US Seeks to Distance itself from Refugee Problem in Venezuela

US Ambassador Joseph N. Mondello greeting Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley (Right)

The United States has sought to distance itself from the ongoing political and social situation in Venezuela that has led to an exodus of many of its citizens to Trinidad and Tobago.

Prime Minister of T&T Dr. Keith Rowley in a strongly worded statement, said his administration was not surprised at the unfolding situation of Venezuelans fleeing the South American country given that the OAS “under its misguided (Secretary-General) President (Luis) Almagro has been almost singlehandedly responsible for triggering and fuelling the current Venezuelan situation”.

He said that these public officials have virtually declared war on Trinidad and Tobago for having the “temerity to have not joined Elliot Abrams and President (Donald) Trump in forcing violent regime change in Venezuela.

“Trinidad and Tobago is currently under the latest assault, using nameless, faceless people armed with innocent children, to try and force us to accept their understanding of “refugee status and international treaty” where a little island nation of 1.3 million people must be expected to maintain open borders to a next door neighbour of 34 million people even during a pandemic,” Rowley said, insisting “this is a matter, not for the OAS, but for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Rowley’s statement followed the “deportation” of a group of Venezuelan, including 16 children, last weekend and the subsequent condemnation by some international human rights groups.

In a statement, the US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Joseph N. Mondello, said the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela lies squarely with the failed policies and abuses of the Nicholas Maduro regime.

He said that in September, the United Nations’ Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela documented that since 2014 “long before the current OAS and U.S. leadership took office – Venezuelan authorities under Maduro have committed grave human rights violations and crimes in violation of international law, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions, and excessive use of force.

“At the same time, the economic incompetence of the Maduro regime has thrown a once prosperous, resource-rich country into poverty and turmoil.

“Many blame sanctions, but the Venezuelan economy was in free-fall long before the United States began to impose sanctions in August 2017 and the European Union in November 2017. Venezuela’s gross domestic product shrank 5.7 per cent in 2015 and another 18.6 per cent in 2016, ‘Mondello said.

The diplomat said that at the same time, inflation topped 180 per cent in 2015 and 800 per cent in 2016.

“Oil production, the lifeblood of the Venezuelan economy, had fallen to two million barrels per day by the end of 2016, a level not seen since 1990. It is Maduro and his backers, not sanctions, who are to blame for the millions of Venezuelans living in dire economic conditions and who have fled their homes since he assumed power.”

Washington, backed by some western countries have been trying to remove President Maduro from office and replace him with Opposition Leader Juan Guaido. But Caracas has received the support of Russia, China as well as Cuba.

The western countries contend that Maduro came to office through fraudulent elections and Mondello said that “until free and fair elections under the watchful eye of reputable international observers are available to the Venezuelan people, the status quo will continue.

“Refugees, guns, gangs, and drugs originating from Venezuela will continue to plague the region until democracy returns to the Venezuelan people. We continue to work with Trinidad and Tobago to help mitigate the consequences of this crisis, and we look forward to the day when Venezuelans feel safe and secure enough to return home and rebuild their country rather than seek refuge elsewhere,” Mondello added.



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