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Chavez proposes “oil for social services” to Caribbean region

Friday, December 21st 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Petrocaribe was created in 2005 Petrocaribe was created in 2005

Cuba's Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presided Friday in Cuba over the opening of the fourth Petrocaribe summit which will address the region's lack of sufficient energy resources.

Petrocaribe, brain child of Chavez is also seen as an effort from the Venezuelan president to counter US influence in Latinamerica and the Caribbean by offering cheap oil. The organization has 16 member countries with Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago attending as guests and Guatemala and Honduras as observers. In the inaugural speech Chavez, who wants to use Venezuela's vast oil reserves to help create a "confederation of republics" free of U.S. interests, called on regional leaders to ban together against the failed "dictatorship of world capitalism". Chavez said his plan should go beyond mere financing mechanisms and suggested that some countries repay the oil with social services following on the plans modeled between Venezuela and Cuba which provides doctors and other health professionals who work in impoverished areas of Venezuela. He also called for creating an international fund to promote alternative energy sources. "Despite the Yankees, our gas is at the service of Venezuela first, and next to our brothers in the Caribbean," Chavez said in a reference to the United States. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East and is the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the United States. Chavez spoke as leaders studied the Petrocaribe pact under which his country provides fuel to countries around the region through long-term, low-interest financing. Venezuela provides about 5 billion US dollars to countries in the region, according to Chavez, who promotes Petrocaribe as part of a larger effort to create a regional confederation from Argentina to Cuba that will help counter U.S. influence. Petrocaribe was created in 2005 as an alternative to Washington's unsuccessful Free Trade Area for the Americas. Raul Castro said that in the face of soaring international energy costs, the pact ensures Petrocaribe members are in a "privileged position." Venezuela also sends nearly 100,000 barrels of subsidized oil a day to Cuba. In exchange, it gets social services, including thousands of Cuban doctors who treat poor patients in the South American nation. Fidel Castro recently wrote that overall annual trade with Venezuela has reached 7 billion US dollars.

Categories: Energy & Oil, Latin America.

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