Rowley: Let Caribbean be a zone of peace; Prime Minister defends stance on Venezuela

“Now more than ever we need to revisit the significant events and connect the dots between our principles informing our decisions and show how those decisions have shaped who we are—to determine how we are viewed—and why we must do what we do now.

“[…] We hold to those principles because we as a people in 1962—when we joined the world as an independent nation—we believed those principles to be aligned with our own aspirations for all the people of the world including our people.”

In the following statement, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley reaffirms the stance of Caricom and Trinidad and Tobago on non-intervention in Venezuela’s political affairs:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the audience in his “Conversations with the Prime Minister” series in 2017.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

There is a deep and genuine lack of pertinent information mainly in the age group 45 and below as to ‘who is Trinidad and Tobago to the rest of the world’.

What has been our foreign policy moorings, over the years, on significant foreign affairs matters—for example, the US invasion of Grenada, Venezuela, Nicaragua, apartheid etc? What have been our principles and ideologies? Where did we get those principles and ideologies from? Why were they important then and why are they still important now?

Now more than ever we need to revisit the significant events and connect the dots between our principles informing our decisions and show how those decisions have shaped who we are—to determine how we are viewed—and why we must do what we do now.

That gap or genuine ignorance in the younger demographic presents a real opportunity to re-attach to our principles and ideologies that craft the ‘personality of state’ and make us who we are.

Very recently we have seen our closest neighbour get shot into the centre of a growing, smouldering, global standoff. One so serious that we must be very concerned as Venezuela is only 7 miles off our coast. It is closer to us here in Port of Spain than Scarborough!

Photo: (From left) Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro, Russia president Vladimir Putin and US president Donald Trump.

We are seeing superpowers squaring off and threatening the use of force in a country of 33 million people that is 7 miles away from a tiny country of 1.3 million people. From the onset of this very worrisome development, you have seen your government taking a position of ‘non-intervention and non-interference’. You have seen your government join with CARICOM to push for an urgent de-escalation of tensions and work on a forum of dialogue and negotiations towards a peaceful resolution to the situation.

You have heard us say we are guided by the UN Charter and subscribe to the fundamental principles that they contain; not because they are convenient or embody commitments that every self-respecting nation in the world holds to be universally true or right. We hold to those principles because we as a people in 1962—when we joined the world as an independent nation—we believed those principles to be aligned with our own aspirations for all the people of the world including our people.

These principles are the only guarantee that small independent nations can look to for preservation of their dignity and in even their very existence.

We said that we believe in non-intervention and non-interference and within minutes the Opposition and elements in the media shot off into spinning the term into a cop-out of some sort, or worse that we have abandoned the people of Venezuela—people that we have had a relationship with for hundreds of years—because we are holding fast to the UN Charter to which we subscribe but to which we believe in.

While others were trying to say that we were copping out it was, in fact, the complete opposite. We were standing up for principles we believed and signed on to at our birth in 1962!

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

I would like to read this for you. What we and what other nations of the ‘free world’ signed to uphold at all times:

We the peoples of the United Nations determined:

  • To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and;
  • To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and;
  • To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and;
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

And for these ends:

  • To practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, (did we not do that?);
  • To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, (did we not do that?);
  • To ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, (did we not do that?);
  • To employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples (did we not do that?).
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)

Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace; (did we not do that?)
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace; (did we not do that?)
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and (are we not doing that?)
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends. (did we not acknowledge that?)
Photo: A civilian protest in Venezuela.
(Copyright NBC News)

Article 2

The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following principles:

  1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members. (Do you agree with that?)
  2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter. (Do you agree with that?)
  3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. (Do you agree with that?)
  4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. (This article is where the term non-intervention and non-interference came from, I Keith Rowley did not invent the term. It is the fundamental principle stated in article 2 of the UN Charter)
  5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
  6. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Photo: Venezuela Opposition Leader and president of the National Assembly, John Guiadó.
(Copyright Mundo24)

This Government and CARICOM, in every single action, in every single phone call, in every single letter and meeting, we were upholding and standing true to the principles of the UN Charter, others may choose to go a different route, but we stick:

  • To the principle of peace not war;
  • To the principle of sovereignty and not imperialism or threats or violent coercion;
  • To the principle of dialogue, respect, negotiation and compromise;
  • To the principle that independent countries sort out their problems on their own;
  • To the principles of being on good terms with all our neighbours, even when we disagree.

We are standing up for these principles—never mind while we are doing our best our detractors are doing their worst to misinform and undermine. When you stand back from the abyss, it’s amazing how far they would go to sink the conversation into an emotional one about how we are abandoning the Venezuelan people, and Rowley protecting a dictator; that all we care about is the ‘Dragon deal’ and money more than we care about the people of Venezuela.

Think about those people. Think about the hours of TV and print time that was dictated to pushing those Opposition narratives. To reduce the people of Trinidad and Tobago’s position from the ones contained in the UN charter to talking about selling out 33 million people for the naked economic interest of a gas deal; as if we, proud Caribbean people are to be so insulted.

Photo: Prime minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro.
(Copyright Caribflame)

Let me put on record that our only wish for Venezuela is peace, stability and prosperity for its people. I wish for them to find that within the construct of sovereignty, internal peace and the protection of the UN Charter.

We wish for the people and children of Venezuela what we wish for ourselves: a life with dignity, fulfilment and self-determination. We claim for the Caribbean that our corner of God’s earth, remain our designated zone of peace.

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  1. realistically , tell us how the world works

  2. First I want to say, There is a need for the curbing of the large amount of Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago.
    The Minister of National Security, Department of Immigration & Customs, and the Census, is it board or bureau have that on their clock twenty-four seven till all things controlled. Secondly, Trinidadians have to really really really stop partying and take this neighboring Venezuela issue very seriously. This is more of an urgent and I say again urgent matter that can’t be taken lightly. Trinidadian cultural approach to issues of this grave matter is not the same approach as America. That’s why we have to back our Prime Minister Keith Rowley working within the United Nation Charter to protect and come to a peaceful dialogue.
    I do agree there is a large gap more so ignorance amongst the ages of forty-five and below. And, the need to educate and informed them of History, principles, ideologies, and why they were important then and still important now, need to be reinforce. As irrelevant filling that gap might be and loosing sight of the real issue might take a toll on the nation.
    If the Americas should take control of our neighboring 33 million Venezuelans just a boat ride away, Trinidad will soon be next because that’s how the Americas operates. So, we are saying not to take what happening in our neighboring Venezuela for granted Trinidadian support the Prime Minister and the and what’s in the UN Charter.

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