Speech of the Honourable the Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, ...

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Title:
Speech of the Honourable the Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, at the opening of the conference between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, Whitehall, Port-of- Spain, Trinidad, January 16, 1963.
Physical Description:
7 p.21 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
Williams, Eric Eustace
Publication Date:

Notes

General Note:
Subject-Geo Trm: Trinidad and Tobago Commerce Venezuela

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
UF Latin American Collections
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 20001569
oclc - 21360633
System ID:
AA00012804:00001


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Speech of the Honourable the
Prime Minister and Minister of
External Affaires of Trinidad and
Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams at the
Opening of the Conference between
Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela,
Whitehall, Port-Of-Sppin, Trinidad,
January 16, 1963.




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TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


Speech of the Honourable the Prime Minister and
Minister of External Affairs of Trinidad and
Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams at the Opening of the
Conference between Trinidad and Tobago and
Venezuela, Whitehall, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad,
January 16, 1963.









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Speech of the Honourable the Prime Minister and Minister of
External Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams
at the Opening of the Conference between Trinidad and
Tobago and Venezuela, Whitehall, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad,
January 16, 1963.

HONOURABLE MINISTER OF FINANCE OF THE
GOVERNMENT OF VENEZUELA:
My colleagues and I extend to you and to your distinguished
Delegation a warm welcome to Trinidad in the name of the Govern-
ment and People of Trinidad and Tobago. Our Delegation, repre-
sentative of the Cabinet, the Opposition Party in Parliament, the
Civil Service and the business community, welcome the importance
which, as your diversified Delegation testifies, the Government of
Venezuela attaches to our deliberations.
We in Trinidad and Tobago have been looking forward to
these deliberations for over three years when their basis and their
urgency were established by the Venezuelan Goodwill Mission led
by Dr. Tejera Paris.
When our Government reciprocated Dr. Tejera's Mission, the
basis and the urgency were ratified and made precise by the dis-
cussions which I was privileged to hold with your esteemed
President.
These deliberations have become more necessary and more
urgent with the achievement by Trinidad and Tobago of its
National Independence. In bringing them finally to fruition I
should like to pay tribute to the work and tenacity and goodwill
of the Consul-General for Venezuela in Trinidad for the past few
years, Sefior Humberto Egui Luna.
Our deliberations, here in Trinidad and at such subsequent
sessions as we may find it necessary to convene, will range over A
wide field. But it would be hypocritical of me if I attempted to
conceal that they are dominated by the 30 per cent. surtax which
the Government of Venezuela levies on the products of Trinidad
and Tobago, and. it is necessary for me to state at the outset the
attitude of the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago
to this imposition.






We look upon the imposition, Sir, as the policy adopted by
the Executive and Legislative Authorities of Venezuela as far back
as 1881 and endorsed and confirmed repeatedly in subsequent
years, in defence of Venezuela's economic and political interests
against the United Kingdom, As such, Sir, this policy has nothing
whatsoever to do with the Independent Government and People
of Trinidad and Tobago who achieved their Independence from
the United Kingdom four and a half months ago. The Government
and People of Trinidad and Tobago categorically disclaim any
liability for the sins of omission or commission 'of the United
Kingdom over the past eighty years. We in our Independence
could not under any circumstances agree to the sins of the
imperialist father being visited on the ex-colonial child.
The 30 per cent. surtax represented Venezuela's policy of
securing direct trade connections with Europe, Venezuela's protest
against the commercial policy of the United Kingdom, and
Venezuela's diplomatic lever against United Kingdom claims with
respect to the British Guiana boundary.
The United Kingdom retaliated by the imposition of a duty
in Trinidad on Venezuelan cattle; this was the act of the Governor
of Trinidad and Tobago who was responsible not to the people of
Trinidad and Tobago but to the Secretary of State for the Colonies
in the United Kingdom.
A Collector of Customs in Trinidad once threatened the
Venezuelan Government that there were 5,000 rifles and 100,000
cartridges in Trinidad awaiting shipment to Venezuela, with all the
implications of indirect assistance to Venezuelan revolutionaries.
The Collector of Customs was an Englishman appointed by the
Secretary of State for the Colonies and responsible to the Governor;
he was not, as the Controller of Customs included in the Delegation
of Trinidad and Tobago, a Trinidadian, appointed by the Public
Service Commission on the advice of the Prime Minister, and respon-
sible to the Minister of Finance who is an elected representative of
the people of Tobago.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago gave asylum to
Venezuelan revolutionaries and allowed an ex-President, in violation
of a written pledge, to intrigue against the Government of Venezuela;
the people of Trinidad and Tobago were absolutely divorced from







that Government and did not have a single representative in the
Legislative Council. If the Government of Venezuela was unable,
as the price for the elimination of the 30 per cent. surtax, to obtain
a loan from the United Kingdom or to get the Colonial Bank of
Trinidad and Tobago to mint two million bolivares, the United
Kingdom controlled the Trinidad and Tobago Treasury down to
the smallest detail and the Colonial Bank took orders from its
London Headquarters.

One of the Presidents of Venezuela was insulted by an invitation
to visit Trinidad extended not by the Governor but by the business
community. The business community of Trinidad and Tobago was
then almost entirely expatriate-unlike today, when its local roots
in our cosmopolitan community are so appropriately represented by
the President of the Chamber of Commerce and the President of the
Businessmen's Association who are included in our Delegation.

The Governor of Trinidad and Tobago who visited Venezuela
to discuss the 30 per cent. surtax with the President of Venezuela
was an emissary of the Foreign Office and Colonial Office in the
United Kingdom. He exercised complete control over every segment
of the economic and political life of Trinidad and Tobago and will
always figure in our history as the spoliator of the only significant
local political institution of Trinidad, the City Council of our
capital city in which this conference is being held.

It was the representatives of the United Kingdom and not of
the people of Trinidad and Tobago who argued that the 30 per cent.
surtax was harmful to the interests of the people of Venezuela and
would depopulate the south-eastern part of the Republic. It was the
representatives of the United Kingdom and not of the people of
Trinidad and Tobago who adopted such an attitude to the Govern-
ment of Venezuela in their representation that the Government of
Venezuela refused to reply to some of them, describing them, not
as official but as officious. It was the Government of the United
Kingdom and not the people of Trinidad and Tobago who wanted
to trade with Venezuela; most of the people of Trinidad and Tobago
were then only semi-free, and their basic products, sugar and cocoa,
had established markets in England, Canada and the United States
of America.







Thus, Honourable Minister, the battle over the 30 per cent.
surtax was a battle between Venezuela and the United Kingdom.
The islands and the people of Trinidad and Tobago were pawns
in that struggle, as we were pawns in many another imperialist
struggle.
But, Honourable Minister, we are pawns no longer, nobody's
pawns. We do not accept the United Kingdom's liabilities and do
not inherit either its antipathies or its prejudices. If we should
send our Head of State to you in the future, we would send the
Governor-General of Trinidad and Tobago, appointed to his high
office on the advice of the Prime Minister.
We permit today no rifles or cartridges in our Custom House
to threaten or intimidate Venezuela. We extend asylum today to
no Venezuelan, certainly to no ex-President, to use the soil of
Trinidad and Tobago as a base from which to seek to subvert the
lawfully elected Government of the People of Venezuela. We make
today our own laws and determine our own foreign policy. Both
are subject to the approval of our democratically elected Parlia-
ment, which is symbolised by the presence here today, as a full
member of our Delegation, of the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
And today, Honourable Minister, it is the trade of the People
of Trinidad and Tobago and not the trade of the people of the
United Kingdom which our Delegation represents. The Venezuelan
30 per cent. surtax, originally aimed at British goods transshipped
from Trinidad, now discriminates against the national products of
Trinidad and Tobago-the fruits and animals of our soil, the pro-
cessed forms of those fruits and animals, the new products which
have been fashioned from imported raw materials by our own
labour force whom, .in increasing numbers, we have constantly to
seek to employ as they find the doors of country after country
closed in their face-in the United Kingdom, in the United States
of America, in Canada, in Australia, in Venezuela itself.
The 30 per cent. surtax belongs historically to the international
relations of Venezuela and the United Kingdom. You are here,
Honourable Minister, among a new nation, one of your closest
neighbours, and one of your best. We stand shoulder to shoulder
with your President in his determination to demonstrate that demo-
cracy is not impossible of achievement in countries south of the






Gulf of Mexico-you in South America, we in the Caribbean. We
stand shoulder to shoulder with your President in his struggle to
keep subversive elements out of the Hemisphere. We stand shoulder
to shoulder with your President in his efforts to prevent inter-
ference from outside of the Hemisphere in the affairs of the
Hemisphere. Our own responsibility, however small, for the welfare
of the Hemisphere will ultimately have to be reflected in our
decision to participate in the work of the Organisation of American
States, which will bring us shoulder to shoulder with you in the
juridical, constitutional and political institutions of the Hemisphere.
I submit with due respect, Honourable Minister, that, in this
close collaboration between your country and ours, which the
present holds and the future will strengthen, the political realities
cannot be contradicted by ancient economic arrangements, developed
for another period and directed against another nation. We must
either be good neighbours or we must be bad neighbours. We can-
not be both-at least not at the same time. The People of Trinidad
and Tobago cannot reasonably be asked to carry on their over-
burdened backs the legacy of Venezuela's protective measures,
however legitimate, against a non-Hemisphere people. We seek no
special favours from Venezuela. We ask merely for a recognition
of our equality by a Hemisphere colleague.
In the name of my Delegation, I welcome you, Honourable
Minister of Finance, and your Delegation to Trinidad. In doing so
I speak, I am sure, for the majority of the People of Trinidad and
Tobago who will, I know, want me to convey to you one message-
that nothing will please us more, the Government and the Parlia-
ment and the People of Trinidad and Tobago, than the opportunity
to welcome to our shores your distinguished President as the symbol
of Venezuelan democracy and the personification of Latin American
statesmanship.
My colleagues and I look forward confidently to a successful
conference, to the inauguration of a new era of harmony and
concord in our relations, and to fruitful collaboration in the cause
of world peace and Hemisphere solidarity.










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