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PETROCARIBE: Chávez handouts go regional

By Gustavo Coronel

July 4, 2005 | The strategy of handouts that is functioning so well for Chávez in Venezuela is now being extended to the Caribbean countries and there is no apparent reason why it should not work as well among those countries, at least while the money lasts. Caribbean countries are poor, the oil is becoming more expensive every day and local governments will welcome every opportunity to get some kind of financial relief. They know that payment will be demanded later, in the OAS or the United Nations, if the time ever comes to vote on the Chávez regime as a violator of democracy. But, they think: "that is then and this is now!" It always seems like a good deal to exchange hard cash for vague promises.

The golden rule: He who has the gold, rules

Under the terms of the agreement signed by the Caribbean governments establishing PETROCARIBE, the main strategies and policies of the new organization will be coordinated by the Council of Caribbean Ministers but will be managed directly by . . . guess whom? Venezuela. The Secretary General will be a Venezuelan and this officer will be the one establishing the priorities of studies and projects of the organization. The funding of PETROCARIBE will be essentially supplied by Venezuela since the agreement does not mention any other definite source of financing. In fact, Chávez has already provided for an initial contribution of US$50 million to this organization.

Venezuelans, not Chávez, will pay the bill

The Venezuelan regime is also creating an affiliate of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) called PETRÓLEOS DE VENEZUELA CARIBE that will operate tankers, storage, terminals, refining capacity, distribution of fuels and products and other facilities required. Nobody, especially Chávez, knows yet how this affiliate will operate or how it will receive the assets from Venezuela and who will pay for the costs and how. This affiliate company would be working on behalf of a regional organization, of which Venezuela will be only one of several members. All of the members should contribute to the initial costs and recurrent operational costs of the organization. But this is nowhere stipulated! Venezuela appears as the only contributor. And this means the Venezuelan people, not Chávez, who, according to our Constitution, is only a servant of the Venezuelan people and is certainly not authorized to give our money away on arbitrary whims. The way PETROCARIBE has been set-up, however, involves a negligent use of Venezuelan national resources. According to Venezuelan Law this would be a crime punished by prison, if there were public officials in Venezuela properly doing their job of protecting the national patrimony instead of doing the job of protecting Chávez.

Castro gains control of the Caribbean oil market

Of course, this affiliate of PDVSA will have a close relationship, in fact, it will be identical in composition, with the office recently opened in Cuba by Chávez. This will, in practice, give Fidel Castro a prominent role in the distribution of Venezuelan oil in the Caribbean and will increase the Cuban influence in Venezuelan internal affairs. The masochistic dependence of Chávez on Castro is reaching incredibly high levels and already constitutes an act of treason against our national sovereignty.

How much will Venezuelans pay for this gigantic handout?

The costs to Venezuelans of this undignified political maneuver by Chávez are extremely large. According to the terms of the agreement, when the price of oil exceeds $50 a barrel (we are already there) Venezuela will finance 40% of the bill, with 2 years of grace, 25 years to repay and an interest rate of 1%. You heard well! One percent! And the unpaid portion of the bill can be paid in services or goods (beans have already been mentioned by one of the Caribbean leaders). Even putting aside the absurdity of exchanging non-renewable oil for beans (at what price beans?), what stands out as the main crime by the Chávez regime is that of giving away our national resources in an arbitrary manner, with the purpose of buying political loyalties from weaker states. By doing this, Chávez distracts financial resources from the desperate needs of the Venezuelan population. During his years in power, in spite of the highest oil income in history, national poverty under Chávez has increased by more than 10%, abandoned street children have proliferated and waste, crime and corruption are rampant. This man has no right to dispose of our national wealth in order to promote his decadent political ideology, that laughable mixture of Bucaram, Mussolini and the Latin American regional caudillos of the XIX century.

It is an insult to our intelligence to read, among the conceptual basis for the creation of PETROCARIBE, the following: "To secure a fair and reasonable valuation of energy resources, especially those of a non-renewable nature." Trading oil for bananas and beans is what Chávez means by such a fair valuation?

PETROCARIBE will probably come to be known by some other names, after the Chávez nightmare is gone: PETROFRAUD, PETROTREASON, are some of the good candidates.

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