Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Where is the outcry for Venezuela?

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Venezuela, for some time, has been going through serious turmoil brought about by the country's impending political and economic instability. This reality has been further thwarted by the effects of climate change.

Ironically, Venezuela, which sits on one of the world's largest oil reserves, is now struggling to produce adequate electricity for its 30.4 million citizens. The country, which primarily uses hydro-electricity, is unable to supply enough power as rivers run dry because of the impact of the El NiÒo weather pattern.

In an effort to conserve energy, the Venezuelan government, in April, had to cut power supply for four hours a day for a month-long period in its major cities. This led to outrage among citizens whose day-to-day lives were disrupted. Businesses in the public and private sectors across the country have been hampered, too. The Government now works two days a week to save on energy. Food security is now a threat, as persons scramble to find food to feed their families. Food imports have lessened because of the devaluing Bolivian currency.

The rationing of electricity is blamed on several factors, which include infrequent rainfall, mismanagement of public resources, sabotage by the political opposition, as well as corruption.

Additionally, Venezuela is experiencing a public-health emergency as hospitals fail to properly treat patients because of a shortage of resources. This has led to a number of deaths among patients, including babies.

The people of Jamaica owe a lot to Venezuela and have a vested interest in the happenings of the country, especially at this time. Jamaica has benefited significantly from bilateral agreements signed with Venezuela.

In 1980, the San Jose Accord saw Jamaica earning great savings from the concession of oil prices granted by the Venezuelan government. Monies from this fund were used by the National Housing Trust to build residential units for thousands of Jamaicans. Greater Portmore, which is the largest housing development in the English-speaking Caribbean, also came out of the San Jose Accord.




Other support from Venezuela has been manifested in the form of the PetroCaribe Agreement under the stewardship of the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Under this agreement, Jamaica received oil upfront from Venezuela with the opportunity to pay for it at a later date with an interest rate of two per cent per annum. This has helped to strengthen our economy since the deal was signed in 2005.

Last September, President Nicolas Madura visited Jamaica for the opening of the Bolivar Cultural Centre in downtown Kingston. This cultural centre was gifted to Jamaica from Venezuela and marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between both countries. This event also commemorated the 200th anniversary since the Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar, penned his famous Letter from Jamaica while on exile in the island.

My heart weeps. Let us join forces in solidarity and help our longstanding neighbour and friend, Venezuela, in its time of need.