Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is insisting he did not know what portfolio Asdrubal Chavez held when he met with him and Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez on March 27th.
While he admits to meeting With Rodriguez and Chavez, he said Chavez was not an official at PDVSA at the time and was only promoted to the post weeks later. The Prime Minister addressed the issue in response to a Trinidad Guardian editorial yesterday which called on the Government to make public the Paria Fuel Trading contract involving fuel tycoon Wilmer Ruperti and confirm whether a letter sent from Minister of National Security Stuart Young exempting the Venezuelan delegation to enter T&T was genuine.
The letter, dated March 26, 2020, was addressed to Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews and signed by the Security Ministry permanent secretary Gary Joseph. The list contradicted claims by Young that he was unaware of who came with Rodriguez on the plane, as the men’s names were listed along with their passport numbers.
In response to questions from the Guardian on the issue yesterday, Rowley said, “For your benefit and for the benefit of the public whom you all continue to mislead, I said “no one was introduced as President of PDVSA”. That is a fact because the head of PDVSA was NOT there, contrary to the misinformation put out there. Mr Chavez was made head of PDVSA one month AFTER I met with him.”
Chavez was named PDVSA’s president on April 28. Apart from Chavez, Juan Vincente Santana, PDVSA’s vice president of gas, was also part of the delegation.
The Prime Minister, however, maintained yesterday that he only met with Rodriguez and Chavez.
“With respect to ALL the other persons on your “smoking gun list”, NONE of them came into my presence so there was no introduction because those persons (security, protocol etc) NEVER even entered the room in which I met TWO persons, Rodriguez and Chavez,” Rowley said.
“I take time to tell you this so that you now have no excuse to misrepresent any of these FACTS, as you pursue whatever mission you are on.”
Minister of National Security Stuart Young, who was also present at the March 26 meeting, said no notes, minutes or pictures were taken at the meeting. Rowley defended this practice and denied that it was indicative of a security lapse.
“With respect to the issue of minutes and agenda, if I wanted to waste valuable time I would have sent you a long list of heads of Govt., heads of state, monarchs, heads of international organisations and companies that I have met and with whom I conducted discussions and courtesy calls, where there was no written agendas or written record of the conversation,” he said.
“However, I prefer to use my time productively as I remember that it is said that “a man (or woman) convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Good luck with your hunt.”
“At least you have found the truth but that may be too inconvenient for some people so I am over and out. Off to do the people’s business, the same people I’m trying to protect from deliberate falsehoods and self-serving misrepresentations and conspiracy theories.”
When pressed about the authenticity of the ministry exemption documents PM Rowley said he was “not conducting a Q&A.”
“I am simply responding with some facts related to your misdirection about MY actions so that you will have no reason to get it wrong,” he said.
When asked what exactly the newspaper got wrong in its editorial, Rowley asked “Do you work for the Guardian? Did you not see me being called a liar today (Thursday) because my story does not fit the theories from “sources”? Did you, on that vein, not put to me questions about persons not being introduced to me?”
Told that the newspaper simply asked for more transparency on a topic currently occupying the public domain, Rowley directed a reread of the editorial.
“Your idea of transparency is for me to repeat the truth every time a detractor gets a brainwave and even then nothing I say will satisfy,” the PM said.
“I remember leaving here and going abroad for medical examination and was very concerned. I told that to the public. I went, did my tests, got a good result and came back here and reported the nature of my medical procedures and the doctor’s verdict that I did not have a problem and did not need surgery as was prescribed here before I went abroad. To my shock, a senior reporter/editor, in a column, said he can’t accept what I said until he sees the medical report for himself. That is the transparency that may change the diet of misinformation.”
“However, there was a previous Prime Minister who was hospitalised with swollen feet and in explanation told the country that she was cooking at home and reached to open a cupboard and when she opened the door two cans of peas fell, one striking her on each foot and that is why both feet are swollen. So I sympathise with any person who refuses to believe what any Prime Minister says (sic) after that.”
He did not respond to a subsequent question asking why he would not want to be more transparent.
Rowley had earlier taken to his Facebook page to comment on the Trinidad Guardian editorial piece.
He wrote: “Contrary to what has been published in today’s Guardian Editorial, I once again must confirm that, notwithstanding any list of names of passengers on any manifest or aircraft, the only persons from Venezuela, who attended a meeting with the Prime Minister, Minister of National Security and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Diplomatic Centre in March 2020, were Vice President Delcy Rodriguez accompanied by one other person Mr Chavez, who was not the President of PDVSA at that time. None of the other persons (security or other officials) who accompanied Mrs Rodriguez conducted any meeting with any official/s of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. On the basis of these indisputable facts, today, I reject being called a liar by the Guardian newspaper in furtherance of their interests.”