Thursday, June 30, 2005

More on Chavez's PetroCaribe fiasco

Well, it is now confirmed that Trinidad and Tobago with Barbados did not sign the final "summit" agreement in Puerto La Cruz. Really not much more to add than what I already wrote in the previous two posts, except for a survey on how this is hitting the news.

First, El Universal has two articles already translated in English. The first one is a dispassionate analysis on how Venezuela should lead its foreign and oil policy, with a minimum of business sense.
In addition to the Venezuelan commitment to the Caribbean that dates back to the fourth republic and will continue for sure after President Chavez, hemispheric energy integration should reflect in the best national interest. Foreign policy should not be an ideology. Needless to say oil policy. There is need to be pragmatic. It is time to establish a well-reasoned foreign policy with the recipients of the Petrocaribe project.

The next article reports how fast problems started arising during the meeting, revealing how amateurish was the organization where probably Chavez announcements and personal fantasies would be enough to carry the day. Words of Manning, T&T prime minister were quoted (or was that translated?):
This entails that Venezuelan byproducts will have competitive advantage as compared to my nation's products. I think you forgot about our supply, and we would like to analyze further this proposal. This is troublesome, as some facilities are owned by multinational corporations, and they are not state property.
Yes Mr. Manning, you got that right. I am pretty sure that nobody in the Chavez administration paid attention to what the needs of Trinidad and Tobago were. Not to mention that Chavez probably assumes that any leader should manage the oil business as his very own personal property. So, what are you waiting for to nationalize your oil industry Mr. Manning?

In the longer Spanish version of this article we can read that actually some foreign representative was heard saying in the hall ways:
The problem is that this proposal was not negotiated and discussed by all, but was presented by Venezuela, without receiving observations from the other parties.
Right again. Except that the emissary still thinks that Venezuela has anything to do with that document. No, this is a project that was pulled out by Chavez just like that, without any serious consulting or research, except perhaps Castro.

The coercion of Chavez did not work on Barbados which is the wealthiest of the area and who can afford to buy oil wherever it wants and thus ignore Chavez whims. It did not work either on Trinidad and Tobago who is dispatching all what it can to the US and does not feel compelled to make the price adjustments that Chavez wants to impose in the Caribbean oil market, not because on some sound economical study, but just because him and Fidel said so. T&T have other ways to help their kindred sister islands without having to resort to oil discount.

Actually T&T by balking out has helped its sister islands, allowing them to sign up while still seeing Chavez trumped in his clumsy attempt at grabbing the region’s control. They did have to sign even if a few were about to refuse at first and had to be cornered to do so. They probably feel better about signing now that T&T did the job to trash the summit. And thus go back home with a good financing agreement without having had to say NO to Chavez.

Finally the news is picked up at its just measure by some financial papers. Investors Business Daily seems to have beaten the Wall Street Journal on that matter with a fast editorial. (here if the link expires). Bloomberg also produced two updates on the matter.

The only question left is which heads are going to roll in Caracas. The heads to roll are trying really hard to put the blame on a letter from the State Department that was sent earlier to the Caribbean governments. However it is clear from the emerging stories that Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados had perfect reasons on their own and that all is due more to the inefficiency of the Venezuelan Foreign Service than any supposed US pressure. After all, all but 2 signed...

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