Magdalena Morales / Reuters – 2005-07-05 23:26:27
Venezuela’s Chavez Creates Caribbean Energy Pact
Magdalena Morales / Reuters
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela (June 30, 2005) — Oil exporter Venezuela signed an energy cooperation pact on Wednesday with 13 Caribbean states, including Cuba, in a move that strengthened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s political challenge to US influence in the region.
The Petrocaribe alliance, under which Venezuela will directly supply cheaper oil to its partners, will cut the energy bills of Caribbean states whose small island economies are struggling to cope with soaring world oil prices.
But in a disappointment for Chavez, two Caribbean states, fellow oil and gas producer Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, did not initial the Petrocaribe accord. Trinidad expressed reservations the deal could undercut its own oil shipments.
Nationalist Chavez and other Caribbean leaders hailed the energy pact as a move that will increase their collective sovereignty and economic independence in a region long dominated by US political and commercial power.
“For the countries of the Caribbean, Petrocaribe represents a welcome lifeline,” Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson told the meeting of Caribbean leaders, including Cuban President Fidel Castro. Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter and a leading oil supplier to the United States, but Chavez is seeking to diversify energy ties.
“Venezuela wants to share its energy potential with South America and the Caribbean,” Chavez said earlier as he outlined the Petrocaribe initiative, which will create a regional oil shipment, storage and refining network promoted by Venezuela. Chavez said this would eliminate intermediary private oil traders and offer improved preferential terms for payment.
In a verbal broadside against the United States, Chavez accused Washington of meddling in his efforts to create the Petrocaribe alliance and said he may one day have to break off relations.
He made the warning after reading a letter critical of his rule, which he said was sent by the State Department to some of the Caribbean nations attending the meeting. “We would have reasons to break relations with this (US) government, out of dignity,” Chavez said angrily.
He said the US letter sent to Caribbean leaders spelled out Washington’s concern over “threats to Venezuela’s democracy” under his rule. It also accused him of using Venezuela’s oil to try to destabilize countries like Bolivia and Ecuador by supporting radical groups, he added.
US officials have portrayed Chavez and Castro as troublemakers bent on stirring up left-wing revolution and anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America and the world.
Chavez said Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA had created an affiliate, PDV Caribe, to coordinate the Petrocaribe plan. The initiative is part of Chavez’s effort to bolster Caribbean and Latin American economic unity to counter what he calls “imperialist” U.S. free-trade policies.
“It gets Venezuela more votes in the Organization of American States and consolidates Chavez politically,” said Michael Shifter of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank.
Venezuela also signed Wednesday a fresh bilateral oil supply contract with the Dominican Republic and a memorandum of understanding to possibly invest in a Jamaican refinery.
The nations which attended the Venezuela summit were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited
Castro: No Plot against Me at Caribbean Oil Summit
China Daily News
(JUNE 30, 2005) — Cuban President Fidel Castro said his visit to Venezuela for a Caribbean oil summit Wednesday was possibly the first overseas trip he has taken in which foes have not mounted a plot to assassinate him.
Castro told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other Caribbean leaders that his last-minute decision to attend the meeting in Venezuela appeared to have thrown of any who may have been plotting against him.
“This is possibly the first visit made in which there was no plan to attack me, simply because I wasn’t going to make the trip,” said Castro, citing assassination plots thwarted during past summits.
Castro said that he occasionally uses two airplanes — one for travel and another as a decoy — when attending summits as a means of confusing militants bent on assassinating him.
The Cuban government claims there have been countless assassination plots against Castro and his closest advisers.
“I have had to make things up all may life in order to survive, which is a miracle,” Castro to a rousing applause from many of those present at the meeting.
“You are a miracle, Fidel,” said Chavez, a loyal admirer of the 78-year-old Cuban leader. “Fidel has said that this is the only summit in which they didn’t have time to prepare an assassination attempt, and I believe him.”
Security was tight near the resort where the talks were being held in the coastal city of Puerto La Cruz, with troops blocking roads and stopping cars for checks.
Castro, Chavez and top officials from 14 other Caribbean countries met for talks Wednesday on a Venezuelan plan to sell fuel more cheaply to the region as world oil prices remained near record highs.
Most of the delegations were expected to sign an accord to set up a cooperative program for Venezuela to distribute fuel across the region on preferential terms.
“Today I propose to the Caribbean that we form an energy alliance,” Chavez told the visiting leaders, saying the oil plan would be a new force for integration.
The initiative, called Petrocaribe, would extend and improve special financing arrangements under past oil deals and use an expanded fleet of Venezuelan tankers to deliver fuel directly to bypass costly intermediaries, Chavez said.
Castro, who arrived in Venezuela on Tuesday, said Cuban authorities detected two assassination plots when he visited Venezuela’s Margarita Island for a summit hosted by his close friend and ally Chavez in December 2001.
Castro accused the United States of backing many of assassination plots against him.
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