by Kaymar Jordan
Even in the face of very challenging economic times, Barbados has no immediate plans to sign on to the PetroCaribe Agreement.
That’s the word today from this country’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), John Beale, who pointed out that serious questions had been raised about the sustainability of the Caracas oil deal, in light of the ongoing turmoil in Caracas.
Noting that Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago were never part of the original pact, Beale told Barbados TODAY: “I have no reason to think that Barbados will change its policy.”
He also pointed out that Venezuela had recently been under tremendous pressure, adding “whether or not it [PetroCaribe] will continue, I don’t know.”
“Barbados has never entered into that situation because you do realize you still have to pay for it [the oil]; it is still a loan. You are not getting it any cheaper. So it is not a matter that they are giving you any oil; you are not getting the oil free. What you are doing is you are taking a long-term loan. Whether or not you have a capacity to pay is something different,” said Beale, who seriously questioned whether the Venezuela offer was still on the table.
The OAS Ambassador spoke against the backdrop of a vote on Venezuela last Friday at the level of the hemispheric organisation.
On that occasion, Barbados was the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to abstain from the process.
However, with the support of other regional countries, the Government in Caracas still managed to achieve its objective, which was to prevent public discussion at the OAS of its political crisis.
This, after Panama had accredited an opposition lawmaker in Caracas, Maria Corina Machado, to its delegation so she could speak about the situation at home, where more than 30 people have been killed in anti-government protests since February 4.
In explaining the position taken by Barbados, Beale described Venezuela’s request as “unusual”, noting that the norm within the OAS Permanent Council was for meetings to be held in public but he said Venezuela apparently wanted to have it closed.
“The CARICOM countries with the exception of Barbados voted to close it,” he said.
However, the ambassador made it clear that Barbados’ position had “nothing to do with supporting Venezuela or not supporting Venezuela”.
“In the OAS there is a general rule that a country has the right to put forward a case to be heard, whether you like it or not and so it is not a matter of for or against,” he said, pointing out that Barbados’ foreign policy through the years had been built on the Errol Barrow principle of “friend of all and satellite of none”.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Barbados Jose Gomez has described the situation in Caracas as “upsetting”.
The Venezuelan envoy has taken note of Barbados’ position on the OAS vote. He has also noted Bridgetown’s continuing reluctance to sign on PetroCaribe.
However, he has made it clear that his government’s latest offer, made a year ago to Bridgetown, of a bilateral scheme (50 per cent payment in 90 days and the remainder in 21 years), was still on the table.
He said five months ago Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had promised him he would call him on the offer, which would also see Venezuela making funds available for use by Barbados for investment.
However, he is still awaiting that call.