Saturday, February 24, 2018

Delegation on ‘fact-finding mission’ heads to Caracas

A DELEGATION led by Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall is scheduled to travel to Caracas this morning on a “fact-finding mission” in relation to the reported detention of at least 19 Trinidadian Muslims by the Venezuelan intelligence service SEBIN (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional) for suspicion of being terrorists.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith yesterday told the Express that the delegation will be leaving this county at 8 a.m. today on board an Air Guard fixed wing aircraft.

Well-placed intelligence sources in Venezuela confirmed the arrests of the Trinidadians, along with two other non-nationals at Plaza Hotel in Sabana Grande, Caracas, the Express reported yesterday.

The arrests followed a daytime raid last Wednesday.

The Express understands that three Trinidadian imams were among those held during the raid.

They are all being detained at SEBIN headquarters in Caracas.

Griffith yesterday said that the delegation which would include the military liaison officer from the Venezuelan Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, a translator from the Coast Guard and a member of the Special Branch.

The group is to be met by in Caracas by Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador to Venezuela David Edghill and military liaison officer Colonel Micheal Clarke.

“We are on a fact-finding mission to see exactly what is the status and what can we do to rectify the situation if we can because we have to be very careful how we deal with this,” Griffith said.

“This must be dealt with in a very diplomatic manner where at the same time trying to look after the welfare of Trinidad and Tobago citizens,” he said.

“We still do not have confirmation as to the status of this matter,” Griffith said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran yesterday reiterated that “soft diplomacy is required” by this country in dealing with the ongoing tension in Venezuela.

Dookeran yesterday met with Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena at Tower C of the International Waterfront Centre in Port of Spain.

Among other items the duo discussed the situation in Venezuela.

“We are trying to find a mechanism by which the different actors can come together to find an amicable solution to the problems,” Dookeran said.

Dookeran and Kuribrena said dialogue is the way forward.

“We agreed that the exercise of soft diplomacy is what is required at this point,” Dookeran said.

“I just want to reiterate that an element of additional dialogue is needed,” Kuribrena said.