Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has brushed aside suggestions that Port of Spain had been snubbed by United States President Donald Trump who is expected to meet with selective CARICOM leaders on the Venezuela issue in Miami on Friday.
At a post cabinet brief on Thursday, Rowley told the media that he does not feel diminshed in anyway, having not been invited to the private residence of US President Trump.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have never stood taller, we have never stood prouder and as I speak to you now CARICOM’s position as reaffirmed in the last meeting of heads in St. Kitts-Nevis is that there are three people representing and authorised to represent CARICOM outside of its heads and caucus and that’s the Chairman of CARICOM, who is the Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis (Dr. Timothy Harris) Trinidad and Tobago its prime minister or designate and Barbados through its prime minister or designate.”
Prime Ministers Allen Chastanet (St. Lucia), Hubert Minnis ( the Bahamas), Andrew Holness (Jamaica) and Jovenel Moise (Haiti) are scheduled to meet with Trump at his private residence in Miami on Friday.
This private meeting comes after their countries, in January, supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognizing President Nicolas Maduro’s second five-year term.
But CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis last month reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis where Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó with the support of Washington and its allies, is seeking to replace Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term in January.
In late January, regional leaders, led by Harris and including Mottley and Rowley met with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.
The delegation also participated in a meeting in an international meeting in Uruguay where the Montevideo Mechanism was adopted saying it presents “the only objective mechanism” to address the complex political situation in Venezuela”.
Rowley reiterated the CARICOM position on wanting a peaceful solution in Venezuela, and described the meeting taking place with Trump on Friday as a “meeting of the Lima Group” to which the Caribbean islands invited are members.
“We from early, St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we did not sign on to the Lima Group. So we are not reacting to an invitation to a man’s house.
“Our foreign policy has always given us an insight of the road ahead. So what you seeing there is a meeting of the Lima Group people at the private residence of the president.”
“We can’t stay outside and say we should have been invited. Since when we measuring our stature and our station by who invite us to their house. We are not about that,” he said, noting that Trinidad and Tobago is about the principles as outlined in the United Nations Charter of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries and ensuring a peaceful global environment.
Rowley pointed out that the leaders who will be meeting Trump on Friday are “the ones who have agreed to be a part of the Lima Group” whose sole objective he says “is regime change in Venezuela”.
Rowley said the four CARICOM leaders will decide for themselves how they will achieve the change they are looking for in Venezuela, but remained adamant that Trinidad and Tobago will “stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world”.
Rowley, who read a lengthy statement highlighting the Charter of the United Nations, said that he could not say whether the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat had been informed of the meeting with the selective regional leaders, telling reporters, however that the Secretariat “is constantly in communication with us.
“The last and the standing decision of CARICOM was that the team as put by the caucus to deal with the Venezuelan matter from a diplomatic standpoint …was the chairman, St. Kitts-Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. That is the standing CARICOM position”.
“So any action of and member of CARICOM acting in their own sovereignty that’s what it is”.