By AZP Staff
PORT-OF-SPAIN – CONCERNS have been raised about last week’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago by Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Nancy Izzo Jackson.
The top US official paid a courtesy call on the Ministry of National Security for what was expected to be very important discussions with the simmering humanitarian crisis which have forced thousands of Venezuelans to seek refugee status here at the top of the list.
However, it was noted that instead of meeting with Minister of National Security Stuart Young, Jackson had instead to settle for a chit-chat with acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Penelope Bradshaw-Niles.
Eyebrows were raised when an official press release further stated that the US official discussed the recent two-week registration process for Venezuelans fleeing economic hardship; collaboration to ensure the safety and security of T&T and the wider region; and ongoing bilateral initiatives.
An experienced member of the local Diplomatic Corps told AZPNews that he was surprised that a mid-level public servant was tasked to engage the US Department of State representative in what should have been extremely sensitive and pointed talks.
He further stated that it was highly unusual that such discussions were not led by the Minister of National Security or the Prime Minister himself who is the Caricom point man on regional security. Both senior members of the government are also directly involved in addressing the Venezuelan humanitarian catastrophe.
“It is also indicative of the worsening diplomatic stand-off between Port-of-Spain and Washington DC that the Department of State official was shunted to a backroom when the government is in a quagmire on how to resolve the issue of accommodating the economic migrants,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Dr Rowley was not among a group of regional leaders who recently met with US President Donald Trump in Florida at his Mar-a-Lago Golf Club in Florida where regional matters were said to have been discussed.
T&T is among the countries which have not joined the US in condemning Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro for the worst migrant crisis in South American history where millions have fled the oil-rich state for neighboring countries.
Rowley has adopted the stance of Caricom of taking a neutral position on the issue deferring to non-interference in the affairs of a sovereign state while grappling with the influx of men, women, and children arriving by the boatloads making their way across the perilous waters separating the mainland from T&T.
“It was not good optics that no senior member of the government met with and held talks with the Deputy Assistant Secretary as T&T spurned a golden opportunity to share ideas on how to address the refugee crisis. The US Department of State would have also been able to grant T&T access to millions of dollars in assistance to help out with programs to alleviate the situation,” said the diplomat.
In the end, Ms Jackson was said to have been gratified for the opportunity to continue the long-standing positive bilateral relationship between the US and T&T, and the Department of State looks forward to a continued working relationship on ongoing initiatives, as well as future security collaboration.
It is also understood that discussions did take place about the Venezuelan refugee issue with the Deputy Assistant Secretary expressing satisfaction on the “efficient” way it was conducted despite only approximately 40,000 participants, a fraction of the total migrants actually here.
Discussions also centered on matters of mutual interest with representatives of both countries committing to work together in the future.