The door is still open for Barbados to purchase oil under the PetroCaribe agreement at generous preferential terms, resident Head of Mission at the Venezuelan Embassy Franciso Perez Santana has said.
Dismissing concern that prevailing turmoil in the Spanish-speaking country had put a damper on the oil deal sealed 11 years ago, Santana insisted the initiative was not under threat and was in fact working well.
“There are no plans to stop the oil deal . . . PetroCaribe is still alive and have enough life to continue,” he told Barbados TODAY
Acknowledging Barbados’ initial reservations about the arrangement set up by then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005, Santana suggested there was still much that Bridgetown could gain from the initiative beyond oil.
“There are all the benefits that other countries have. Do you know that with PetroCaribe, you can pay for oil over 25 years with a two-year break before the first payment?
“It is also more than just oil,” he noted, citing well established social programmes in Caribbean countries that purchase the subsidized oil from Caracas.
“For example, in Jamaica with PetroCaribe, there is a social programme to build houses and others to help people with their health. It is not just to buy or sell oil or to set up an oil refinery to produce petroleum products. It is also for the people’s development.
“PetroCaribe was the idea of Commander Chavez with Commander Fidel [Castro] to encourage integration . . . there are now 18 countries in PetroCaribe, It is not going to stop.”
Barbados, along with Trinidad and Tobago and Montserrat, refused to sign on to the oil alliance when it was launched at the height of crippling world oil prices.
Then Prime Minister Owen Arthur had explained that the pact was not in Barbados’ best interest, since it would hurt Trinidad and Tobago. which was providing the island with petroleum products at discounted rates and providing 50, 000 barrels of oil per day to the region.
Arthur had also expressed concern that Barbados would have acquired too much debt.
Under PetroCaribe, the payment system allows countries to purchase oil at market value for five to 50 per cent up front with a grace period of one to two years. The remainder can be paid through a 17 to 25-year financing agreement with one per cent interest if oil prices are above US$40 per barrel.
The Venezuelan Government said it had sold more than $28 billion to participating nations across the Caribbean and Central America.
Caribbean countries that have signed on the agreement include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, The Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
The Venezuelan official said he intended to raise the matter with local authorities as he seeks to deepen relations with Bridgetown.
Santana assured that Caracas valued its relation with Bridgetown and he disclosed plans to press for more co-operation in key areas such as culture, education and business.
“Our cultures are very close so we can build a relationship there. We want to continue teaching Spanish at our Venezuelan Institute for Culture and Co-operation and maybe we can have an agreement with the University of the West Indies to interchange English and Spanish teachers.”
The Venezuelan Head of Mission is also hoping to increase trade with Barbados.