Venezuelans should thank Rowley, not cuss him

By Raffique Shah
January 30, 2019

Raffique ShahThe Government of Trinidad and Tobago has adopted a correct response to the political crisis in the neighbouring Republic of Venezuela. In conforming with the United Nations charter that member-states will not intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, as Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley explained, T&T has opted instead to join with CARICOM countries to try to persuade the UN to mediate between the warring factions and hopefully diffuse the tension and bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

It would have been madness for the PM to bow to the populist position that is being promoted by the USA, by declaring T&T’s support for the opposition candidate, Juan Guaido, as president, be it interim, putative, or Washington’s boy in Caracas. Sovereign states conduct business with the duly elected or appointed Head of Government of every country. Legally, and constitutionally, Nicolas Maduro is the President of Venezuela. He occupies the Mira Flores presidential palace and up to now, enjoys the support of the armed forces and other arms of the state.

Of course, this status quo can change tomorrow, or sometime between my writing this column and it being published. Or it might remain intact for another year or more—we don’t know. Until such time as it changes, however, the Government of this country, or any other state that respects the sovereignty of nations regardless of their size, importance or ideology, must, or ought to conduct affairs and business with the incumbent.

Adopting this universally recognised position on sovereignty does not imply that one is supporting Maduro the man, what he stands for, or his deeds or misdeeds. If these latter are vile, outrageous or unacceptable, then the alternative response would be to sever diplomatic relations with his regime.

I have watched and listened to seemingly sensible people criticise or condemn the PM and the Government for not going along with the USA and other countries that have resurrected and revised the colonial and imperialistic precept of regime change by any means necessary. We’ve seen it in several Middle East countries where popular uprisings against unpopular leaders have been manipulated by the global superpowers to remove the targets from power—then leave the re-conquered realms in utter chaos: Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan.

I ask a question to those who believe Maduro was fraudulently re-elected, hence T&T and other nations should formally recognise Juan Guaido as president. Was China president Xi Jinping elected to office in “free and fair” elections as defined by the West? Clearly not. Yet, the same powerful and small nations that are hell-bent on driving Maduro from office genuflect to Xi, trade with China, borrow billions of yuans from Beijing—and dare not bark when opposition forces are jailed or executed.

Talk about double and triple standards!

In Venezuela, clearly Hugo Chavez and Maduro have made some monumental and very costly mistakes in governance of that resource-rich country. It’s not that they invented poverty: that was always there—I saw miles and miles of slums virtually encircling Caracas when I visited in the 1970s, and that was only in and around the capital city. I saw opulence that indicated untold wealth enjoyed by a minority—the typical rich-poor gap that has widened to a chasm over the years, most of all in that exemplar of democracy, the USA.

In Venezuela, Hugo and Maduro were supposed to halt the slide, reverse the country’s oil dependency, revive food production on its vast fertile landholdings, eradicate poverty, and more. Instead, the economy crashed and living standards for the middle-to-poorer classes plummeted.

The wave of discontent triggered by shortages of food and other basic supplies, led to mass street demonstrations against Maduro, who, although he won two presidential elections (2013, 2018), was accused of repression of the opposition and electoral fraud.

The protest marches failed to dislodge Maduro from office thus far because he retains substantial support among the poor and in the military. This latest thrust against him has escalated into global proportions with the USA leading the regime-change charge, backed by some recently-elected right-wing regimes in the Americas (notably Brazil and Argentina). The EU has now entered the fray cowboy-style, giving Maduro “eight days to call fresh elections”, a near-impossible deadline.

In his corner, Maduro has Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and a few other countries. The ideological lines have been drawn.

This is where the CARICOM initiative, which calls for mediation among the combatants, possibly with fresh elections overseen by UN observers to be held before the end of this year, might be the best solution. That’s why I support Rowley’s non-interference stand, since it might yield the only peaceful, or least-violent, resolution to the crisis.

For all the drums of war that Trump and Putin may beat over Venezuela, I do not envisage open war. In the remote event armed conflict erupts, T&T will be the most vulnerable neighbouring nation, and this grim prospect underscores the importance of what CARICOM is doing.

In the final analysis, the 30 million Venezuelans must be responsible for their own destiny. If the vast majority believe that Maduro must go, then drive him out of office by shutting down the country, all its vital operations, until he demits office and makes way for a new president. In similar vein, if Maduro’s supporters believe he can rebuild the Bolivarian republic to new heights, then they must be prepared to fight to keep him in Mira Flores.

Venezuelans cannot expect other people to liberate them from oppression: only they can free themselves. Little T&T has done more for them, from a humanitarian standpoint, than most other countries that are far bigger than ours. They should be thankful that we share our limited space and resources with them.

Most of all, they should thank PM Rowley for his efforts to have the crisis resolved by peaceful negotiations, not bloody war.

5 Responses to “Venezuelans should thank Rowley, not cuss him”


  • We should applaud Dr Rowley on his non-aligned position , but at the same time , Dr Rowley and his PNM administration have found themselves between the Devil and the the deep blue sea . Geopolitrix , the dragon transactions , and Petrotrin , is going to give Dr Rowley sleepless nights , if events should unravel with Regime change , Trinidad might be facing a long season of crop time weather . Make no bones about it , the USA is bent on reversing all the gains of the Bolivarian revolution . Trump might be seen as the man of the moment , but black woman Condoliza Rice initiated regime change for Bush jr , Hugo Chavez was killed under Obamas’ watch , Trump hopes to bring the baton home on behalf of Imperialism . One of the very first Caribbean leaders spoken to by Trump , was Dr Rowler vis sa vis Isis Trinidad , Visas to the US was made easily available for some Nationals , while at the same time enticing a anti Mudaro policy . For the first time in Trinidad’s self rule history , the possibility of destabilization by US foreign policy truly exist , every thing is on the table . Mrs Kamla PB position is very frightening , her janata rightist stance while at the same time practically supporting Trump’s criminal political maneuvers , shows what we can expect under a UNC Gov’t , she would have been new day Tom Adams , Seaga and Charles of early 80′ Grenada . The Lima group , all descendants of European conquest ,is supporting their master up north in keeping the status quo . We may see the Monroe doctrine challenged , if Russia and China step up to the plate , Syria/venezuela might be down the Bocas.

  • My suggestions to T & T citizens is to start learning and brushing up on the Spanish language. A well known Trini on Social media hit right years ago, get ready to be assimilated by citizens of the Bolivian Republic. I guaranty in a very few short years Indio and Afro Trinis will be the minority in good ole T & T. Trini men love “white meat” closest to the real thing are the invaders now openly selling it all over. Good luck and please, charity at home before aboard. Give them shelter in your homes to help speed up the process of assimilation.

  • This topic is pluraly relevant and the comments made so far very objective and visionary. I especially liked Alim Socorro thoughtfully provocative futuristic view of Trinidad and
    Tobago being under the influence of a migrationary inflow of Venezuelans – very interesting thought of what could become of our callaloo country.

    It is unfortunate that our local politicians take their cues from what they perceive as “an opportunity”, rather than studied and thoughtful objectivity that the situation now facing Venezuela deserves. The situation in Venezuela is not just ‘political’ as Kamla perceives it. The situation there is historical, political, geopolitical, opportunistic, capitalistic and imperialistic as Bobby Cooper suggests and not merely a matter to just “take a side”. I take umbrage with Kamla’s view which appears as one to curry favor with the current U.S administration for the sole purpose view of being in favor with Donald Trump.
    If you are to take Donald Trumnp’s view of “an invasion” of Venezuela, you would have to take into account his views of what it means to take over an “oil rich” country. He is on record as saying that while he does not like war, he was in favor of taking the oil from Iraq. Does this now portend that the purpose of his naming of the Opposition leader in Venezuela to lead the country, a reason for him to take the country;’s vast oil reserves?

    In furtherance of Kamla’s view that Rowley’s non-interference of the impasse is wrong and her’s is right, our local news media is now propagating a new story that the 200k or so Trinidadians residing in the U.S are at stake as a result of Dr.Rowley’s position. Nothing can be further from the truth!!! The Trinidadians in the U.S know that they are living in a democracy and there is a give and take in terms of how it is exercised.
    When people like Anna Ramdass, using their names as journalist, put pen to paper and puts out those kind of FAKE suppositions we loose a sense of reality. It is true thats what Kamla wants us to believe. BUT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO TRUTH TO THE SUPPOSITION THAT TRINIDADIANS LIVING IN THE US are endangered because Dr. Rowley does not support the U.S view of the Venezuelan dilemma.
    That kind of cheap journalism is what gets me incensed by our kindergarten leaning journalists – they print points of views that are unsubstantiated.

  • Do the maths, there 33 Million plus Venezuelans vs 1.35 Million Trinis approximately, just a mere 7 or more miles away. I feel just 2 Million migrants (undocumented or illegal) can make that place go to the annals of history. Multiply fast, that might help stop the invasion. In the beginning the Spaniards, then all others, brace for big changes. Trinis are pawns in game larger than the capabilities required to maintain their independence. I’m glad for the changes, about time something real take place there. The Trini politicians are like all others Worldwide, greedy and rich, and don’t care for anyone. All the fussing and fighting between political parties are draining resources, just like in the other countries. No one wants to sit down and negotiate for the betterment of the taxpayers. Figure that out, Why!

  • Newsday: Refugees International commends Rowley
    Refugees International (RI), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, has commended the Prime Minister for his recent announcement that the government is working to grant Venezuelans work permits and access to education.

    https://newsday.co.tt/2019/02/02/refugees-international-commends-rowley/

    They say that there about 150,000 Venezuelans living in TT at this time (1 out of 10 people in Trinbago)…Can’t Dr Rowley propose that Trump take in some of these ‘refugees’ since he shows so much compassion for their plight.. ah mean, how much can little Trinbago take?
    Just stop the ‘Build the wall’ campaign for a little and help these poor Venezuelans.. I know you love them so much..

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