During his weekly radio and television shows broadcast on 2 October,
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez offered to include Haiti in his PetroCaribe initiative to provide Caribbean nations with oil and petrol.
Eleven Caribbean countries have already agreed to be supplied with fuel on low interest terms and with deferred payment, but the interim government in Haiti has so far not shown any interest in joining them.
At the end of September 2005, the government of Gerard Latortue announced it
would initiate diplomatic steps through the Haitian ministry of industry and
commerce in order to obtain petroleum products at a better cost than that on
the international market. However, no precision was provided as to with which
countries these steps would be taken.
All the same, the ethanol would be one of the tracks of energy under consideration with the government of Brazil, whose Foreign Minister Celso Amorin visited Haiti recently.
Chávez’s annoucement followed a visit to Brazil where he said he had
discussed Haiti with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva (Lula) whose military leads a United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti.
"We’re going to give a hand to the people of Haiti", said the Venezuelan leader adding Lula had asked him to provide aid to Haiti, and without giving any further details.
Chávez’s remarks about including Haiti in the PetroCaribe agreement come after the country has experienced a series of fuel price rises in recent months.
The price rises have not only forced up transport costs, but have had a knock-on effect on the cost of other essential items too.
In September, a platform of progressive Haitian organizations called the Collective to Mobilize against the High Cost of Living (Kolektif Mobilizasyon Kont Lavichè in Creole) demonstrated against the price rises and started to collect signatures for a petition calling on President Chávez to press for Haiti’s inclusion in PetroCaribe.
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.
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.
Kolektif Mobilizasyon Kont Lavichè
’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.