The United States government’s list of sanctioned individuals and institutions in Venezuela was yesterday sent by the US Embassy in Trinidad to Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses.
This list contains 28 names, among them Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and members of his inner circle as well as Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez.
The US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section has confirmed that Rodriguez is sanctioned.
“Delcy Rodriguez is subject to travel sanctions that are binding on all Rio Treaty parties, and Trinidad and Tobago is a party to the treaty,” the embassy stated in response to questions about Rodriguez’s controversial visit to Trinidad on March 27.
So why would the US Embassy send a list of sanctioned Venezuelan individuals and institutions to the Foreign Affairs Ministry?
According to former head of the Public Service and foreign service officer Reginald Dumas, it could be the US is giving Trinidad and Tobago a chance.
Noting that this country has an issue with record-keeping, Dumas said: “A properly functioning government would have all that information already, especially since we are just seven miles away from Venezuela.”
He said all the US sanctions imposed against Venezuela should have already been on record at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
“It’s one of two things, either the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, not having these names, asked the US Embassy to send a list. Or the US Government which from what I see published in the newspaper...is increasing the pressure on Trinidad and Tobago and sent this list saying well here is a list of the sanctioned people in case you didn’t know and you will see the Vice-President is one of the people on the list that you allowed in,” Dumas said.
“If in fact the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had no idea whatsoever who was on that list or the fact that the Vice-President was sanctioned, which I would find amazing because even I sitting in Tobago know that and I’m no longer in Foreign Affairs. If in fact they didn’t know the US is saying well now you know,” he said.
Dumas said this could be the United States’ way of diplomatically warning T&T.
“They are saying we are giving you a chance in other words, but don’t do it again, it could be that, I would want to hope that it is that,” he said.
Sanctions and the Rio Treaty
Over the past few years the US Department of State has applied sanctions against dozens of Venezuelan officials and business people who are pro Maduro.
In July 2018, the US Department of State ordered Asdrúbal Chávez, the then president and CEO of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum, to surrender his US visa amid an ongoing probe into Venezuela’s state-controlled energy company PDVSA.
Chávez had headed Citgo, PDVSA’s US refining subsidiary, since November. He had reportedly been given 30 days to leave the country.
He was part of Rodriguez’s delegation to Trinidad on March 27. One month later he was appointed PDVSA president.
At a meeting in Colombia in December 2019 the signatories of the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Pact (TIAR), also known at the Rio Treaty, designated Venezuela a “threat to the preservation of peace and security on the continent”.
It blacklisted 28 top Caracas officials and persons allegedly affiliated with the Maduro administration.
According to the final resolution, the Rio Treaty members agreed to deny entry and transit rights to all persons on the list, which is subject to modification in the future.
Prior to this meeting, in September 2019 the Organisation of American States (OAS) voted to take punitive measures against members of Maduro’s government through the Rio Treaty.
The Rio Treaty is a mutual defence treaty among 19 states in the Western Hemisphere.
Trinidad and Tobago, under former prime minister Dr Eric Williams, became signatory to this Treaty in 1967.
Under the treaty, member countries agreed to sanction and extradite Venezuelan governments officials who are involved in drug trafficking, terrorist activities, organised crime, and human rights violations.
They also agreed to freeze these members’ assets.
The resolution, which needed 13 votes in its favour to pass, was backed by 16 OAS members. Trinidad and Tobago abstained from the vote.
Trinidad and Tobago is still signatory to the treaty.