2005-08-25 / Caribbean Corner

Caribbean Roundup

PM P.J. Patterson, President Chavez sign oil deal

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – With its oil bill approaching US$1 billion for this year and international petroleum prices hovering around US$65 per barrel, Jamaica yesterday sealed an agree-ment to purchase oil from Venezuela on concessionary terms.

The agreement was finalized during the visit of the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who met with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay yesterday.

“The main purpose of President Cha-vez’ visit is for the Governments of Jamaica and Venezuela to sign a bilateral agreement to put into effect agreements signed in Venezuela on June 25 this year,” Commerce, Science and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell informed The Gleaner.

PetroCaribe, the bilateral agreement between Jamaica and Venezuela seeks to provide crude oil at a reduced rate.

“The matter of the effective date of the agreement has been worked out, along with matters dealing with quantity of supplies and pricing. Jamaica is entirely satisfied,” said Paulwell.

The “subsidies” under the PetroCa-ribe agreement include five percent when oil price is US15 per barrel; 40 percent at US$50. There will be an initial grace period of two years for repayment. Part of the purchases can be paid for by Jamaican goods and services. The agreement also allows for the modernization of Petrojam, the state-owned refinery as well as the establishment of a fund for socio-economic programs. The Venezuelan Government has already contributed US$60 million to the fund.

President Hugo Chavez arrived in Montego Bay yesterday afternoon at 4:00, approximately seven hours behind his scheduled arrival time. He was met at the airport by Custos of St. James, Clarence Nelson, Deputy Mayor of Mon-tego Bay Cecil Davis and Minister Paul-well, who headed the Jamaican welcome party.

The security at the Sangster Inter-national Airport took special measures to ensure that no harm came to the Venezuelan President.

“We have been working closely with our Venezuelan counterparts and every single security detail has been properly checked out,” said a senior police officer. “We cannot allow any harm to come to President Chavez in Jamaica.”

From as early as midday yesterday, heavily-armed policemen and soldiers could be seen taking up positions on roofs and other strategic positions in-side the airport compound. When the jet carrying the Venezuelan president landed at the airport, security officials appeared to outnumber government officials and dignitaries on the tarmac.

While there were no reports of plans to harm President Chavez during his brief visit, Jamaican officials were on red alert after United States televangelist Pat Robertson yesterday called for Mr. Chavez to be assassinated. Relations between the U.S and Venezuela have been strained since a botched military coup in April 2002, which Chavez accused the U.S. of spearheading. The Venezuelan Presi-dent has also charged that Washington is hatching a plot to overthrow his government.

Barbados to revisit immigration policy

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) – The Barbados government has dismissed suggestions that it is discriminating against Guyanese nationals and says it is creating a new immigration policy to deal with migrant labor.

Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley said that as of last week, there were 5,032 people with permanent status in Barbados including those who have citizenship, permanent residence and Caribbean Community (Caricom) skill-ed workers.

She said people with temporary status including those with temporary and short-term work permits and student visas amounted to 3,200.

Mottley, speaking on the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Cor-poration (CBC) said as a result, immigration officials were spending a lot of energy going through records to track down those people who have overstayed their visit.

The attorney-general said developments over the last three to four years have forced the government to revisit the basic tenets of its immigration policy including the proposed establishment of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the need to place greater emphasis on border se-curity following the 11 Sept., 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.

She said another factor was the le-vel of prosperity the economy has been enjoying over the last two decades.

She said the new policy paper and immigration legislation, which should be tabled in Parliament within the next nine months, would address how Barbados deals with this expansion of workers particularly in the agriculture and construction sectors.

The attorney-general said Barbados is anxious for Caricom to complete a protocol on Contingent Rights, which would set out procedures approved by member states for people traveling within the community.

Opposition against electoral legislation

CASTRIES, St Lucia (AP) – The leader of the small opposition Organi-zation for National Empowerment (ONE) Sarah Flood-Beauburn said she is likely to seek support from the opposition parties in St. Lucia regarding the recently passed amendment to the Elections Act 1979.

Flood-Beauburn, who was asked to leave the parliament last week, said the amendment would provide an unfair advantage to the ruling St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP).

The legislation provides the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to each appoint 88 scrutineers, who would assist in the process of cleaning up the electoral lists, ahead of the next general elections.

But Flood-Beaubrun said the legislation places the ruling party at an unfair advantage over all other opposition parties since it provides that the leader of the opposition be the person nominating an equal number of scrutineers as appointed by the prime minister on behalf of the opposition parties.

Currently, the island is faced with an unusual situation where the leader of the opposition in Parliament does not belong to any political party, as the current holder, Marcus Nicholas was expelled from the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP).

Flood-Beaubrun said if the Prime Minister was interested in ensuring that democracy prevailed in the country, then he would ensure that as was done in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, and Guyana, where all parties contesting the elections are entitled to the same number of scrutineers.

Leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) Ausbert d’Auverg-ne has also vowed to mobilize all the resources available to his party to ensure that the legislation does not become law.

Dominica agrees to Digicel’s purchase of Cingular wireless

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) – Domi-nica has endorsed Digicel’s plans to acquire Cingular Wireless’ operations in the Caribbean country, an official said.

Full approval is expected at a meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Tele-communications Authority Council of Ministers on Saturday, said Dominica Telecommunications Minister Regi-nald Austrie.

The island of 70,000 people has three mobile phone providers, including Cingular.

“It is in the best interest of the consumers to grant a license to Digicel,” Austrie said. “There will be greater competition for market survival. That means lower prices and improved quality of service.”

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