Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister Dennis Moses has fired back at the United States saying that Trinidad and Tobago is not bound by the Rio Treaty and the resolution which imposed travel restrictions agaisnt Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.
He also asserted that Trinidad and Tobago recognises President Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate Venezuelan President and not Juan Guaido.
On May 18 United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Joseph Mondello issued an unprecedented statement disclosing that in a May 6 conversation with National Security Minister Stuart Young, he expressed concern to the Minister about the consistency of Rodriguez's visit to Port of Spain with Trinidad and Tobago's obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty.
The Ambassador noted that Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation -- like the travel restrictions on Ms. Rodriguez -- are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favor of such measures.
Following this, last Wednesday a release from the Foreign Affairs Ministry informed that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, National Security Minister Stuart Young and Moses had a discussion with Mondello.
The Express was informed that this was a telephone conference meeting.
At the Senate sitting on Tuesday Opposition Senator Anita Haynes moved a motion on the adjournment of the Senate calling on the Government to account for its disregard of the 73 year old Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance also known as the Rio Treaty as she noted the Ambassador's statement.
Moses said Trinidad and Tobago is not bound by the Rio Treaty and further questioned the "distortion" of the Treaty.
"Madame President, the distortion of the Rio Treaty, a collective self defence pact to treat with the matters internal to Venezuela without concern or request of that country is questionable and does not sit well with the intended purposes with the Treaty. Indeed as the Rio Treaty explicitly informs none of the provisions of the Treaty shall be construed as impairing the rights and obligations of the high contracting parties under the charter of the United Nations. Trinidad and Tobago takes the position that it is not bound by these recent decisions of the Rio Treaty inclusive of the travel restrictions imposed by the Vice President of Venezuela," said Moses.
He said Trinidad and Tobago made its position clear to the Organisation of American States (OAS) since June 2019 at the 49th session of the general assembly of the OAS in Columbia.
"Trinidad and Tobago reserved its right not to be bound by the resolution AG/CG/document7/17 adopted at the meeting on the situation on Venezuela and by any decision taken by the OAS which is based on principally closed or in any other manner involves the participation of the representatives of Mr Juan Guaido purportedly seated as the permanent representatives of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," he said.
Moses said further that the Minister of Foreign Affairs represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Rio Treaty meeting on September 23, 2019.
The meeting, he said, adopted the resolution which was subsequently revised to include Trinidad and Tobago's reservation.
He said during the vote on the resolution Trinidad and Tobago abstained, Uruguay voted against and Cuba was absent.
Moses said 16 member States voted in favour of the resolution which invoked the provisions of the Rio Treaty and laid the basis for taking punitive measures against Venezuela.
These 16 member States include the United States, Canada, Britain and European nations.
"Once again Trinidad and Tobago reaffirmed that it reserves the right not to be bound by any decision adopted in this resolution by the 30th meeting of consultation of ministers of Foreign Affairs acting as the consultative organ in application of the Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance which involves the participation of the representatives of the Venezuelan National Assembly purportedly seated as the permanent representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela nor to recognise this resolution as neither valid or to consider itself bound by the provisions approved on the said date of September 23, 2019," said Moses.
Moses said Trinidad and Tobago was invited to participate in yet another Rio Treaty meeting in Colombia on December 3, 2019 but opted not to attend.
"The purpose of the meeting was to take punitive measures against Venezuela. Trinidad and Tobago decided not to participate in the meeting," he said.
"Decisions of the Rio Treaty at that meeting included travel restrictions imposed against the Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez," he added.
Moses said notwithstanding the difficulties within Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago stands on "solid ground" in being in harmony with the position of the United Nations and the stated position of Caricom in recognising the Government led by Maduro as the legitimate Government of Venezuela.
"Given our understanding of the Charter of the United Nations, Trinidad and Tobago does not recognise Mr Juan Guaido as the President of Venezuela. To do otherwise will run counter to she stated positions of Caricom and the United Nations," he said.
Moses noted that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as part of a Caricom delegation of Prime Ministers visited the United States and participated in talks with secretary general of the United Nations on 28 January 2019.
"The Secretary general confirmed that the Government led by President Nicolas Maduro continue to be the sole legitimate Government recognised and seated at the United Nations," he said.
He said Rowley also participated in another meeting in Uruguay in February 2019 which was called to treat with the internal problems of Venezuela.
He said these initiatives were part of the response of Caricom in the face of the then heightened reality that "attempts were being made to intervene in Venezuela militarily and install a new Government".
He said Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom's stated position was and continues to be that the situation within Venezuela needs to be resolved through dialogue by the contending parties and not by external intervention by third parties.
He said Caricom also offered its offices to bring the parties together to treat with the problem.
"Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom states have a stake in maintaining the Caricom as a zone of peace given the potentially catastrophic consequences of armed conflict in neighbouring Venezuela," he said.
What Haynes said:
Opposition Senator Anita Haynes moved the motion calling on the Government to account for its disregard of the 73 year old Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance also known as the “Rio- Treaty”, when it facilitated the visit of Rodriguez.
"This Administration by their willful and reckless actions have endangered Trinidad and Tobago’s foreign and diplomatic relations with key allies," she said.
Haynes also noted a diplomatic note sent by the US Embassy to the Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Affairs Ministry on December 16, 2019.
She said the note read “ The embassy of the United States of America has the further honor to inform the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago of the resolution adopted by the organ of consultation at the meeting of the Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance), to impose travel restrictions on 29 individuals associated with the former Maduro regime.
The Embassy of the United States of America has the honor to highlight that per article 20 of the Inter American Treaty of reciprocal Assistance , the resolution is binding to all parties to the said Treaty.".
Haynes said "plain and simple" by allowing Rodriguez to enter T&T on March 27-a full 3 months after the vote to ban her travel and after the US Embassy reminded the government that she was banned, -T&T violated article 20 of the inter American Treaty of reciprocal Assistance.
Haynes said it remains to be seen how fellow Rio Treaty members will respond to T&Ts gross actions when they next meet.
"This is either an astonishing disregard for our international obligations -or it is a monumental failure of the Government. Either way someone needs to be held accountable for jeopardizing the security and stability of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in this shocking way," she said.
Haynes noted further that the US Embassy confirmed that Rodriguez is subject to travel sanctions that are binding on all Rio Treaty parties.
She said Trinidad and Tobago is a party to the treaty therefore the Rowley Administration’s actions on March 27, 2020, to grant an exemption for Rodriguez not only to land in Trinidad but to also facilitate a meeting with the Prime Minister and senior members of the Cabinet, "is a gross violation of our international obligations".
"The Government must be aware that despite their routine defense that the UN recognizes the Maduro regime, this does not override any treaty that we have with our international allies or negates any actions which violate these treaties," she said.