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US Ambassador: I DID express concern to Young on Venezuelan visit! Embassy speaks out

“[…] Since the government has spoken publicly about my 6 May conversation with Minister [Stuart] Young, though, I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port of Spain with Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty…”

The following statement on the Trinidad and Tobago government’s hosting of a Venezuelan contingent led by vice-president Delcy Rodríguez was issued by Ambassador Joseph N Mondello—and appears to contradict statements on the topic by National Security Minister Stuart Young:

Photo: Minister of National Security Stuart Young prepares to face journalists at a virtual media conference on 7 May 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Normally I do not comment on private conversations with host government officials. Since the government has spoken publicly about my 6 May conversation with Minister [Stuart] Young, though, I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodríguez’s visit to Port of Spain with Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty.

Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation—like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodríguez—are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures.

(Minister of National Security Stuart Young’s response:)

I have noted the statement by His Excellency Joseph N Mondello, United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, of today’s date. It appears that my response to an opposition question in the Senate on 13 May 2020 has been misconstrued.

On 13 May 2020 the Opposition asked a question in Parliament on whether the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is conscious of a statement issued by the United States Government concerning this country’s violation of the Rio Treaty.

I responded that: “we continue to have open channels of communication. In fact, last week the United States government’s head and top diplomat in Trinidad and Tobago, that is the ambassador, not any underling who may or may not be speaking to the media, the United States ambassador, had a conversation with me, as a representative of the Cabinet level of the government, and there were other conversations and there was no raising of the breach of any treaty.”

These words are what I stated and they are recorded in the Hansard. I never said that the Ambassador did not raise the visit of Venezuelan vice-president Delcy Rodríguez nor did I say that the Ambassador did not raise the Rio Treaty. What I said was the breach of treaty was not raised.

Photo: Venezuela vice-president Delcy Rodríguez.

The Ambassador did speak to me and I did not indicate what we spoke about. I do not believe it was proper to provide the details of our discussion.

The only thing I said, in response to a question raised in Parliament, was that no breach of the treaty was raised; meaning that it was not positively put to me that Trinidad and Tobago has breached the treaty.

The United States of America remains an important ally and we continue to have a good working relationship with mutual benefits to our two countries.

Editor’s Note: Venezuela vice-president Delcy Rodríguez is among several high ranking Venezuelan officials who are unilaterally sanctioned by the United States government.

Rodríguez visited Trinidad on 27 March in a meeting that involved Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Minister of National Security Stuart Young and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dennis Moses.

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  1. Unless we have a reason not to believe His Excellency, then based on what Minister Stuart Young said with conviction and repeated several times, it would appear that he is not being honest. But, surely, Minister Young should have known that if not the Ambassador but someone at the US Embassy will correct whatever falsehood emerged from Young’s statements to the Media. So the question is why did he tell the Media that the Ambassador did not raise concerns of any kind regarding the sale of fuel? Will this jeopardize T&T’s relations with the United States and what will be the consequences. How will the Honourable Prime Minister deal with this big one? Will Young take another fall?