understand that where interests are concerned, we have designated no nation as having most-favoured nation status.

“It is common knowledge that a democracy like the US, struggling to preserve its democracy, has offered most-favoured status to a communist country, China. The two largest economies in the world.

“Of course, if we are dissatisfied with the outcome of an election in Venezuela, we are simply bystanders commenting on it, because we subscribe to the UN principles of non-intervention and non-interference, and that difficulties should be solved by dialogue not violence.

“That is why when there was an attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan Government by force – regime change by force – you saw TT leading the Caricom delegation to the UN to object to that, even though we may have reservations about electoral practices. We also will be leading no trumpet to overthrow any government in Washington.”