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Venezuela’s Chavez Pledges to Meet

Wall Street Journal

Venezuela’s Chavez Pledges to Meet
Long-Term Oil Needs in Caribbean

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged on Saturday to meet Caribbean nations’ oil needs for years to come, and urged the region to unite and seek greater independence from the U.S.

Mr. Chavez deepened past pledges to share his country’s oil wealth as he addressed a summit of nations taking part in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil initiative, which supplies fuel under preferential terms.

“If we truly unite .. the grandchildren of our grandchildren will have no energy problems,” Mr. Chavez said. He predicted oil prices will soon hit $100 a barrel but said “the Caribbean shouldn’t have problems this century and beyond.”

“Venezuela puts this oil wealth at the disposition of our peoples of the Caribbean,” Mr. Chavez said. “It belongs to all of us. We’re going to share it like Christ. .. It will be enough for everyone.”

Venezuela still counts the U.S. as its top oil buyer, although Mr. Chavez has sought to diversify his clientele amid tensions with Washington by selling more to Latin America, the Caribbean and as far away as China.

Since 2005, when Mr. Chavez created Petrocaribe, 14 countries have joined Venezuela’s pact, which lets them finance up to half their oil bills over 25 years at low interest. It is set to expand with the addition of Nicaragua, which was represented at the talks by President Daniel Ortega.

Countries are allowed to pay off part of their oil bills in goods and services. Dominican President Leonel Fernandez said his country hopes to begin an exchange program offering hotel and tourism training to visiting Venezuelans.

Caribbean countries have already saved $437 million on their oil bills by participating in Petrocaribe, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said.

Mr. Ramirez said Friday that Venezuela is making progress helping upgrade or build refineries in Cuba, Jamaica and Dominica — an effort that comes as Mr. Chavez’s government seeks to decrease its reliance on a network of U.S. refineries.

Source: The Wall Street Journal