March 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Panama and Venezuela are set to enhance commercial ties after the visit of Panamanian President Martin Torrijos to Venezuela on Tuesday.
In a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Torrijos officially requested Panama’s entrance to the Venezuelan regional energy initiative Petrocaribe, which currently includes 18 member nations. The agreement allows these countries to receive discounted oil from Venezuela, with the remaining cost converted into a long-term, low interest loan that the mostly poor Caribbean nations can also pay off with goods and services.
Panama’s request will be evaluated by representatives from Petrocaribe nations when they meet next week, according to Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro.
“The agreement will enable us to receive petroleum-derived products, with very attractive financing, and will open the door for our producers and merchants to trade products with Venezuelans,” he said. Specifically, the presidents discussed a deal to exchange Panamanian agricultural products for Venezuelan fertilizer. Panama’s Commerce Minister, Gisela Alvarez, remained in Caracas to solidify projects, Navarro added.
Chavez and Torrijos also agreed to increase passenger air flights between the two nations.
In a joint declaration, the presidents also touched on international issues, highlighting “the need to promote a more democratic and participatory international system, with clear rules, particularly in the [U.N.] Security Council.”
In honor of Torrijos’s visit, Venezuela’s Vice President Ramon Carrizales and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro unveiled a bronze bust of Omar Torrijos, late father of the current president and leader of Panama from 1968 to 1981, at the Venezuelan Military Academy.
Torrijos thanked the officials and President Chavez “for this homage to a Panamanian who was born in a poor province and history gave him the chance to fight, in more than 100 years of struggle to end colonialism in our country.”