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Towards the end of November 2012, the Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam visited Barbados, and during the course of that visit, he and his entourage had a meeting with then Opposition Leader Owen Arthur at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Parliament Buildings.
I, David Comissiong, attended that meeting as a guest of Minister Farrakhan.
During the course of that meeting, Mr Arthur expressed the opinion that United States’ President Barack Obama had totally neglected the Caribbean region – had, in fact, done less for the Caribbean than even George Bush – and that it was Hugo Chavez and Venezuela who were making meaningful contributions to the Caribbean.
Owen Arthur also informed us he had come to the conclusion that he had made a mistake by not having Barbados sign on to Venezuela’s Petro Caribe Energy Cooperation Agreement when he was Prime Minister of Barbados.
He went on to inform us that if his Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won the General Election due in 2013 (and he became Prime Minister again), he – Owen Seymour Arthur – would be taking Barbados into Petro Caribe.
In light of the foregoing, it is truly remarkable and bemusing to hear the same Owen Arthur now talking about signing on to Petro Caribe as being tantamount to “selling the foreign policy of Barbados”.
Furthermore, the Caribbean countries that signed on to Petro Caribe were not doing Venezuela a favour. Rather, they were taking advantage of a very generous Venezuelan offer of deferment of payments on the purchase of energy supplies, as well as access to grants, concessionary loans and social and economic development projects.
It should be noted that hardly a day passes in Venezuela without the right wing critics of Chavez lambasting him for – in their words – “giving away” Venezuela’s precious resources to the Caribbean nations through Petro Caribe.
The fact is that as late as the end of November 2012, Owen Arthur was raring to sign on to Petro Caribe as a programme that was in the national interest of Barbados and did not need any further persuading on the matter.
Fortunately, there must have been a good 20 or so people in that meeting room in November 2012 – all of whom can verify the truth of what I say here.
– DAVID COMISSIONG