Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Tuesday, did not deny nor confirm that the United States and Venezuela exchanged detained nationals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Saturday.
International media reports say that Venezuela freed seven imprisoned Americans in exchange for the United States releasing two nephews of President Nicolás Maduro’s wife who had been jailed for years on narcotics convictions.
Gonsalves is minister of national security and legal affairs and was minister of foreign affairs up to August.
He was asked at a press conference, in Kingstown, whether the exchange took place at Argyle International Airport or in Canouan, in the Grenadines; when SVG entered the negotiations as the exchange points; what qualified SVG as the most suitable neutral country for the exchange; and whether it was the first time that SVG has facilitated such an exchange.
Gonsalves said that the policy of SVG, as encapsulated in its mantra, is “friends of all, we strive for a better world”.
He said that any government which thinks that SVG may be “helpful in any matter to resolve or facilitate in the resolution of any conflict or difficulty”, SVG “is always willing to help because we are friends of all”.
The prime minister said that SVG, however, will never say what it is doing or not doing in any of these respects “unless it is necessary or desirable to do so in all the circumstances and with the consent and agreement of anyone in which we have been involved in any matter regarding peace, good relations between states, security and progress”.
“Given what I have just said, I will neither confirm nor deny what you particularly asked. I stated the general position of the government of SVG.”
The Associated Press said that three people in Venezuela who were briefed on the matter had spoken on the condition of anonymity.
The news agency said that the Americans included five oil executives held for nearly five years and that the exchange came after months of back-channel diplomacy by senior U.S. officials — secretive talks with a major oil producer that took on greater urgency after sanctions on Russia put pressure on global energy prices.