Prime Minister Revives Petro Caribe Agreement During Recent Trip to Venezuela
Prime Minister, John Briceño, returned to Belize today after a three-day official visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. PM Briceño led a delegation to the South American nation to meet with President Nicolas Maduro with an agenda to discuss topics of mutual interest. High on the topics of discussion were plans to reinitiate Petro Caribe, the regional oil acquisition agreement between Venezuela and several Caribbean nations. The media caught up with PM Briceño when he touched down at the PGIA and he highlighted that President Maduro pledged to restart this program, and there were also negotiations on restructuring Belize’s debt to Venezuela. He was accompanied by Financial Advisor, Ambassador Mark Espat, whom the prime minister says was instrumental in coming up with an approach to address that debt.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize :“Looking at trying to reconcile what happened with Petrocaribe but more in particular see how we can revive the Petrocaribe program to be able to see if we can in the near future once the United States is to ease up the restrictions or the sanctions against Venezuela, that they would allow us to be able to import subsidized fuel from Venezuela. One of the things that we’ve been looking at we are trying to restructure the entire net of Belize. Tying to see how we can reduce the debt to GDP. We have done successfully the Super Bond and now we have the Blue Bond. We are looking at how by growing the economy that we can continue to reduce debt to GDP and of course Venezuela is another one but more work is left to be done. Ambassador Mark Espat has been working on this for a very long time and we have gotten him to be able to look at it and to see how we can address it because it requires many things when that time comes if we can settle on a definitive figure of what would be outstanding because then we have to see how is it that we can pay and we have to make sure that we follow the laws and to respect the sanctions of the United States government has imposed and we’re hoping that the United States government would either sooner or later be able to ease the restrictions so that countries can be able to meet their legal obligations to a sovereign country like Venezuela.”
However, in recent years, the Petro Caribe agreement has spurred much criticism since most of the member countries have been left indebted to Venezuela as a result of sanctions posed by the United States Government. Our Newsroom asked Prime Minister Briceño if he is not concerned about whether renewing the country’s pledge to this agreement will backfire.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I don’t know what the criticism could be. I think it would be in the interest of Belize if we are can be able to reduce the cost of fuel. The last shipment for diesel fuel the price went up I think about $1.40 I think or close to $1.50 per gallon and what we decided to absorb that by reducing the taxes because the price is already way too high so we could not afford that so as we reduce the tax we continue to lose millions of dollars in taxes, money that is desperately needed especially after a hurricane. So I don’t think anybody in their right mind can criticize the government of Belize for trying to find a way how we can revive the Petrocaribe accords probably on a different conditions or a different set of agreements.”
During this visit, a communique was signed between the two leaders confirming cooperation in several areas such as health, education, agriculture, and housing. According to PM Briceño, the Venezuelan Government will be assisting hurricane victims.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “They have a program where they build low cost housing and so they’re prepared to make that available to Belize so that we can quickly build some homes for the most needy, the ones that were affected during the hurricane. But we were also talking about agriculture and the very cost of fertilizers and they producer fertilizer so they are again we want to see how we an work a program where they can assist us at reduced prices for fertilizers for our farmers.”
President Maduro has been invited by the Prime Minister to visit Belize in 2023.