Tag: Trinidad and Tobago

Peace Possible- Maduro open to Mediation

Political instability in Venezuela had been simmering for over two years as the country reeled from an economic and humanitarian crisis spurred by plummeting commodity prices and bad economic policies that lead to massive hyperinflation, hunger, unemployment and the biggest refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere. Last Wednesday, those tensions exploded when National Assembly president, Juan Guaido, in front of thousands of anti-government protesters declared himself interim president of the country, according to the Constitution, until free and fair elections could take place. The last general election was last May, when Maduro won in a contest widely condemned to be fraudulent, corrupt and illegitimate.

Following a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres yesterday in New York, a release from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that Rowley journeyed to the UN as a member of a Caricom delegation led by Dr Timothy Harris, Caricom chairman and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis.

The delegation also included Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Caricom’s Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, and Ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago to the UN Pennelope Beckles.

Following the meeting intended to work out a strategy to lessen political tensions in Venezuela, peace and security in Venezuela and the wider region is now a real possibility.

“The meeting was useful and productive. We are very satisfied that at the appropriate moment the good offices of this UN would and could bring about some significant preparation of a road map for peace and security for Venezuela and the region,” Prime Minister Dr Rowley, who was part of the Caricom delegation, said in a recorded statement posted to the Office of the Prime Minister’s official social media accounts.

CARICOM’S POSITION

Caricom has maintained its position of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, but has offered to be a mediator to Venezuela, and agreed to call on the UN to assist in de-escalating tensions.

Since the fall-out on Wednesday, there has been a push by the United States, especially, to get countries to support Guaido.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an address to the OAS on Thursday, made a strong call for all members of the OAS to disavow Maduro’s presidency as illegitimate, morally bankrupt, economically incompetent and corrupt, a call he echoed during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Saturday.

The US also yesterday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. PDVSA is the commercial entity currently engaging T&T and Shell as partners for the monetization of gas from Venezuela’s Dragon gas field.

The US said it would block the Maduro administration from accessing up to US$18 billion in assets, as well as any proceeds from Citgo, PDVSA’s retail chain, which will be locked away, until a democratically elected government can be put in place to reduce corruption and return these assets to the people of the country. This is the first time the US has taken a firm step to introduce direct trade sanctions.

Previously only key members of the administration and their close family members were blocked.

UWI International Relations Institute shares their view…

The UWI International Relations Institute has said that the geopolitical and economic spaces of Caricom states make them particularly vulnerable to fallouts from regional political tensions.

The question, though, is how long the Maduro administration remains and is Caricom prepared for the real possibility of impending change.

The US too, is a very important power for Caribbean countries but it is just one interested actor, so Caricom will need to consider other international actors who are important partners.

“Small states necessarily must consider their economic and political interests before pronouncing on regional political affairs. It is unlikely that Caricom is unaware of the human rights issues in Venezuela, but there are also important economic and geopolitical concerns,” the IIR said.

Most reassuringly, though, the Institute did not think war was on the horizon because military intervention by states in Venezuela will in principle, require a UN Security Council resolution, which is unlikely since a Security Council vote must be unanimous and China and Russia already have indicated their unwillingness to intervene. Regarding civil war and instability – Venezuela has been very unstable for many years now and Caribbean states have already experienced the economic and social consequences.

“It is in Caricom’s interests that a sustainable solution is found to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis. The economic projections do not seem to suggest that solutions are imminent with the Maduro regime.”

“From this perspective, it appears to be in Caricom’s interest to explore more nuanced positions that prioritise the well-being of the Venezuelan people,” the institute said.

Maduro Open to Mediation

Nicolas Maduro has said he is open to talks with his opponents in “Trinidad and Tobago or wherever.” In a speech to members of the Venezuelan diplomatic corps at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on Monday, Maduro said his administration was “establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate.

“As I said to the Caribbean Prime Ministers today. They were in New York. They met with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres. I spoke with all of them at length during the afternoon. I spoke with Evo Morales (President of Bolivia). We are also establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate dialogue and I told them I am ready once again in Venezuela or in Trinidad and Tobago or wherever to begin a round of conversations, dialogue, negotiations, with all of the Venezuelan opposition when and where they want them.”

PM: Couva Hospital to be opened in phases

The Prime Minister says with an operator, the Couva Hospital can be operationalised on a phased basis this year.

He was responding to prime minister’s questions in the House on Friday from Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe on when the Couva Hospital will be ready for use.

Dr Rowley said the initiative is to export healthcare using the facility and the Government, through the Health Ministry, and is currently engaged in putting that in place.

“It is taking a little while longer than we had anticipated, but we are advised by the University of the West Indies (UWI) that they are moving as fast as they can.”

He said a special-purpose company was set up in 2018 and consideration is being given to an operator for phased operationalisation later in the year. Bodoe asked if there were any provisions for local healthcare workers in the project.

Rowley replied, “I couldn’t give you the exact details, but certainly it will be an opportunity for healthcare providers of the highest quality and numbers in that hospital to provide healthcare for the national community but with a focus on exporting healthcare services.”

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked about the phased operationalisation, but Rowley said he would not engage in guesswork but will wait until the final arrangements.

Bodoe asked if there was any assurance TT citizens will not have to pay. Rowley said the hospital is meant to be a fee-earning entity, but charges to citizens will be borne by the Government, as is done at other hospitals.

Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie asked about UWI’s involvement in the project. Rowley said the project started with a requirement of the Government to discharge its responsibility to UWI, as there was a claim of more than $200 million owing to the university. He said Government agreed to use the asset base to discharge the payment and UWI accepted it would be paid via asset transfer.

“We went further, where the UWI and the Government of T&T through the Ministry of Health would operate a hospital for profit providing additional training and services to the local and international community. And that is what is being worked on.” He added: “We do not have the final arrangements, as that is being worked out, but as soon as those final arrangements are available, as the Government always does, it will make them available to the population.”

Govt to give support to Sunwing’s investment in Turtle Beach

“Sandals isn’t the only thing. There are other prospects. And if you aim for the sky and you fall into the clouds, you’re still way above the ground.”

So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he yesterday announced his determination to “redouble” his efforts to develop Trinidad and Tobago, pledging not to be deterred by his “disappointment” over the Sandals’ withdrawal from Tobago.

But all may not be lost for the is­land’s tourism sec­tor, as Cana­di­an-based Sun­wing Trav­el Group wants the Gov­ern­ment to in­vest in Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel which they re­cent­ly ac­quired.

The an­nounce­ment was made by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley yes­ter­day dur­ing his first Con­ver­sa­tion with the Me­dia at Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s.

Last week, the PM met with Sun­wing’s CEO Stephen Hunter and oth­er ex­ec­u­tives of the air­line com­pa­ny where they dis­cussed Sun­wing’s hav­ing an in­ter­est in an in­creased pres­ence in To­ba­go, in­clud­ing an in­ter­est in State-owned Mag­dale­na Grand Beach and Golf Re­sort.

Sun­wing pro­vides di­rect flights from Toron­to to To­ba­go.

The air­line, which is the largest in­te­grat­ed trav­el com­pa­ny in North Amer­i­ca, re­cent­ly ac­quired a chain of Rex Re­sorts’ Caribbean ho­tels and is now the own­er of Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel in To­ba­go.

The PM was asked what plans his Gov­ern­ment has to im­prove To­ba­go’s tourism thrust with San­dals pulling out of the project, to which he said Sun­wing was one in­vestor they were look­ing at.

Hav­ing ac­quired Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel, Row­ley said Sun­wing wants to up­grade the ho­tel to their stan­dard.

“They al­so think it does not have enough rooms. So they want to in­crease the num­ber of rooms…they want to up­grade it to a five-star ho­tel. They asked for Gov­ern­ment sup­port for that and we said yes.”

He said Sun­wing’s prospect was to build be­tween 200 to 300 rooms.

He also said, how­ev­er, Sun­wing was faced with one prob­lem as “the cur­rent road be­tween Black­rock and Ply­mouth pass­es right in front of the ho­tel’s lob­by.”

Some peo­ple in To­ba­go, Row­ley said, took the po­si­tion that the road be­longs to them and “no­body must stop them from pass­ing there.”

He said this de­vel­op­ment, was not the la­goon, No Man’s Land or the man­grove.

“It is the use of a road that was built to con­nect Black­rock to Ply­mouth and to pre­vent traf­fic from pass­ing through a ho­tel if they use the land they have on the oth­er side,” he said.

The PM said this was a mat­ter for the To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly to han­dle.

“We are go­ing to have some in­ter­est­ing days ahead. The Gov­ern­ment al­so has oth­er sites in To­ba­go,” he not­ed.

The PM said there were some pri­vate sec­tor sites they can utilise. “We are go­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to in­vest in­to To­ba­go,” he said.