Caribbean countries warned to look for alternative sources of oil post-PetroCaribe
BASSETERRE, St Kitts and Nevis - Caribbean countries are being warned about the possibility of having to look to alternative sources of oil, after the recently elected opposition coalition in Venezuela announced it will review agreements under the PetroCaribe energy agreement.
These countries include the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) states, which obtain Venezuelan oil on concessionary terms.
Prior to the recent parliamentary elections in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro during a trip to St Vincent and the Grenadines stressed that PetroCaribe was more than just an energy pact.
"There should be no doubt in our minds that PetroCaribe today is the backbone of the energy, social and economic development of our region," he said.
The Venezuelan president now has to contend with a parliamentary majority in Caracas intent on taking a critical look at PetroCaribe.
One leading parliamentarian, Tomas Guanipa, the re-elected deputy to the National Assembly is quoted as saying that Venezuela's oil is for Venezuelans.
"We cannot continue selling oil in 20 years when we are in need of immediate resources. We will promote that our oil is for Venezuelans," he said.
Antigua-based analyst Arvel Grant told WINN FM that PetroCaribe has made a significant impact on the region.
"PetroCaribe is a fundamental part of the reason most of the Caribbean economies have survived the crisis that we've all gone through over the past eight years," Grant contended.
"I think that any significant change in the way it is configured now will probably cause some significant difficulty for most of the economies," he said.
Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says while PetroCaribe is important to Kingstown, the country does have other options.
"By the end of 2018 I expect to have 80 percent of the electricity in this country generated by renewable energy," Gonsalves explained.
Along with Cuba and the Dominican Republic, ten of the countries of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have signed on to the PetroCaribe agreement.
They include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts and Nevis.
St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris has been saying that PetroCaribe is important to the federation, and any watering down of the arrangement would impact in a negative way.
By Ken Richards