PM fires back following US Ambassador's statement

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has sent a clear message on how he feels about US Ambassador Joseph Mondello making a public statement against Trinidad and Tobago's position on Venezuela.

"I take umbrage at the United States' ambassador in Trinidad and Tobago making a public statement criticising the actions of the government of Trinidad and Tobago while we take action in protection of the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago," Dr Rowley said in the Parliament Friday evening.

"We in Trinidad and Tobago under all of our government, we have preserved the sovereign position of the people of Trinidad and Tobago," he said. 

He lashed out at members of the opposition who have said that they support Juan Guaidó who has declared himself interim president of Venezuela.

"If today there are people in the opposition who believe they must take instructions from somebody else and the US Embassy on Marli Street, then you're on your own. Leave the PNM out of that," he said.

He continued: "Until there is a change of government in Venezuela, as Mr Patrick Manning said, when you pick up the phone, is who answer the phone (is) in charge of Venezuela. What they are asking us to do is to take sides largely contrived by external forces. If you are going to have a change of regime in today's world post-World War 2 and you want to do it properly, you're required to go through the UN and sanction it. Trinidad and Tobago will not be invited to take any interest that would damage our relations with neighbours."

At a news conference earlier, Dr Rowley made it clear that the government will not support an invasion of Venezuela to topple President Nicolas Maduro.

"Trinidad and Tobago from day one was not supportive of the approach of forced regime change in Venezuela. Forced entry to bring about regime change is forbidden by the OAS article and UN article and Trinidad and Tobago has kept faith with those articles," he said.

Dr Rowley said that no one can pretend that the situation in Venezuela is not serious but adds that entering the country to change the regime is not allowed.

He also criticised the opposition for declaring support for Guaidó at that news conference.

"Here in T&T, persons with no responsibility and responsible to no one but themselves, have an issue with our position," he said.

He added: "The statement by the opposition can be seen and ought to be seen for what it is - reckless and undermining of the government's effort in treating with a particular situation."

"The president that can only get into office in Venezuela by force is the one the opposition is choosing," he said.

Dr Rowley will be leaving the country on Sunday for talks with the United Nations in New York and in Washington on T&T's position.

"It is not for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to bring about regime change in Venezuela to determine who runs Venezuela," he said.

- by Sampson Nanton

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