On 6 September, 2005, nine more Caribbean nations signed up to the PetroCaribe cooperation agreement, under which Venezuela will provide oil to Caribbean countries on concessionary terms.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez had already signed bilateral agreements with Jamaica and Cuba, and, under the deal signed earlier this month in Montego Bay, Jamaica, he entered similar arrangements with the heads of State or delegations from Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname.
Caribbean governments are already calculating millions of dollars in savings arising out of the PetroCaribe oil agreement with Venezuela.
The beneficiary governments will pay 60 per cent of the market price up front, and can finance the remaining 40 per cent by way of a soft loan over 25 years at one per cent interest. The governments can also pay for part of the cost with services or goods such as rice, bananas or sugar.
Venezuela has agreed to supply some 185,700 barrel per day of oil to the region. In order to make this possible, Venezuela will put in place a regional supply, refining, transport and storage network.
Caracas political administration commits itself to invest in expanding existing refineries in order to permit the treatment of Venezuelan heavy crude oil (for example, in Jamaica, and Cuba), and will invest in fuel storage facilities in countries like Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda, in order to increase their capacities.
Jamaican Prime Minister, Percival J. Patterson, welcomed the oil initiative by Venezuela, saying the agreement would serve to deepen and strengthen the bonds of friendship and the process of collaboration between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Caracas.
"It also represents an important vehicle for enhancing energy security, promoting capacity building and accelerating the development agenda at the national as well as the regional levels", said Patterson.
Two Caribbean nations declined to take part in the agreement.
Trinidad and Tobago has its own oil resources, and already supplies CARICOM member states with about 60,000 barrels a day in exchange for other resources. Owen Arthur, the Prime Minister of Barbados, which also stayed out of the agreement, said his country’s existing energy arrangement with Trinidad and Tobago was effective.
David Comissiong, spokesperson for the Clement Payne Movement - a
community-based, activist organization in Barbados - criticized the decision as a missed opportunity to reduce oil import costs.
"The only conclusion we can come to is that the Barbadian government has buckled to the pressure no doubt coming from the US government," he said.
"The kind of revolutionary thinking, that Chavez is bringing back to the Caribbean, is an alternative to the neo-liberal, globalizing free trade policies of the United States. We think Chavez is the man of
Progressive leaders, in the Caribbean countries that have signed up to the PetroCaribe agreement, celebrated the deal as a break from what they see as US imperialism in the region.
As part of the PetroCaribe deal, in which Venezuela will upgrade the oil refinery in Kingston, Jamaica, the government will be required to scrap attempts to privatize the complex.
Jamaica’s National Workers Union vice-president, Danny Roberts, welcomed this development.
"Our union is of the belief that certain sectors of the economy shouldn’t be subjected to the whims of foreign investors," said Roberts, whose union includes workers in tourism, communications,
transport and the civil service.
Roberts welcomed the Venezuelan initiative as an alternative to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which he described as "inimical to the sovereignty, welfare and democracy of the region."
Until date, Haiti didn’t integrate Venezuelan oil agreement and provisional authorities didn’t give any information about that opportunity.
Barbados Nation newspaper - http://www.nationnews.com
Caribbean News Agency (CANA) - http://www.cananews.com
Los Angeles Times - http://www.latimes.com
’Eye on the Caribbean’ is realised by Charles Arthur, and is provided in a partnership between the Haiti Support Group and AlterPresse as a contribution to Haiti’s greater integration within the Caribbean region.