“You are a traitor lady!”
That is how Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley ended the conference he called to respond to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who has repeatedly accused the Government of breaking US sanctions by selling oil to Venezuela.
Earlier, Persad-Bissessar held a press briefing in which she revealed that Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic, Delcy Rodriguez, was accompanied by officials from PDVSA – Venezuela’s national oil company – when she visited the country on March 27.
This was one day after the United States indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for alleged narco-terrorism and money laundering. PDVSA is among numerous Venezuelan assets sanctioned by the US Government which deems President Maduro an illegitimate leader.
At the conference, Persad-Bissessar also questioned why a PDVSA aircraft was allowed to land in the country since it was one of 15 sanctioned by Washington.
Responding to the concerns and allegations, Dr Rowley said he was not aware that any members of Rodriguez’ delegation was part of PDVSA. He said the Vice President requested to meet with himself after she was appointed to lead in the fight against Venezuela’s novel coronavirus outbreak.
“She did not discuss, before, the details of what she wanted to talk about. Present with her was, I am now discovering some person called Asdrubal Chavez who, I’m now discovering, he worked as part of a Commission for PDVSA Restructuring, that’s somewhere in his past”
Nobody in that meeting was introduced to us as President of PDVSA, nobody, and I can confirm now that at that meeting on that day, there was no President of PDVSA there. I am discovering that subsequent to that meeting, this individual had been promoted.”
He also defended not knowing that the YV3360 aircraft was sanctioned by the US. According to the Prime Minister, the Venezuelan Presidency has been to Trinidad and Tobago on many occasions and the country has no established protocol to question high officials on their mode of transport.
“I have never asked, I have never been told and I don’t know if it is the protocol to find out from the President of Venezuela or the Presidency; what aircraft they are coming on, what is the aircraft number? That is a matter for [the] civil aviation department once we gave the approval for the visit to take place.
I know nothing, nor did anybody in my delegation know anything about any particular aircraft.”
Dr Rowley went on to slam the Opposition Leader for trying to curry favour with the US Government at the expense of T&T citizens, as she holds ambitions to lead the country. He called her a “traitor” and a “madwoman” for lobbying for sanctions against her homeland. He also reminded that US law does not form international law.
“For the Opposition Leader in Trinidad and Tobago to convert an American President Executive Order into International Law and calling on the Americans to beat up on Trinidad and Tobago because we have broken International Law because a sanctioned aircraft, something unknown to us, has flown into our territory, is really something that should cause us to ask just ‘who is Kamla Persad-Bissessar working for?’”
“This is reprehensible conduct and it’s gone beyond the diary of a mad failed politician. You know, Madea is not in the Parliament but the threat is there. If I had contact with the producer, I would call him and tell him we have a Madea here for him.”’
Madea is an outlandish, sometimes violent character created and portrayed by US film producer, Tyler Perry.
Furthermore, he reminded the population that Venezuela is Trinidad and Tobago’s closest neighbour adding that 17,000 people reside here legally, due to a temporary work order that was granted by the Government. He said as such, the meeting with Venezuela’s Vice President should not be considered untoward. He added that amid a global crisis, while his administration is unable to provide them with social support to Venezuelans, he will not let them starve.
“We can’t put them, as we said, on any of our support systems we can’t put them on the social support, Ministry support, we can’t put them on the NIB support/ But would we eat and let them die here in Trinidad and Tobago? I guess not, we better than that and if their Vice President come here, 17,000 of them and want to talk to us, you want to tell me I shouldn’t talk to them and because a plane that brought the Vice President here has an American sanction that we didn’t know about, you are going to call for sanctions on the People of Trinidad and Tobago? You are a traitor lady!”
The matter arose last month after newspaper reports stated fuel sold from Paria Fuel Trading to an Aruba-based buyer, was shipped to Venezuela. These claims remain unproven and the Government has dismissed liability even if it did occur.