Donald Trump's pick as ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Joseph Mondello, has told a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that if confirmed, he would seek help from federal agencies to reduce the rate of ISIS recruiting in T&T and would urge T&T to drop its OAS support for Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.
Mondello, 80, also said he would address sex and drug trafficking and support human rights and women’s empowerment, during questioning on Wednesday.
Senators pressed Mondello on ISIS recruitment in Trinidad and Tobago, with chairman Marco Rubio saying that Trinidad and Tobago “produces more ISIS fighters per capita than any other country in the western hemisphere.”
He said ISIS is trying to rebuild as an insurgency instead of controlling large swathes of territory.
“As we were talking about in our meeting,” Rubio told Mondello, “there are numerous daily nonstop flights between Trinidad and Tobago and Miami and Kennedy Airport. So we should care a lot about what’s happening there. It’s very close to home.”
Mondello said ISIS has recruited 135 members of Trinidad and Tobago’s small Muslim community to fight elsewhere.
He said the problem overshadows all the other issues he expects to face, and that he would employ federal agencies to help the local government grapple with it.
“There is poverty there. There [are] social and economic problems despite the fact they have a very high” gross domestic product, Mondello said.
“We have to have some messaging going on there, to let people understand what we believe, what we are.”
Mondello also promised to urge the government of Trinidad and Tobago to drop its support in the Organization of American States for Venezuela, led by Nicolás Maduro.
Asked by Menendez if he had ever been to Trinidad and Tobago, Mondello said, “Never.”
Menendez said in his view that did not disqualify him for the post.
“Being considered for the post of ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an extraordinary high point in my life,” Mondello said in his opening statement, thanking President Donald Trump for nominating him to the post.
Trump named Mondello ambassador to this country, after Mondello as GOP leader endorsed him at a time when few thought he could win the nomination, much less the presidency.