Caracas, December, 23 2007, (venezuelanalysis.com) - The 4th Summit of Petrocaribe, a regional energy organization initiated by Venezuela, concluded in the Cuban city of Cienfuegos Friday, with member nations signing new agreements to promote economic and social development and regional energy integration.
During his opening speech Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presented member nations with the option of paying for low-cost oil with goods and services instead of cash, based on the model of Cuba, which provides thousands of doctors to treat poor patients in Venezuela in exchange for around 93 000 barrels of oil per day.
Slamming U.S. imposed free trade agreements as "the road to hell" Chavez said that Petrocaribe aims to "resolve asymetrical access to energy resources through a plan of favourable, equitable and just exchange."
Petrocaribe is creating a "new geopolitics of oil" that serves the people's interests, and not those of imperialists or big corporations, Chavez said.
In addition to the 93 000 barrels to Cuba, through Petrocaribe Venezuela provides for the distribution of a further 53 000 barrels of oil and derivatives per day under favourable conditions of payment to member nations allowing them up to 25 years for repayment with 1 percent interest as long as the price of crude remains above $40 a barrel.
The summit addressed ways of implementing the exchange of goods and services for oil without burdoning countries with financial debt as well as more efficient energy use, potentials for technical and professional development and training and the creation of a fund for the financing of energy projects in the region. Chavez also called for the creation of an international fund to promote alternative energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power.
Members of the Petrocaribe include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, Venezuela and Honduras. Honduras was formally incorporated as the 17th member of the regional energy organization.
The daylong summit concluded with the inauguration of the reopened Camilo Ceinfeugos Oil refinery, closed for more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over $136 million in renovations have been made to the refinery, a joint Venezuelan-Cuban initiative, which will employ 1,200 people. It is expected that the refinery will initially process 65 000 barrels of oil per day, with the capacity to expand to 100 000 per day and will be part of the "logistics mechanism" for distributing oil to the region, Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said.
The Petrocaribe Summit had been an "extraordinary sucess" Ramirez affirmed, adding that Guatamala has also registered their intention to join Petrocaribe, and two other countries have expressed interest in joining the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a Venezuelan initiative, with the participation of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua aimed at promoting fair trade throughout the region in opposition to the free trade agenda of Washington.
Acting Cuban President Raul Castro also stressed the importance of ALBA and Petrocaribe as evidence that "a better world is possible."
Without ALBA, Cuba would not have been able to reopen the Cienfuegos refinery, Castro said during the closing of the Summit.
"We truly believe in solidarity, cooperation and the joint capacity to develop our countries for our people," he added.
"At a time when the oil prices have broken every record, creating an extremely complex situation to most of the oil importing third world nations, the member countries of Petrocaribe are in a privileged position," Castro declared.
Chavez, who arrived in Cuba on Thursday, also held a 2 and half hour "emotional" meeting with convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The Venezuelan president also inaugurated 100 "petro-houses" donated by Venezuela, produced from petroleum products based on Brazilian technology. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who recently visited Venezuela and conducted a long interview with Chavez, also attended the housing inauguration, before meeting with workers in Cuba.