Jamaica and seventeen other countries currently benefit from the PetroCaribe Agreement. PetroCaribe, created in 2005,is the brainchild of Comandante-President Hugo Chavez Frías, the socialist president of Venezuela who passed away in 2013. Under the agreement, regional countries are allowed to pay for 5-50% of the oil at current market price with a one to two year grace period with the remainder covered over 17-25 years.
In the Jamaican context, while the price of oil exceeds US$40 per barrel, between 30% and 70% of each invoice is financed and the loan is repaid over 25 years at 1% interest rate per annum. Below US$40, between 5% and 25% of each invoice would be financed over 17 years at a 2% interest rate per annum (petrocaribejm.org)
The PetroCaribe Agreement has provided for Jamaica and many other CARICOM and non-CARICOM countries a secured supply of energy which has helped to cushion our people from economic harshness especially in the times of high oil prices where up front payments for our supply would wreak havoc in already weak Caribbean nations. The stories of PetroCaribe in every single country that benefits are very positive and for the positives that this agreement has provided our nations, we owe an obligation to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
As Nicolas Maduro signals that he is being undermined by external forces, we have sat silently, being soothed by stories coming from the media painting him as delusional and positing a view devoid of reasoning. Let us face it, the media is a very biased institution. If we take a look at the USA right now, we see the many media houses that have banded against Bernie Sanders just because he describes himself a Democratic-Socialist and the many houses that cannot help but be biased toward the Democrats of the GOP with zero intent of being objective. What then of Maduro? Would any of these outlets really write an objective story of Venezuela? A socialist country on the far left? The media is controlled by monied interests who would love to just see a fall of the Maduro regime and the rise of Capriles so they may enter and exploit the Venezuelan people.
Until proven otherwise, we must give Maduro the benefit of the doubt that he is being undermined by external forces. His main opposition, Henrique Capriles is a known supporter of capitalist governance and I do not put it far from “the west” to grant him support in overthrowing the socialist Venezuelan government (remember Chile? Grenada? Cuba? Guatemala?)
While media try to create panic about Maduro’s leadership, it is Henrique Capriles and the far right wing opposition that we should be worried about as PetroCaribe countries. Lest we forget, Capriles did plan to scrap the PetroCaribe Agreement had he beaten then opponent Hugo Chavez in the 2012 Venezuelan elections. Now I cannot tell you all the benefits of PetroCaribe in this single blog post but you can find those benefits rather easily from the PetroCaribe website (petrocaribe.org).
Capriles back in a 2012 speech said, “From… 2013, not a single barrel of oil will leave to other countries.”
It’s 2016 and thanks to the continued preferential deal under the Chavez and now Maduro government, Jamaica and seventeen other countries continue to benefit from PetroCaribe. We are being presented with a classic case to “do supn before supn do we.” Nicolas Maduro is a friend of CARICOM and Latin America and friends must seek to assist each other especially when in crises (time to return a favour to Venezuela).
Today, I call on every beneficiary of PetroCaribe to protect Maduro’s government (and themselves) to assist with providing relief to the Venezuelan people. Capriles and his men determined to gain state power by all means. Their intent at this point is not to seek assistance for Venezuelans but to see to the worsening of the crisis at hand (manufactured or real) then lead a coup d’etat post two election losses; two rejections!
I urge PM Holness to take the lead in organizing a meeting of PetroCaribe beneficiaries to put a plan in place to assist Venezuela and I urge the opposition, The People’s National Party, that formed government when the deal was signed to apply the pressure to the government until Jamaica does its part to assist a nation that has been so generous to us.