Former Attorney General Dismisses Suggestions of CIA Involvement in Ending Attempted Coup in 1990


Following Comments Made by Former Government Minister

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – A former attorney general has dismissed suggestions that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in helping Trinidad and Tobago authorities suppress the 1990 coup by a radical Islamic group.

Anthony Smart, who served as attorney general during the insurrection, said that his then Cabinet colleague, Dr. Brinsley Samaroo, while he is “a respected historian” was not even present when the negotiations regarding the hostages were taking place.

“He wasn’t even there, all the activities took place between the 27th of July, the 28, the 29th and by the 30th we had the situation under control and that’s when Brinsley entered the picture and by the next day the hostages were released,” Smart said.

Speaking on a television program last Friday, Samaroo, a historian and former government minister, also told viewers that the attempt by the Jamaat Al Muslimeen group led by Yasin Abu Bakr to overthrow the then ANR Robinson government had far implications including a possible overthrow of the government in Venezuela by Libya.

At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six day insurrection that ended on August 1, 1990. Bakr led more than 100 men in trying to overthrow the Robinson government.

They were later tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.

However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.

Bakr never appeared before a Commission of Inquiry that had been established by the former People’s Partnership government to examine the circumstances leading to the insurrection. In 2014, Bakr said he had not read the four-volume report of the Commission that the government made public on the website of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament.

Samaroo, who was a member of the Robinson government, said that the Americans had installed special equipment to monitor was taking place in the Parliament where Robinson and several legislators were being held by the Muslim group.

He said that the situation was saved by four CIA advisers, who had long experience in dealing with hostage situations and gave continuous advice to Cabinet members who had gathered at a nearby hotel.

“We were so inexperienced as a nation, as a government, in dealing with the situation like this. Most people didn’t know what to do. There were a lot of confusion. There were a lot of people coming from the army and from different political groups and so on telling us what to do and giving advice…..

“And it is my firm view that the situation was saved by the four CIA advisers. The American Ambassador (Charles Gargano) arranged for the two CIA women and the two CIA men to come to join us,” he said recalling their long experience in hostage negotiations.

Samaroo said he had spoken to one of the women who had indicated that she had been part of the rescue of hostages in Uganda and that “”this is easy picking for us if you all give us the chance of guiding you through the whole process”.

Smart told the local media that he hopes one day “to have the opportunity to give a full response to what Brinsley said,” insisting that “ a lot of what Brinsley said is unfortunately …is completely inaccurate”.

The United States Embassy here has not commented on the statement by Samaroo, who during his television interview, said also that there was the possibility of Libya using Trinidad as a staging point for an invasion of Venezuela.

“The Venezuelans were very concerned about what was happening in Trinidad. Venezuela saw the coup as an attempt by (Muammar) Gaddafi to take control of Trinidad through the Muslimeen and use it as a base for the invasion of Venezuela,” Samaroo told television viewers.

He said that was the conclusion of the then Venezuelan President Carlos Perez, who had been in touch with Port of Spain, during the insurrection.

“Mr. Carlos Andres Perez made it clear to us “I have two warships just on the border line between Trinidad and Venezuela,….and the minute I find that you have lost control I am coming to take over.”

Samaroo quoted the then head of state in Caracas as saying that the invasion was not aimed at recolonising Trinidad and Tobago “but to restore stability.

“And once that is done you can run the government again,” Samaroo said, adding “our feeling was that he (Perez0) was really very fearful of the Libyan threat”.

Last week, Bakr, said he would not apologise for the 1990 coup even as he acknowledged the “unfortunate inability” of at least one survivor to understand the context of the 1990 “revolution”.

In a statement marking the 28th anniversary of the failed coup attempt, Bakr said he is also aware that there are others in society who are “afraid of citizens standing up against injustice and have demonised his actions over the years”. – CMC