Without Petrocaribe, Caribbean would be like Mediterranean - Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicol·s Maduro has said were it not for the PetroCaribe arrangement, the region would be experiencing a humanitarian crisis similar to what is taking place in North Africa and Asia, where people are fleeing by the thousands to get to Europe.
"We can safely say that without PetroCaribe, our Caribbean would be a Mediterranean," said the president during his visit to Jamaica this past weekend.
Speaking during the opening of the plenary for the 10th anniversary summit of PetroCaribe, Maduro said the energy-centred agreement has stood the test of time, is achieving its purpose, and proposed four ways in which it can be enhanced.
In what has become known as the European Refugee Crisis, hundreds of thousands of people seeking to escape conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa have been fleeing from Syria and Iraq, as well as from continuing violence and instability in Afghanistan and Eritrea.
Maduro said that when world oil prices reached more than US$100 per barrel, the PetroCaribe facility became the saviour for many countries as they were able to use the amount that had been deferred to do developmental projects like education, health, and investment in infrastructure.
"Ten years ago, when the first steps were taken ... that newborn child, and they heard his cry, the Herods of the world wanted to drown this newborn child," Maduro said.
GROWTH IN GDP
He said that there has been a 26 per cent combined growth in GDP among countries that have signed the agreement and argued that the formula has helped to stave off hunger, brought development, and assisted in energy security.
"Without PetroCaribe, the Caribbean would be like the Mediterranean area. We cannot shade our eyes so as not to see reality as it is. There is a Mediterranean crisis that is happening and ... people are dying," the Venezuelan president said.
In charging PetroCaribe members to aspire to seeing SimÛn BolÌvar's dream come to fruition, he borrowed the phrase made popular by US President Barack Obama, saying, "Yes we can."
"We can construct another world ... one of sharing, one of equality."
Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said PetroCaribe is an important mechanism for closer cooperation and greater unity among countries in the region.
"The PetroCaribe arrangement has been a lifeline for many of the region's struggling economies and for our people," the prime minister said.
The summit is taking place at a time when Venezuela is suffering from economic downturn amid falling oil prices and speculation over the health of the oil pact.
"Despite your challenges, you have proved to be true friends of the people of Jamaica and the Caribbean and Latin America. Since that historic signing, the region has seen significant benefits and increased developments in many areas. Additionally, PetroCaribe has engendered a sense of independence in our region," Simpson Miller said.
She added: "PetroCaribe has a future in the energy security and socio-economic development of Jamaica and the region. Without the PetroCaribe arrangements, some of the most vulnerable countries in the region would have succumbed to the global economic crisis in 2008 as well as subsequent challenges."