Flashback 2018: Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, right, receives a gift from Venezuela's Vice President Delcy Rodriguez at Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Trinidad. Source: Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Special permission was granted to Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez to enter Trinidad to personally meet with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last Friday.

This was confirmed by National Security Minister Stuart Young who said the meeting - which was about COVID-19, was very short and the Venezuelans wore masks and gloves.

He they left immediately after meeting with the Prime Minister.

Last Friday the Office of the Prime Minister issued a release informing about the meeting.

It stated:

Prime Minister Dr the Hon Keith Rowley met with Vice President of Venezuela, Her Excellency Delcy Rodriguez at the Diplomatic Center today (Friday 27 March, 2020).

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.

At a virtual news conference at the Health Ministry, Port of Spain on Tuesday Young was asked whether the decision to open the country's borders to allow the Venezuelan Vice President was prudent given that there are Trinidad and Tobago nationals in Barbados, Suriname and Venezuela who are not allowed to return home at this time because the borders are shut.

"The answer is yes a request was made, the Vice President of Venezuela wanted to come in and discuss COVID-19 and how the approach to COVID-19 was being dealt with," he said.

"Yes the permission was granted and it was a very very short turn around. The Venezuelans took serious medical public health precautions, masked up, gloved up and these type of things and after the meeting was conducted they left immediately," he added.

Young said people can make applications to enter the country and it will be treated on a case by case basis.

"For example two CARICOM Prime Ministers have reached out to us making requests for Trinidadian technicians to come to their various jurisdictions to help them with getting their medical plans where they need it to be, we grant exemptions for that," he said.

Young said there are risks involved in letting a large number of people into the country.

He pointed out that the United States asked for a flight and permission was granted because these are people leaving the country.

"The warning to them is understand right now one of the most risky places to be on is an airplane. That has been proven," he said.

Questioned on whether he was in contact with Trinidad and Tobago nationals in other countries who are stranded and waiting for the borders to reopen to return home Young responded "I am not in personally in touch with person from Suriname appears to have retained attorneys who wrote to me, i responded to the attorneys telling them I will consider an application for an exemption, they got that to me on Saturday, i have passed it on to the lawyers as well as to the Ministry of Health medical expert and I've also asked them for certain information,".

Young said the Trinidad and Tobago embassy in Caracas has been in touch with persons in Venezuela.

The Express sent questions to Young asking why the meeting between Rodriquez and Rowley could not have taken place via telephone or video conferencing.

There has been no reply yet.

The meeting between Rodriquez and Rowley came a day after the United States Justice Department announced the indictment of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for "narco-terrorism" and offered $15 million for information leading to his capture.

The New York Times reported that Maduro was indicted in the United States last Thursday in a decades-long narco-terrorism and international cocaine trafficking conspiracy in which, prosecutors said, he led a violent drug cartel even as he ascended to the top of government.

Following news of Rodriguez's visit to Trindad links began circulating on social media about her being banned from the European Union.

In June 2018 the European Union imposed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials following elections in May which the EU says were "neither free nor fair".

Among those sanctioned was Rodríguez and her predecessor, Tarek El Aissami.

They were banned from travelling to the EU and have their assets frozen.


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