As he bade goodbye to Trinidad and Tobago, United States Ambassador Joseph Mondello has spoken glowingly of the people of T&T and of the issues that both bind and separate both countries.
In a statement published in full on Page 13 of this newspaper today, Mondello touched on the hot topic of Venezuela, acknowledging that the crisis is an issue that the US and the Keith Rowley-led Government did not see eye-to-eye on.
On a sombre note, he stated that the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela will continue but noted that under the new administration led by Joe Biden there is an opportunity for the US and Trinidad and Tobago to become “strategic partners” and he wished both the Biden government and Rowley administration luck on the way forward.
US President Donald Trump had nominated Mondello in March 2018 to be the United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago and he was officially appointed in July that year.
Mondello presented his credentials to President Paula-Mae Weekes on October 22, 2018.
During his tenure there has been tension with the Rowley Government, particularly as it relates to Venezuela.
“The Venezuelan political and humanitarian crisis caused by the Nicolas Maduro regime’s horrific brutality and disastrous policies is a matter on which we do not see eye-to-eye with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago,” he wrote in his statement.
This crisis, he stated, has its roots in the final years of the Hugo Chavez administration, but it became full-blown once Maduro and his autocratic regime took power in 2013.
“There is no need to go into further details here, but unfortunately, the crisis will continue until full, legitimate, and transparent democracy is restored to Venezuela through free and fair presidential and legislative elections. This is the only solution to this crisis,” stated Mondello.
He however said the US appreciates this Government’s efforts to assist 16,500 Venezuelans who reside and work legally here, adding that the US will continue to play its part to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
Mondello noted that the US has already provided nearly $11 million to help alleviate the needs of the Venezuelans living here.
He added that while the amount of work done with the T&T Government represents a small percentage of that assistance, the US is open to providing more support.
“We have the opportunity now to begin a new chapter in our relationship and become true strategic partners. I hope the Government of Trinidad and Tobago takes advantage of this opportunity with our new administration. I wish them both luck,” he stated.
T&T’s bureaucratic red tape
The ambassador further stated that the bilateral investment relationship between the US and T&T can be improved, and noted that US investors are attracted to countries where it is easy to do business and bureaucratic red-tape and corruption are low.
“Unfortunately, Trinidad and Tobago is currently struggling with these metrics. In fact, Trinidad and Tobago has slipped to 105 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on ease of doing business metrics,” he stated. He noted, in 2014, Trinidad and Tobago ranked 79th.
He stated that the adoption of more transparent procurement procedures and intellectual property rights protections would go a long way towards improving the investor climate.