Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Venezuelan Embassy remains mum on Petrojam takeover

Published:Friday | January 18, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

The Venezuelan Embassy in Kingston remains silent on the unravelling of the Petrojam partnership in which the Jamaican Government is looking to retake the 49 per cent stake the South American country owns in the state-owned oil refinery.

Several attempts by The Gleaner to get a comment from the chargÈ d'affaires, Luisa GutiÈrrez, have proved futile.

"Ms GutiÈrrez is not able to speak on the issue," The Gleaner was told in one of several telephone calls placed to the embassy since news of the takeover went public last week.

In fact, The Gleaner has tried repeatedly, without success, to get Venezuela's views on the furore over issues pertaining to Petrojam since the auditor general tabled a report in Parliament last year examining operations of the oil refinery and its parent company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

Venezuela's PDV Caribe, an affiliate of the state-owned PetrÛleos de Venezuela S.A., and PCJ entered into a joint-venture agreement that resulted in the sale of Petrojam shares in August 2006 and February 2007, respectively.

However, failure by PDV Caribe to act in accordance with the agreement, which involves upgrading of the ageing Petrojam refinery, has resulted in Jamaica's decision to use legislation to retake the shares.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith said that the decision is based purely on economics and not on politics.

"Let me make it clear that our decisions regarding efforts to ensure the viability of Petrojam have not been political. They are purely economic," she said in an article published in The Sunday Gleaner of January 13, 2019.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com