The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published updated and stringent SOPs regarding Air Transport and protocols for all countries in the present COVID-19 pandemic especially as most countries have closed their borders or to a great extent operating under limitations.
For T&T, according to IATA, the sole authority for Air Transport resides with the Minister of National Security. (IATA – Coronavirus Outbreak Update May 12)
According to International best practices, regarding the arrival of the Venezuelan Vice President, there would have had to be a series of paperwork and advanced documentation prior to her arrival. Some of these paper trails would have been directly related but not limited to Ministry of Works and Transport (Civil Aviation), National Security, Foreign and Caricom Affairs and Consulates, both the Trinidad and Tobago Consulate in Venezuela and the Venezuelan Consulate in Trinidad.
Associated with a visit of this level would be a Diplomatic Clearance which can be a compilation of documents that spells out the details of the arriving
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aircraft, the profiles of the passengers, accompanied by their Passport bio pages, purpose of visit and length of stay.
Also required in some instances would be the preferred Handling Agent of the aircraft. This is normally pre-arranged by the in country consulate. A senior representative of the Venezuelan Consulate would or should have been identified as the point person for the mission. Normally, an advanced party representing the interest of the visiting Head of State would be in country and conduct the proper reconnaissance, with the knowledge and approval of the host country’s National Security. This person would have been in constant contact and briefings with Foreign and CARICOM affairs counterparts. It is understood that such exchanges would be to ensure a smooth transition for the visit.
A very significant component for visits of this nature would be proper media management. The media would or should have been properly briefed, presented with a Visit Brief, profile and agenda and invited. If not to the actual meeting, but at least to the post meeting gathering, and allowed to field questions. This activity can and in most cases is expected to be controlled. There have been occasions in the past where the questions are sent in advance. Especially where there may be language barrier issues.
The Customs and Immigration services, including Security at the airport would be discussed in detail and agreed upon first by the Venezuelan authorities, prior to the arrival. There have been cases in the past where detailed demands are made to the host country to satisfy the Security protocols of the visiting state. A major concern in most cases is the International Threat Assessment of the visiting profile, the senior person on the entourage and the present Security Awareness of the host country.
It would be expected that for a mission of such a level, there would be a detailed Security Plan in country for the visit. Such details are not discussed in the public domain, nor are they made available for obvious reasons. However, a key factor in these discussions would be the individual details of the visiting delegation. As would be expected, such classified information is protected, but is integral to proper in country back ground checks and profiling.
The meeting place for the delegation and the in country hosting team will have to be identified in advance and a pre-discussed agenda would have had to be agreed upon. This takes place so that the host country field the best panel of experts to ensure a meaningful contribution and applicable strategic directions of the intended conversation. Security at the venue and surrounding areas would have to be stepped up and would involve a joint agency collaborative approach.
In this case the venue was the Diplomatic Centre. However, based on what has been presented, if there was no prior information as to who was attending, then it would be strongly advised that somewhere in the line of communications, or inter-ministerial framework, there were oversights and blind spots. If this is so, then it would be strongly advised that a review of the Security and Threat Assessment for the Diplomatic Centre be conducted, so as to immediately mitigate all risks, identify the new threats and correct present gaps in the “Security Wall” at the Diplomatic Centre.
Commander Garvin Heerah, former head of the National Operations Centre, Homeland Security and Safe City Expert.
At present he is a senior lecturer and senior researcher SAM TT and Anglia Ruskin University UK