Sunday, April 21, 2024

OUR CARIBBEAN: Major decisions for Caricom at summit in Chile

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This weekend’s two-day summit of Heads of State and Government of CELAC (Community of Latin America and Caribbean) nations that begins tomorrow in Santiago, Chile, is scheduled to deal with a significant new proposal from Venezuela for the creation of an “exclusive economic zone” to improve energy-based benefits under the original Petro-Caribe project launched by President Hugo Chavez in June 2005.
Basically, the intention is to transform Petro-Caribe, which currently involves most CARICOM countries, from largely an oil-exchange trading accord, which has helped their economies amid constantly rising oil prices, to an economically integrated multilateral project involving also member nations of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternatives For The Americas).
The initiative for this Petro-Caribe/ALBA cooperation – both originating with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez – resulted from a joint meeting in Caracas earlier this month of government representatives there to demonstrate solidarity with Venezuelans anxious for the recovery of their Head of State from cancer-related operations in Cuba.
While arrangements were being concluded for this weekend’s CELAC Summit, the president of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, was disclosing in Caracas that member countries of both Petro-Caribe and ALBA have been working out details of the plan to create the proposed “Petro-Caribe exclusive economic zone”.
While most CARICOM Petro-Caribe beneficiary countries are not currently members of ALBA, a few are to consider becoming members of either ALBA or the Petro-Caribe project. More significantly among these would be Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago – the latter being CARICOM’s sole oil and gas exporter.
The proposals circulated for the proposed Petro-Caribe exclusive economic zone include two modes of direct multiple participation by means of “productive connection among countries”, according to the president of Venezuela’s oil company.
This latest initiative by Venezuela’s government is expected to be among issues for wider consideration by the CELAC representatives in the Chilean capital for their meeting that will be preceded by a working session with representatives of the European Union.
The draft “Declaration” proposed for adoption at this weekend’s CELAC/EU dialogue notes that for the first time Latin America and the Caribbean would be gathering for “the bi-regional dialogue at the highest level within the framework of CELAC, the representative mechanism of this region that shall promote its interests and objectives on integration and development”
Further, the “Declaration of Santiago” recalled previous EU/LAC summits that “have served to strengthen the bi-regional dialogue on issues of common interest and we note CELAC’s will to uphold dialogue with the EU, expressed in its decisions at the highest levels”.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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