Venezuelan president makes pit stop in Jamaica
Venezuelan President Nicolas Máduro is now in the island for a one-day working visit.
Máduro, who is facing serious pressure at home, arrived in Kingston yesterday afternoon and is slated to leave this afternoon for Trinidad and Tobago.
Today, Máduro is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Andrew Holness, before attending a luncheon hosted by the PM.
The Venezuelan president is also slated to host a media briefing, attend a floral tribute at the Simon Bolivar statue at the National Heroes Circle, and visit the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre in North Parade before leaving.
Máduro's visit comes at a time when opposition forces are stepping up efforts to oust him.
60-day state of emergency
Yesterday, army troops were deployed around Venezuela's capital of Caracas in what reports suggested was one of the country's largest-ever military exercise as part of a 60-day state of emergency ordered by Máduro.
But last Wednesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Venezuelan protesters demanded a referendum on ousting Máduro, defying riot police who fired tear gas and the state of emergency that the opposition has blasted as unconstitutional.
According to AP, Máduro has warned that if anti-government acts turned violent "I will not hesitate" to ratchet up the extraordinary measures in force, "to fight for the peace and security of this country".
And last Friday, Coca-Cola announced that it was halting production in Venezuela of its namesake beverage due to a sugar shortage brought on by the country's economic crisis.
The Atlanta-based company said its production of sugar-sweetened beverages would be suspended after local suppliers reported they had run out of the raw material.
The move came as Venezuela's economy appeared to be teetering on the edge of collapse with widespread food shortages, and some experts expecting inflation to surpass 700 per cent in the oil-rich nation.
Venezuela and Jamaica have long enjoyed strong relations, with Máduro continuing the PetroCaribe oil deal, which was introduced by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez.
The PetroCaribe deal is an agreement between Venezuela and some Caribbean territories to purchase oil on preferential terms and to convert some of the payments to long-term loans.