Dear Editor: Non-intervention has always been T&T’s policy; and Kamla backed Maduro in 2015

“Then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in April 2015: ‘We believe inherently in the sovereignty of nations and so we stand with you President [Nicolás] Maduro for your sovereignty and for the determination of the right of your people to be governed as they choose’…”

The following Letter to the Editor on Trinidad and Tobago government’s commitment to non-intervention in Venezuela and the criticism of that stance by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was submitted to Wired868 by Terry Walker, the former Chairman of the PNM’s Foreign Affairs Committee:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Venezuela President Nicholás Maduro during a meeting in Port of Spain on 23 May 2016.
(Copyright El Confidencial/Reuters)

Underpinning the currently ongoing debate about the Dr Keith Rowley administration’s position on the situation in Venezuela is a lack historical perspective, misunderstanding or maybe, in the case of the Opposition, pure mischief, regarding a cardinal tenet of our foreign policy: non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of states.

It is galling how ready are some of our Caribbean brethren, Opposition spokespersons, and media pundits, to abandon a principle that has served us excellently since independence—through efforts to deny sovereignty to Cuba, incursions in Central America countries, invasions of Grenada, and now regime change in Venezuela.

The Opposition spokespersons and media pundits—Mr Rodney Charles and my good friend Andy Johnson included—vehemently admonish Dr Rowley as being pro- Maduro when he stoutly defends the long held tenet of our foreign policy. Yet such persons conveniently forget the adherence of successive governments to neutrality.

The surprisingly forthright statement of then Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at the Summit of the Americas Meeting in Panama in April 2015 underscores this approach:

“Therefore, what I advocate, President Maduro, is that we collectively raise our voices again, and also individually as nations in the region; that we raise our voices against this Executive Order, which you reminded me that there was once such an Executive Order in history which was followed by invasion. So whilst an Executive Order on paper is not an act or declaration of war, it gives us great cause for concern.

Photo: Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro (left) offers a portrait of Simón Bolívar to then Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“I make these opening comments after we heard from the Presidents of the United States, Cuba and Venezuela. There is a saying in the Caribbean that, ‘when the elephants frolic and play, the grass gets trampled’. We are like the grass in CARICOM—very tiny nation states, but very independent and in favour of democracy and the rule of law.

“We believe inherently in the sovereignty of nations and so we stand with you President Maduro for your sovereignty and for the determination of the right of your people to be governed as they choose. And I ask for us around this table, it is incumbent for us at this time, in the early days of the Executive Order, to speak now and have the Executive Order removed.”

Whilst for the knowledgeable diplomat, the language in the statement may leave a lot to be desired—and in my experience, its forthrightness would have caused a stir around the table and even probably within the Trinidad and Tobago delegation—the underlying theme is clear: support for non-intervention and non-interference.

Given her recent statements, did the Honourable Leader of the Opposition forget; or is this no longer the position of the Opposition? And if it is, how is it different from the government’s—as articulated by the Honourable Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet?

Trinidad and Tobago did not exist as an independent nation in 1823 when President Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams authored and propounded the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which announced that any effort by European countries to colonise or to intervene in the Hemisphere would be viewed as an act of aggression.

Photo: A Venezuelan protester drapes herself in a message that reads “There is no food.”
(Copyright CNN)

What history has taught us, however, is that the Doctrine has been invoked, or not, to justify intervention and interference in the Hemisphere. It is against this backdrop that as an independent nations since 1962—from Dr Eric Williams through Dr Rowley—we have adhered forthrightly to the principle of non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs of states.

Adherence to this ‘commandment’ of our foreign policy, precludes the support for the imposition of regime change by external force. In this context, sovereignty and democracy are synonymous.

Whatever your politics, it behoves us to stand with Dr Rowley for the principle that in democratic nations regime change occurs only by virtue of free and fair elections. We abandon the long held principle of our foreign policy at our peril!

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  1. Who is the corrupt and /or stupid journalist who wrote this ?
    they need to be fired.

    In 2015 Maduro was the President and His party had a Majority in the National Assembly.
    The Problem started in mid 2015 when Guaido’s party won a 2/3’s majority in the Assembly and Maduro’s party lost power in the House, for the 1st time in 16 years.

    Then in 2017 , is when Maduro dissolved the Assembly, because he could not control it, and re-wrote the constitution of Venezuela , without any democratic input .

    The National Assembly , in 2017, called a referendum to vote on Maduro’s constitutional changes and reportedly 98% of the voters said NO to the changes. Maduro does not recognize this referendum as legitimate . Just as Guaido’s party does not recognize the 2018 presidential election as legitimate.

    How the a$$ did this become about kamla and keith ?

  2. Can anyone support a leader that cannot stabilize the economy and social issues for 5 years or more. Such that a lot of its citizens are fleeing because of poor governance and possibly persecution.

  3. This “sovereignty of nations” talk would hold more water if the Maduro regime wasn’t so corrupt… and adept at suppressing dissent and stealing elections.

    • Nigel S. Scott you mean “not so corrupt” I think. And I agree. But then I wonder how many governments in the world can’t be described in the same terms.
      Some are more subtle or less hypocritical than others. But…

    • Yeah edit made. I’d wager that there are many governments that could legitimately say they don’t suppress votes and steal elections. That’s what International monitors are for.

    • Nigel S. Scott I have not seen anyone present any evidence that Maduro stole the elections. Maybe you have, if so, please share.

    • You have to understand the recent history of Venezuela and you’ll grasp, in spite of protests in the Capital, Maduro, like Chavez, continues to win elections. Then ask your self this…how could someone ‘steal’ a no vote election?

    • “You have to understand…” assumes superior knowledge/information/understanding on your part. Don’t be that poster.

    • You have just re-highlighted the stupidity of that claim…how could there be ‘irregularities’ in a boycotted election? That’s not ‘superior knowledge’ that’s common sense! Again, do some reading on your own..stop relying solely on those who have been misinforming us all out lives.

    • You chose to boycott the 100m finals yet you’re claiming Usain Bolt should be disqualified because he jumped the gun. ???

      • that is wrong, it was not a boycott..

        Maduro banned them from taking part in the election.
        So before the poll , they openly stated that the poll was illegal and not binding …

        get your facts correct,
        Stop pushing propaganda

    • “Stupidity” is failing to appreciate that a multitude of factors can affect the openness and fairness of elections. The boycott by the opposition doesn’t automatically cure other irregularities. THAT is common sense. I simply presented you one reputable source. Don’t assume that this represents the sum of my understanding. Hold fast to your beliefs if you will, but don’t be so silly as to assume you’re the only one with information.

    • Nigel S. Scott copy of my post on UN page

      United Nations, how do you ensure free and fair elections in countries?
      First, we need to acknowledge elections actually start way before poll day.
      Think of the impact of Cambridge Analytica, the role of the press, if there isn’t a free and fair one.
      Many countries have low-less than a 50% turnout-participation.
      Or when legislation can be manipulated so the opposition essentially does not have a say. Same goes for appointments that may impact this process.
      All of these are threats to free and fair elections.
      So how is the UN going to monitor and evaluate elections now?

  4. UNC is famous for opposing simply because they are the Opposition. Even if it means being illogical and – especially here – hypocritical.

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