Venezuela president asks to visit Trinidad on Monday
PORT OF SPAIN - Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will pay a brief state visit to Trinidad and Tobago next Monday at his own request.
Speaking at Thursday's post-Cabinet media briefing, Stuart Young, minister in the ministry of the attorney general, emphasised that Maduro had requested to visit Trinidad and Tobago and a government delegation, led by the prime minister, will hear what he has to say.
Young said the visit, which would last just a few hours, was to further bilateral talks in terms of foreign affairs, trade and energy.
He said the Venezuelan leader would be accompanied by his foreign affairs minister, the petroleum ministers and industry minister as well as representatives of Venezuela’s national gas company.
Maduro’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago comes when, according to US intelligence officials, he is at risk of being ousted by his own military, as the country experiences widespread unrest prompted by severe food shortages, daily power outages, triple-digit inflation and serious political tensions.
The mayor of Chacao in Venezuela’s capital Caracas has warned that Caribbean islands and Colombia may suffer an influx of refugees from Venezuela if food shortages continue in the country.
Español Ramón Muchacho said last week that people have been reduced to hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, commenting on the possibility of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Trinidad and Tobago, noted that the country has a security arrangement with Venezuela and has a coastal patrol presence in the Gulf of Paria.
However, he said that the government was concerned about the situation and was monitoring developments in Venezuela and preparing systems for any worst-case scenario.
Meanwhile the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) said on Friday it is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of the five Trinidad and Tobago nationals currently detained in prison in Caracas – having been detained there for approximately two years.
The party said it has been in communication with relatives of the detained men, all of whom belong to the Islamic Faith, and all of whom have expressed concern for their health given the social, political and economic crisis taking place in Venezuela.
According to the relatives, the Trinidad and Tobago nationals were only recently afforded the opportunity to appear before a judge; however, when they went to court last week their case was adjourned because there was no electricity and water in the courthouse due to the crisis. Since it is unknown how long the situation in Venezuela will persist, the prospect of the men obtaining a fair hearing remains uncertain and in limbo.
The relatives have also advised that the men have still not been notified of the details of the grounds on which they are being detained and already they have incurred lawyer fees of approximately US $5,000 each.
The incarcerated men have also related to their families horror stories concerning shortages of meals and medication in the prison. For example, the men have stated that prisoners are not getting regular meals and some inmates have resorted to hunting vermin inside the prison in order to eat.
The ILP said that Monday's visit by Maduro provides an opportunity for the government to assert concern for the human rights violations being perpetrated against these Trinidad and Tobago nationals by the authorities in Venezuela.