Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – File photo by Ayanna Kinsale
THE Prime Minister expressed confidence that the Dragon deal to supply Venezuelan natural gas to Trinidad and Tobago would bear fruit, despite the US threatening sanctions against Venezuela over concerns about the fairness of the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections.
Dr Rowley was addressing a briefing on February 2 at Whitehall, Port of Spain, to report back on his recent trip to the US to meet State officials and energy firms.
He said Energy Minister Stuart Young – who had also gone on the US trip – would soon visit Caracas for talks.
The PM said Trinidad and Tobago had negotiated a carve-out from sanctions, to access the Dragon field for which it now has a 30 year licence from Venezuela (plus a two year licence from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a unit of the US Treasury Department.)
“We are not directly affected by April 18.” He said precisely because the Government knew about sanctions was the reason they proceeded outside of the general licence to the world for trading with Venezuela, to instead get a carve out from sanctions.
Last Tuesday, the US State Department criticised President Nicolas Maduro for barring opposition candidates from the election, violating the Barbados Agreement, in which Venezuela promised fair elections while the US issued General License 44 which provides relief to Venezuela’s oil and gas sector.
“Absent progress between Maduro and his representatives and the opposition Unitary Platform, particularly on allowing all presidential candidates to compete in this year’s election, the United States will not renew the license when it expires on April 18.”
Rowley said it has all been a “very, very difficult situation.”
Taking aim at local critics, he said, “Those who love to see the Dragon dead, Trinidad and Tobago is alive and well.”
He said all his efforts to secure the gas deal were not about him creating a legacy for himself but rather creating a bright future for the nation’s children.
Asked about Trinidad and Tobago’s prospects in the event of Donald Trump becoming US President in November, Rowley said, “It matters not who is in office. Trinidad and Tobago does not interfere, in picking horses. “Whatever the outcome of the election in the US, we will still have our work to do.”
Saying the world was a hostile place, he reiterated, “We just have to do the work.”
He reckoned the next 12 months to be “a very turbulent year”, with elections due in the US, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
On a personal note, he reflected, “I hope I will be good for another five (years).”
Asked about a possible successor, the PM smiled and said light-heartedly, “Lucas. My grandson.”