A regional energy security plan was among the key priorities of Caribbean leaders as they met over the past few days in Suriname and now, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has decided to tap Venezuelan oil, once again, to meet the region’s needs.
This is according to Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, who spoke at the closing press conference held at the conclusion of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in Paramaribo, Suriname.
The elder Caribbean leader acknowledged that the rising cost of fuel globally has severely affected the import-dependent Caribbean.
This rising cost, which worsened this year, has been attributed to the Ukraine/ Russia crisis and sanctions imposed on Russia- a key global supplier of oil.
To counter this challenge, the Prime Minister told reporters that CARICOM is seeking to resume the “favourable” PetroCaribe arrangement with Venezuela.
This is expected to benefit the “independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) but other countries within CARICOM,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said.
He did not specify which countries would benefit from the renewed arrangement but highlighted that the Venezuelan leaders, after meeting with Gonsalves more than two months ago, agreed to provide a 35 per cent discount on fuel sold.
Vincentian media, in April, reported that this discount was applicable to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other participating OECS states.
As CARICOM seeks to tap Venezuelan oil, the Prime Minister said that the United States (US) will be asked to lift certain sanctions imposed on Venezuela- particularly those that will allow the resumption of the PetroCaribe arrangement.
With existing sanctions, shipping arrangements and payment processes are affected.
But, he noted that the US appears to be seeking a carve-out with Venezuela for its own benefit and CARICOM must also be considered.
“You can’t on one hand go looking for carve-outs for Europeans, you can’t at the same time go into Venezuela looking for some special arrangement to get more oil and then we are suffering,” the Vincentian Head of State said.
Previously, through the PetroCaribe arrangement, Caribbean countries were able to purchase oil from the Spanish-speaking country on generous payment terms.
About half of Guyana’s oil was obtained through this arrangement and the country supplied Venezuela with paddy and polished rice, as a means of settling some costs. This arrangement between Guyana and Venezuela deteriorated in 2015, after Guyana found oil and Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s Essequibo intensified.
Guyana has since recorded numerous profitable oil finds offshore in its Stabroek Block and its President Dr. Irfaan Ali had touted the creation of a new regional energy security plan, harnessing the newfound oil and natural gas resources in Guyana and Suriname.
On Saturday, ahead of the meeting of the Heads of Government, Surinamese President and current CARICOM Chairman Chandrikpersad Santokhi said that the exportation of gas from Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) could help solve the region’s energy woes.
Asked about the progress on this plan at the closing press conference, President Santokhi only reminded reporters that CARICOM agreed to intensify cooperation with the US on food and energy security, and efforts to combat the climate crisis.
His closing remarks did not mention that new regional energy plan, either.