Port Of Spain – Prime Minister of Trinidad Dr Keith Rowley Saturday dismissed as a “dishonest last gasp and gamble of a dangerously delusional woman” a statement by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar calling on him “to come clean and tell this country the true state of this possibly illegitimate fuel shipment” to Venezuela.
In a statement issued during the early hours of Saturday, Rowley said that the “rant” by the Opposition Leader “is not new” and that as “a desperate and failing Opposition Leader it has become abundantly clear that it is the UNC’s (United National Congress) position that for them to succeed the country must fail.
“It matters not what they have to do to bring about such failure but fail we must according to them,” Rowley said.
On Friday, Persad Bissessar issued a lengthy statement in which she expressed “serious alarm” at a Trinidad Guardian newspaper report that the United States was “probing our country over a Trinidad and Tobago fuel shipment linked to Venezuela”.
“If true, our country’s very economic survival is at stake. This since, as our longstanding and greatest global ally, any such rift could gravely damage our very beneficial trade, national security and foreign relations with the United States.”
Persad Bissessar said that since January 2019, the Nicolas Maduro government in Caracas has been “deemed illegal, brutal and corrupt by the US”.
“The US and 50 other countries have instead recognised the Venezuelan Opposition Leader, Juan Guaido, as the country’s legitimate President. Further, the United States has imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, and last month charged Maduro and other senior Government officials with ‘narco-terrorism’.
The Trinidad Guardian newspaper, quoting a Washington official as well as US Embassy officials here, said that they had become aware of reports that a shipment of fuel from the Trinidad-based Paria Fuel Trading Company had been sold to Aruba and eventually sent to Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions against that country.
It said that the Aruban refinery is linked to Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA and reports surfaced last week that the fuel cargo was shipped to Venezuela after it arrived in Aruba.
The paper quoted the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section as saying that “the US government was aware of reports indicating that a shipment of gasoline from Trinidad and Tobago may have gone to Venezuela”.
The paper said that the Embassy noted that if Trinidad and Tobago is found to have assisted Venezuela in getting fuel, it could open the country up to US sanctions.
“In general, entities and individuals risk exposure to US sanctions by operating in the Venezuelan oil sector,” the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section said.
“This remains true regardless of how the transactions with Venezuela are conducted, whether using currency or in-kind exchanges and without respect to whether such conduct is otherwise legal under another country’s laws,” it added.
In her statement, the Opposition Leader warned of possible sanctions against Trinidad and Tobago and raised the possibility also of investments being curbed and nationals being prevented from entering the North American country.
“I am therefore calling on Rowley to come clean and tell this country the true state of this possibly illegitimate fuel shipment. His ongoing reckless, dangerous and questionable governance has truly led to our beloved nation’s destruction in every possible way. It must no longer be tolerated, for Trinidad and Tobago’s very survival is now at stake,” she added.
But Rowley, in dismissing her allegations, said: “For the Opposition Leader to be out front in scaremongering and giving life to rumours that Trinidad and Tobago has dangerously broken US sanctions against Venezuela and we have failed to answer allegations of that nature is as low as Mrs Persad Bissessar has ever gone.”
He said to undermine the country’s foreign policy is one thing but to invite others to do so is “as dastardly and disgusting as it could ever be”.
“To support a ‘President Guaidó’ that is not acknowledged by CARICOM or the United Nations is one thing but to say that Trinidad and Tobago has not answered the recent allegations is a naked self-serving untruth.”
Rowley said that he had answered a question on the fuel shipment in the Parliament on Wednesday after a question had been posed by the Opposition denying “any knowledge of Trinidad and Tobago fuel business making any sales to Venezuela”.
“The Minister of Energy also responded saying that we sold fuel to Aruba and cannot be held responsible for the end user of that product. The chairman of state company Paria also explained how it has transacted business and all of these responses are clear and truthful denials.” (CMC)