by Stephen Kangal
The decision of Prime Minister Manning not to sign on to President Chavez's Petro Caribe Deal in Puerto La Cruz that is geared to assist Caribbean countries with reduced prices for their energy needs is not unique. In 1973 former Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams refused to join the Caribbean pilgrimage to Caracas to participate in the Caribbean Basin concept that was promoted by then President Carlos Andres Perez. Perez wanted to give Venezuela a Caribbean country status. Dr Williams regarded the initiative as a threat to the political viability of the Caribbean Community and launched a scathing assault that year on the hegemonic intentions of Venezuela at the PNM Convention held in Chaguaramas.
However on this Petro Caribe Deal PM Manning must level with the population having regard to the growing importance of current TT-Venezuela energy relations. He must make a Statement in Parliament and bring the legislature/ population into the loop and mobilise their support for the defence of the national interest on the question of T&T's market share of Caricom countries.
Will the Petro Caribe Plan neutralize and upstage the T&T Caribbean Energy Fund established at $300 m to assist Caricom countries with poverty reduction programmes? Was T&T coerced by the Bush Administration into not signing the Accord because of our strong LNG links with Eastern USA in supplying 77% of US gas needs? Is T&T a willing accomplice to the US to predicate its foreign economic policies on its judgement of the internal political affairs of Venezuela? Will the Petro Caribe deal diminish our energy exports to Caricom and reduce the future economic feasibility of the proposed Caribbean Gas Pipeline/ LNG facilities? How does our current position on the Petro Caribe Oil Facility enhance the fortunes of our candidature for the Headquarters of the FTAA since Chavez with other leftist Latin American Presidents is opposed to the FTAA? Why did the Manning Administration not initiate pre-Puerto La Cruz consultations among his Caricom colleagues to achieve consensus on the Petro Caribe Plan having regard to the adverse implications of the Plan for current market share of the Caricom energy market?
T&T's contemporary energy relations with Venezuela are qualitatively different from the 1970's.These should be expanded and deepened in our mutual interest. We have negotiated a Cross Border Monetization Accord. T&T stands to benefit from the recent discoveries of huge gas deposits by Venezuela in the off-shore Delta Amacuro/Loran regions in that this gas can be piped directly from the gas-fields into the NGC/ Atlantic LNG grid and exported from Point Fortin. There has been potential Venezuelan interest in the Caribbean Gas Pipeline. We also need to be friendly with Venezuela to promote our future maritime boundary relations with Barbados, Grenada and Guyana.
The sensitivity of our relations with Venezuela cannot be shrouded in the secrecy of Cabinet because the future expansion of our world- class energy industry depends on it. Should the energy interests of the USA change it will dump T&T as it has done with other countries that considered themselves allies of the USA. That is the nature and modus operandi of the capitalist beast.
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