Trinidad and To­ba­go will not par­tic­i­pate in vot­ing dur­ing any mat­ter of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) un­til it re­in­states a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Venezuela Pres­i­dent Nico­las Maduro’s regime and re­moves the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his po­lit­i­cal chal­lenger Juan Guaidó.

“We go to the meet­ings but we not vot­ing on any res­o­lu­tions or sup­port­ing any res­o­lu­tions where the peo­ple who are sit­ting there rep­re­sent­ing coun­tries are not prop­er,” Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said on the is­sue yes­ter­day.

Row­ley made this clear while ad­dress­ing the me­dia dur­ing the post-Cab­i­net press brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s, as he de­clared his dis­plea­sure at OAS sec­re­tary gen­er­al Luis Al­ma­gro’s state­ments on re­cent in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Venezue­lan mi­grants in re­la­tion to T&T.

Row­ley said Al­ma­gro was a pub­lic ser­vant and should not al­low his per­son­al opin­ion to be­come the po­si­tion of the OAS. He re­played a clip for the me­dia from back in 2017, when he had re­turned from a meet­ing in Chile, where he had called for Al­ma­gro’s re­moval over his stance on the Venezuela po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

“The head of the OAS has no right en­gag­ing in deroga­to­ry con­ver­sa­tion with the head of any gov­ern­ment any­where in the re­gion,” Row­ley said.

“To­day is Venezuela, to­mor­row is T&T. We are a mem­ber, but we are not a sheep.”

The Prime Min­is­ter will soon sit as chair­man of Cari­com in Jan­u­ary but said that he did not need the joint strength of the oth­er re­gion­al mem­bers to stand against the cur­rent OAS lead­er­ship

“I have made my po­si­tion very clear in 2017, speak­ing as the Prime Min­is­ter of Trinidad and To­ba­go, stand­ing alone,” he said.

Row­ley said he when stood on prin­ci­ple against the OAS head then, he was mocked by the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) and told that he sup­port­ed an il­le­git­i­mate Venezuela pres­i­dent Maduro over Guaidó.

“Look at the Op­po­si­tion, they spent all their time sup­port­ing MP Guaidó be­cause it was said that that was the new pres­i­dent, and they den­i­grat­ed us, they un­der­mined our pol­i­cy,” he said.

Row­ley said that he, in fact, paid more at­ten­tion to the elec­tion in the Unit­ed States than the re­cent one in Venezuela.

“Good elec­tion, bad elec­tion, I don’t know, but the bot­tom line is he (Guaidó) did not take part in the last elec­tion, that is not un­known to us in T&T,” he said.

The Prime Min­is­ter re­called a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent here in T&T one year, when the then sec­ond ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ty, then the De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Labour Par­ty (DLP), did not take part in an elec­tion and the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment won all 26 seats. He thus ques­tioned the va­lid­i­ty of Guaidó’s cur­rent tenure.

“There­fore, I don’t think he (Guaidó) is part of the (Na­tion­al) As­sem­bly,” Row­ley said.

Row­ley point­ed out that the British Supreme Court, the high­est court in this ju­rispru­dence, ruled a few weeks ago on a mat­ter in­volv­ing the $1.3 bil­lion in gold owned and de­posit­ed by Venezuela in the Bank of Eng­land.

The Bank of Eng­land had seized the gold af­ter ques­tions about the le­git­i­ma­cy of Maduro’s pres­i­den­cy and Row­ley said the fact that the British Supreme Court ruled that the gold be re­turned was ev­i­dence that it recog­nis­es Maduro’s claim to the pres­i­den­cy.

“Eng­land did the un­think­able, the Bank of Eng­land seized Venezue­lan’s gold. The British Supreme Court ruled that Mr Guaidó is not the pres­i­dent of Venezuela and that Mr Maduro is the pres­i­dent. A rul­ing from our own court,” he said.

Row­ley said while this coun­try’s high­est court had deemed Maduro to be pres­i­dent by virtue of that rul­ing, the Op­po­si­tion had kept push­ing the di­a­logue that he (Row­ley) was sup­port­ing Maduro al­though he was not le­git­i­mate.

This is not Row­ley’s first clash with the OAS over the Venezuela sit­u­a­tion.

In 2017, he called for Al­ma­gro to be re­moved.

But in 2019, ten­sions over the po­lit­i­cal col­lapse of Venezuela rose af­ter the coun­tries of the Cari­com dis­tanced them­selves from Al­ma­gro and his sup­port of Guaidó.

Speak­ing on the mat­ter back then, Cari­com said that the OAS did not speak for them. The Cari­com in­stead main­tained a stance of non-in­ter­fer­ence and has not picked a side in the clash be­tween Maduro and Guaidó.

The mem­ber states of Cari­com said then that Al­ma­gro spoke in sup­port of Guaidó on the OAS plat­form but did not have the au­tho­ri­sa­tion of the body.

Again in No­vem­ber, Row­ley post­ed a scathing crit­i­cism of Al­ma­gro.

In that post, Row­ley blamed Al­ma­gro for “al­most sin­gle­hand­ed­ly” “trig­ger­ing and fu­elling the cur­rent Venezue­lan” mi­grant cri­sis in T&T. He de­scribed Al­ma­gro then as “mis­guid­ed.”

Most re­cent­ly, in an­oth­er so­cial me­dia post on Mon­day, Row­ley lumped the OAS and mem­bers of the Op­po­si­tion to­geth­er and la­belled them “imps” push­ing a false nar­ra­tive about the traf­fick­ers bring­ing their “car­go” in­to the closed bor­ders of T&T

“That is not what the OAS is about and we have to stand on prin­ci­ple,” he said on Thurs­day.

Source: Guardian T&T