EDITORIAL: Barbados and Hugo Chavez’s Petrocaribe
It is good to know that at this time when rising fuel prices continue to impact on the general cost of living, fresh thinking is being encouraged for Barbados to revisit its absence from among the countries of the Caribbean that have long been beneficiaries of Venezuela’s significantly subsidized Petrocaribe project.
Credited as a “visionary initiative” in 2008 of the late President Hugo Chavez – who recently lost his battle against cancer – some 17 countries of the Caribbean region are currently benefiting from the very favourable terms under which Venezuela regularly makes available oil shipments.
It’s of significance that, separately over the weekend, Venezuela’s ambassador to Barbados, Jose Gomez Febres, and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley took the opportunity to suggest that Barbados should move to access the benefits of Petrocaribe.
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a parliamentary opposition when countries across the region were queuing to sign the Petrocaribe accord. It took no known initiatives, during its first term, for Barbados to be a beneficiary. It would, of course, have had ample time, during its first term to reflect on the benefits.
As the Venezuelan ambassador said: “There are benefits for this country and I hope that soon Barbados will sign up . . . I am sure that the leaders of both political parties feel Barbados should enter the agreement . . . .”
Well, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, whose BLP was in government when Barbados opted to stay out of Petrocaribe, had made it quite clear during the general elections campaign that should his party be victorious, the new administration would access Petrocaribe.
Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, for different reasons, were countries that had not embraced Petrocaribe, the latter being CARICOM’S sole energy-based economy and was even viewed as a likely casualty of the accord.
What, however, is often ignored was the laudable commitment to sustaining a valued “CARICOM partnership” that had influenced the then Patrick Manning-led administration in Port-of-Spain to facilitate a necessary amendment to the Community’s Common External Tariff (CET) for its regional partners to access the benefits of Petrocaribe.
That decision, which was to initially result in some disadvantage to state-owned Petrotrin as a long-serving competitive oil exporter to member states of CARICOM, was most vital for implementation of President Chavez’s Petrocaribe project that has helped to lubricate over the years the economies of so many countries contending with the burden of ever-rising energy costs.
Petrocaribe is certainly, for CARICOM, a treasured memory of the friendship spawned by the visionary leadership of Hugo Chavez.