Venezuela was once a major oil exporter to the Caribbean, particularly under the PetroCaribe energy initiative which saw refined fuel products shipped to Antigua and Barbuda among other countries.
But the programme nosedived in recent years amid a steep drop in Venezuela’s domestic production and refining, exacerbated by American sanctions.
As a result, Caribbean governments have resorted to sourcing most of their fuel from the open market, with soaring prices currently being felt by motorists at the gas pumps.
PM Browne recently said US sanctions against the South American country are negatively impacting the wider region.
And he added that he had no qualms about the consequences that may come from the US for those who deal with Venezuela.
Barbados’ ambassador to Caricom David Comissiong says the Caribbean Community has never recognised any embargo against Venezuela or Cuba – and the US has no any right to mandate member states do so.
Speaking on Wednesday’s Observer AM show, Comissiong was also adamant that regional leaders should not sit idly by and allow the US government to dictate what happens as it relates to bilateral agreements.
Antigua and Barbuda is one of a handful of Caribbean nations that are members of the intergovernmental body ALBA. Founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004, ALBA is associated with left-leaning governments wishing to consolidate regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid.
“There are so many Caricom countries that are members of ALBA and our countries have never broken trade and economic relations with Venezuela,” Comissiong continued.
“I know that there was a bit of hiatus in the PetroCaribe energy cooperation arrangement because of the severe difficulties Venezuela has been under over the past couple of years but they have signalled that they are re-energising this programme, and I would imagine that all of the Caricom countries will continue to participate in the programme,” Comissiong said yesterday.
Sanctions restrict the Venezuelan government’s access to US debt and equity markets. They also include the state-run oil company, PDVSA.
In August 2019, President Donald Trump imposed additional sanctions on the country, ordering a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the United States and barring transactions with US citizens and companies.
Last month, Washington announced it was moving to ease a few economic sanctions on Venezuela in a gesture meant to encourage resumed negotiations between the US-backed opposition, led by Juan Guaido, and the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
Comissiong said regional leaders were right to inform current US President Joe Biden at a recent meeting that the sanctions are doing more harm than good.
“Our foreign ministers took that position last year, calling for the removal of sanctions against Venezuela, so it is a collective Caricom position and we should try as much as possible to have a common position and to act collectively so it is not Antigua on its own,” he added.
Comissiong also shared his opinion on comments that were made by Antigua’s ambassador to the US regarding the relevance of the Commonwealth in light of the current heads of government meeting in Rwanda.
Sir Ronald Sanders said he wanted to see a more robust approach to addressing climate change and other problems affecting small island developing states.
“In the past, we have not been assertive enough, about our news, our rights, what is due to us and reforms that we must demand to be made in the relationships with former colonies and those that need to be made in the wider international arena,” Comissiong added.