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US ambassador praises Trinidad on eve of World Refugee Day


US ambassador praises Trinidad on eve of World Refugee Day

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PORT OF SPAIN – The United States says it has spent US$7 million over the last three years assisting Trinidad and Tobago to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans fleeing the South American country where Washington is on a campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office.

In a message to mark the 20th annual World Refugee Day on Saturday, US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Joseph N. Mondello, said while Washington is “pleased to join the local Venezuelan response, many challenges remain”.

“The population influx straining the already limited capacity of host communities will only continue as long as the Maduro regime remains in power. Free and fair presidential elections are the solution,” he added.

Washington, backed by its allies in Europe, Central, South and Latin America, has said it does not recognise the Maduro government, and is instead backing Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó, who was chosen as president of the National Assembly of Venezuela in December 2018.

But Maduro has the support of Russia, China and Cuba, while the 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM, has called for non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of the South American nation.

In his statement, Mondello, said that US humanitarian assistance reaches tens of millions of displaced and vulnerable people worldwide and such a measure is a critical component of Washington’s national security policy.

He said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has identified the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis as the largest in the history of the Western Hemisphere and that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 28 people so far in Venezuela is further exacerbating an already depleted health system. The pandemic has killed 120 000 so far in the United States.

“Over five million Venezuelans have been forced to flee their homes by the corrupt Maduro regime, with many thousands desperately finding their way to the shores of Trinidad and Tobago,” Mondello said, adding that “the United States remains committed to boosting local efforts to assist displaced Venezuelans and refugees, and the gracious Trinbagonian communities that host them.

“In fact, we have spent seven million US dollars over the last three fiscal years to help efforts right here in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, adding that Washington “appreciates and applauds Trinbagonians, especially those whose own resources are already scarce, who have opened their communities and continue to make critical contributions to support the people of Venezuela.

“We welcomed the effort by the Trinidad and Tobago government, through last year’s registration process, to expand opportunities for 16 523 displaced Venezuelans and refugees to thrive in their new host communities through increased access to legal employment, basic healthcare, and testing for COVID-19. We are encouraged by the government’s commitment to extend the registration through the end of the year,” the US diplomat added. (CMC)