A young citizen of Trinidad & Tobago, Adam Raffoul, was asked by TWP to provide his perspectives on the political situation in Venezuela and his own country’s response. Geographically, Trinidad is seven miles from Venezuela. Here is Adam Raffoul’s response.)
Venezuela: Why it matters to us – a Trinidadian’s perspectives
(24 March 2019) –– The Venezuelan Political Situation has been dominating Trinidad’s news cycle over the last couple days. Like many topics, unfortunately, not much in depth analysis is done, far less explained to the average citizen. As someone who has studied International Relations in Washington, D.C. and interacted with both American and Caricom policy makers there, I feel compelled to write this letter to the editor, and hope I can do the topic justice.
Nations like people, make decisions and interact everyday with a variety of players, nation states, as well as a host of multilateral organizations and multinational corporations. The fundamental question that should drive our foreign policy is “What is our national interest?” Each foreign policy decision our country makes each public statement by our leaders, impact our standing in the world and impacts our relationship with these players.
As a small island developing state, dependent on trade to survive, our foreign policy is our lifeblood. What makes this crisis so important is that our closest neighbor by distance, Venezuela, is suffering internal conflict. This stems from a disputed presidential election, which many nations around the world, including the United States, claim was not free and fair. To make matters worse, Venezuela’s economy is in free fall, with shortages of basic goods and hyperinflation. This has caused a refugee crisis with millions of Venezuelans fleeing the country, with an estimated 60,000 fleeing to Trinidad and Tobago.
Our country on this position has been forced to balance our national interest, between energy cooperation with the Maduro regime and our relationship with the United States. The Rowley Administration has repeatedly stated that our position is one of non-intervention and that Caricom is seeking a diplomatic solution to the impasse.
The United States our largest trading partner, and historically our greatest friend, has hinted multiple times to us, that they are not happy with our position on this matter, the latest being, what can only be seen as a snub, by not inviting our Prime Minister to a meeting with some of our Caribbean allies to discuss among other things, Venezuela. Ironic, as Trinidad and Tobago is one of the closest Caribbean countries to Venezuela, a representative of Caricom on this matter, and perhaps the most affected. This should raise alarm bells in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Our Prime Minister in his latest statement has doubled down on his government’s position, going as far as stating history will absolve him. While I acknowledge his position, and I support a diplomatic solution, I hope for the good of our country, our foreign service takes a more practical approach to repairing our relationship with the United States.
We must communicate to our American friends, that our relationship with them is paramount, and of the utmost importance to us. American investment and cooperation on trade, security, HIV/aids, and the countless other programmes the US government supports and funds in Trinidad and Tobago, make us a safer, more prosperous country.
While we hold to our position of a diplomatic solution, it is important that Trinidad and Tobago as a member of Caricom, and a leader on this matter, walks the tightrope, to ensure that ALL of our international partners find common ground, to resolve this impasse for the good of our region.
(Adam Raffoul holds a BA in International Studies from the American University, Washington, D.C.)
© 2019 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post