UNC activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj is accusing the Government of failing to negotiate any favourable terms and conditions for T&T to access the Dragon Gas field.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Balgobin-Maharaj alleged that this country is being used as “a carrot on a stick for the US to dangle in front of the Maduro regime to hold democratic elections in that country.”
Balgobin-Maharaj stated that his claims were based on what he said was a press release issued by the US Department of the Treasury on October 18, 2023, titled, “In Response to Electoral Roadmap, Treasury Issues New Venezuela General Licenses.”
He pointed out that the document states,”…Treasury is prepared to amend or revoke authorizations at any time, should representatives of Maduro fail to follow through on their commitments. All other restrictions imposed by the United States on Venezuela remain in place, and we will continue to hold bad actors accountable.”
He said it is clear that the details provided by the Minister of Energy in his press conference were “deliberately scripted to hide the less favourable terms of this new license.”
“The reason that the new two-year period granted for negotiations begins on October 31 2023, is so that it aligns with the General Licenses for the lifting of sanction restrictions by the US, and is not a result of any negotiations by the T&T government.
“The period that T&T would be able to pay for gas extracted from the Dragon Gas field expires on April 18th 2024 and only spans six months out of the two-year license granted by OFAC. While extensions to this six-month period can be granted by the US, it is based on whether the Venezuelan government complies with their demands for fresh democratic elections, and the release of political prisoners currently held by the Maduro-led regime,” Balgobin stated.
He further claimed that if there is no extension to the six-month period window for payment in either US, Venezuelan or fiat currency, the Maduro government will continue to reject payment for the Dragon Field Gas in any humanitarian currency.
In response Minister of Energy Stuart Young said Balgobin was making misleading statements and cautioned those who know nothing about the matter from doing so.
He said the OFAC license amendment is specific to Government and the National Gas Company (NGC) and is for the benefit of Government, NGC, Shell and their subsidiaries, affiliates and contractors to pursue, inter alia, the planning, financing, development, execution and management of the Dragon gas field.
According to Young the license amendment granted to this Government expires on October 31, 2025 and amongst other things, permits this Government to negotiate with the Government of Venezuela and PDVSA to obtain exploration and production licences to extract natural gas, to operate the Dragon field and to make various payments associated with such a project including, taxes, royalties, fees and lease bonus payments.
The minister said the amendment further authorized this Government, NGC and Shell to make payments to the Government of Venezuela in fiat currency, including US dollars or bolivars, he added.
“That general OFAC license no. 44 does not affect the work being undertaken by GORTT and the Government of Venezuela to produce and export the gas from the Dragon gas field to Trinidad and Tobago,” Young further explained.