Sun | Feb 25, 2018

We value your help - Washington tells Kingston its role in region is appreciated

Published:Thursday | February 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Gleaner Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) shakes hands with United States Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson just before both men fielded questions from journalists at Jamaica House yesterday.

Calling Jamaica its closest partner in the region, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday pledged continued support by his government to bolster the capacity of Jamaica's security forces to clamp down on transnational and other crimes impacting both countries.

"We appreciate that the Government of Jamaica has made important progress in combating lotto scamming, cooperating closely with US authorities to extradite suspected lotto scammers to the United States and establishing a bilateral lotto scam task force," Tillerson told local and international journalists at a press conference at Jamaica House. He was in the island yesterday for a three-hour working visit, after travelling to Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.

On the question of the ongoing political instability in Venezuela, Tillerson said that his country valued Jamaica's role in tackling the major issues in the region.

"Jamaica's votes in the OAS (Organisation of American States) to achieve stability, prosperity and support democracy in Venezuela has demonstrated exceptional support to human rights issues that confront us in the western hemisphere."

With the US imposing wide-ranging sanctions against the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela, Tillerson said that his country would continue to put pressure on the ruling administration to "return the country to free and open democratic elections. The people of Venezuela deserve this."

He stressed that the US would take all actions possible to persuade the Maduro regime to restore democracy to the country.

"As to any future steps that the US might take regarding sanctioning oil or products to put more pressure on the Maduro regime, we are going to take into full consideration the impacts of regional countries as well," Tillerson said.

Venezuela supplies oil to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries under the PetroCaribe agreement. This allows Caribbean countries to access oil on favourable terms from the South American country.

However, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told journalists at the Jamaica House press conference that the country has not been receiving oil from Venezuela.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley told journalists yesterday that Jamaica last received a shipment of oil from Venezuela in May 2017.

"Notwithstanding that, Jamaica, from an energy security perspective, we are in a good position in terms of being able to purchase fuel, whether refined products or crude from Trinidad, the Gulf of Mexico or the Spot Market."

He said that Jamaica sources oil under PetroCaribe when the price on the international market increases to more than US$70 per barrel. According to Wheatley, with the current price being less than US$60 per barrel "the special benefits that we get from the PetroCaribe agreement does not come into play even if we were taking petroleum products from Venezuela."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com