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Commentary: Puerto Rico may consider PetroCaribe?
Published on July 3, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Mark Laporte

At a time when individuals and opposing political parties in some Caribbean islands are voicing disagreement that their island is signatory to the PetroCaribe agreement with Venezuela and that, given the opportunity, they would revoke the agreement, Puerto Rico, a US territory, seems ready to consider what some island opposition parties would gladly do away with.

An article in the San Juan Daily Star of June 27-29 suggested that Puerto Rico should advantage of an invitation to join PetroCaribe.

At a time when the Puerto Rico power company is apparently broke and facing bankruptcy, Venezuela President Maduro’s invitation to the island may just be what the doctor ordered, especially in the light of major investment thrusts set to begin here.

The Padilla government had considered raising airline fuel charges but concerned airline executives expressed that such an approach would have had a negative effect on passenger arrivals to this American territory since the cost would eventually be passed on to the flying public.

Gasoline prices are increasing in Puerto Rico.

Ought we not, in some of the islands that are already part of the PetroCaribe agreement, carefully examine what our aspiring leaders are telling us with respect to this agreement?

The full text of the San Juan Daily Star’s article by Maria Amanda-Sierra entitled: PR Should take Venezuela Up on PetroCaribe Invite, Independence Group Says follows [emphases are mine].

The Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH) on Thursday called on Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to accept Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro’s offer of joining the regional alliance PetroCaribe before declaring the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) in a state of bankruptcy.

“What is going on with the governor and PREPA that they haven’t expressed their interest in speaking with PetroCaribe about the possibility of benefiting from Maduro’s offer?” MINH said in a written statement. “This is worrisome and raises suspicions.”

In addition to petroleum, Venezuela supplies natural gas and gasoline, and offers advice on renewable energy transformation processes such as wind energy and thermal ocean energy, according to the MINH press release.

According to MINH, PetroCaribe was created due to the abuses that foreign-flagged ships perpetrate in the Caribbean regarding the sale of fuel, raising prices excessively. The agreement is based on the elimination of all intermediaries so that only those entities directed by the governments can intervene. Through the alliance, Caribbean nations purchase Venezuelan petroleum under the condition of a preferential payment, and the payments can be made through the exchange of services, providing advice and offering other products that Venezuela may need.

“Venezuela supplies petroleum to the PetroCaribe member countries at a fair price. The country making the purchase pays 40 percent of the bill in 90 days and the remaining 60 percent is financed for 20 years at a very low annual interest rate,” MINH Co- President Héctor Pesquera said. “This would mean a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars and the recapitalization of PREPA. It would save PREPA from having to file for bankruptcy and it would lower the cost of energy production immediately.”

The Star tried to obtain a reaction from La Fortaleza regarding if and when the Venezuelan government made this offer, but as of press time the press office had not issued a statement.

One of the conditions for benefiting from the preferential payment offered by PetroCaribe to its member countries is that there can't be intermediaries that profit from the purchase. The benefit has to be passed on directly to the consumer," Pesquera noted. “We suspect that the intermediaries at the Petroleum Cartel at PREPA are preventing the people of Puerto Rico can benefit from this opportunity. The governor owes the country an explanation. Or perhaps what he wants is for the public corporation to go bankrupt to be able to justify its privatization.”

PetroCaribe member countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, El Salvador, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominica, Granada, Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, San Cristóbal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent.

Mark Laporte is a St Lucian writer and agriculturist, and a former teacher. He researches and develops topics of interest whether or not he publishes them.
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