Trinidad y Tobago | El gobierno pide que Luis Almagro cese “la campaña de desinformación” contra el país

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TT STILL BLAMED FOR TRAGEDY

A MONTH after the tragic drowning deaths of at least 33 people in the sea off Guiria in Venezuela, this country is still being blamed for that incident with the government calling out the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday for what it described as a deliberate dissemination of wrong information aimed at sullying and tarnishing TT’s international good name and reputation.

The migrants, including children, were believed to be heading to Trinidad in a small boat “Mi Recuerdo” (My Memory) on December 6, when it sank in rough seas and bodies began floating up and washing ashore in Venezuela in the ensuing days.

An OAS statement on December 30 stated: “The remains of 33 Venezuelan migrants who fled their country by sea, including minors, have been found on the maritime border between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.”

This statement titled, New Report Warns Number of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Could Rise to Seven Million In 2021, also referred to an OAS report earlier in December saying more and more Venezuelans who risked their lives at sea, had disappeared or died trying to reach an unnamed Caribbean island (presumed to be Trinidad.)

“On December 12, this office was notified and alerted about the sinking of a boat with an undetermined group of people that left the coast of Venezuela towards Trinidad and Tobago some days before December 12, the date in which their remains began to appear. The first bodies would have been found 6.3 nautical miles from the city of Guiria, Sucre, within Venezuela’s jurisdiction.”

The report said the 33 victims had left Venezuela to meet relatives in Trinidad and flee Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency and collapse of basic services such as water and electricity. It said the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has asked Venezuela and TT to immediately undertake “a serious, impartial, effective investigation into these events.” The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs on Tuesday issued a stern statement chastising the OAS.

GRAVE CONCERN

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago views with grave concern the continued campaign of misinformation generated by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) and its deliberate attempt to tarnish the good name and reputation of TT.”

The ministry hit the OAS statement. “It made reference to the tragic loss of life of 33 Venezuelans, but inaccurately stated that the remains of the deceased were found ‘on the maritime border of Venezuela and TT.’ Factual records have detailed that the incident occurred in Venezuelan waters off the coast of Guiria.

“To use the tragic circumstance and, even the death of Venezuelan nationals, in such a manner is distasteful, reprehensible and goes against the purpose of the Organization and its General Secretariat.” The Government called on the OAS to cease this activity.

“The OAS’s current course can result in incalculable damage to the integrity of the organisation and the trust reposed in it by its legitimate members.”

Venezuela’s Minister of Internal Relations (MRI), Admiral-in-Chief Carmen Meléndez, in a communiqué on December 25, had said the dead were among 41 people in a boat built for eight which had covertly set off on December 6 from Guiria, Sucre, in rough seas and with no life jackets.

The boat then capsized 11 nautical miles from Guiria leading to the drownings, the MRI said. Newsday asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Amery Browne if the Venezuelan official statement had cleared TT of any blame for the tragedy, known in Venezuela as a “naufraga” or shipwreck

Browne replied, “Any statements that suggest that those drownings occurred in TT waters, or on the border between Venezuela and TT, or due to the involvement of any of the service officers of TT must be regarded as patently false. Such statements are not supported by the findings of the MRI, nor by the TT Coast Guard, not by any entity that has looked at the situation in terms of the objective facts.”

DANGEROUS NARRATIVE

Newsday asked if the effect of the OAS statement was to feed a narrative of TT being culpable. Browne replied, “What we have seen are attempts to craft a dangerous narrative and campaign designed to use those tragic Venezuelan deaths as an attack against the nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

“It appears to be very important to the participants in that false narrative to transfer those drownings into TT waters or literally onto the border between the two countries. Trinidad and Tobago has robustly responded to such attempts, and will continue to do so at the OAS and at all other fora where relevant.”

A UNC spokesperson, contacted on Tuesday, said Government was squarely to blame in the matter for lacking a clear migration policy and failing to secure TT’s borders.

“We would not have reached this situation if Government had really meant it when they said the borders were locked. People are coming into TT unchecked for covid19 and reports are that people are coming in to make babies in TT’s hospitals and then return,” said the UNC official who asked not to be named.

The spokesperson said while the ministry complained about the OAS report, it ignored the bulk of the OAS report on the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, plus recent UN allegations of crimes against humanity by the Maduro administration.

“Why ignore the totality of the OAS report? Why pick out just one part?”

The spokesman said the Government has claimed a policy of non-interference towards Venezuela, but its remarks usually favours the Maduro administration.

WAR OF WORDS

Meanwhile, some 16,000 Venezuelans given the Migrant Registration cards in December 2019, allowing them to legally stay and work in TT for a year, are now looking forward to a six-month extension promised last month by the Prime Minister.

The war of words between Dr Rowley and the OAS shows no sign of abating. In January 2019, he said TT had acted in its own interest at the OAS by abstaining on a vote to reject the legitimacy of Maduro, saying TT has good relations with its neighbour and asking, “Who is in charge of Venezuela? So why are you pretending it is not so?”

In October 2019, Rowley said he had complained to the UN about an OAS vote under the Rio Treaty to deem Venezuela a security risk and approve military intervention in that country.

In November 2020, in a Facebook post, he accused the OAS and US Government of having virtually declared war on TT for not supporting violent regime change in Venezuela.

The PM also accused the OAS of triggering the influx of Venezuelan migrants to TT, to which US ambassador Joseph Mondello retorted by blaming migration on the Maduro government.

In December 2020, at a post-Cabinet briefing Rowley said TT will stay in the OAS but not behave like sheep and would not vote in resolutions so long as the assembly included a representative of Venezuelan politician Juan Guaido. Saying TT has shown only brotherly love to Venezuelan migrants, Rowley said TT had no part in the drownings.

In the Senate last month, Minister of National Security Stuart Young blamed the tragedy on human smuggling and flatly dispelled speculation of any role by the coast guard.

The US Embassy’s twitter account had tweeted the very same OAS report which triggered the press release from the Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry.

This story was originally published with the title “Govt: OAS tarnishing TT over Venezuelan drowning tragedy” and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

THE Government on Tuesday accused the Organisation of American States (OAS) of deliberately trying to tarnish this country’s good name over the drowning of about 33 Venezuelan migrants heading to TT in a small boat, Mi Recuerdo (My Memory).

The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs issued a stern statement, titled: Government of TT calls on OAS to cease campaign of misinformation.

Venezuela’s Minister of Internal Relations (MRI), Admiral-in-Chief Carmen Meléndez, in a communiqué on December 25, said the deceased were among 41 people in a boat built for eight which had covertly set off on December 6 from Guiria, Sucre in rough seas and with no life jackets. THe boat then capsized 11 nautical miles from Guiria leading to the drownings.

The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs said, “The Government of Trinidad and Tobago views with grave concern the continued campaign of misinformation generated by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) and its deliberate attempt to tarnish the good name and reputation of TT.”

The statement complained about an OAS statement on December 30, 2020, titled New Report Warns Number of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Could Rise to 7 million in 2021.

“It made reference to the tragic loss of life of 33 Venezuelans, but inaccurately stated that the remains of the deceased were found ‘on the maritime border of Venezuela and TT.’ Factual records have detailed that the incident occurred in Venezuelan waters off the coast of Guiria.

“To use the tragic circumstance and, even the death of Venezuelan nationals, in such a manner is distasteful, reprehensible and goes against the purpose of the Organization and its General Secretariat.”

The Government called on the OAS to cease this activity.

It said, “The OAS’s current course can result in incalculable damage to the integrity of the organisation and the trust reposed in it by its legitimate members.”

News Day

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