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Petrocaribe -More facts, less ideology

Economic and political integration is the only choice in the 21st Century in the face of globalization. The European Union is effective despite existing troubles concerning endorsement of a constitution for 25 states that seek both economic and political union with common institutions. Latin American governments, by means of Mercosur, the Andean Community of Nations, and Caricom, act accordingly.
Thus, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Asian Pacific look for more geopolitical and geo-economic room, beyond the state-nation concept. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez clearly understands that for the purposes of multiple poles in the face of US hegemony, sub-regional and regional integration ought to be supported.
The Andean Community of Nations (CAN) established in 1969 under the Cartagena Agreement and freshened up in April 1996 with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru, should be strengthened. But also, the South American Common Market, which came into force in January 1995 with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and associate members Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela, should be reinforced. As Venezuela is an oil nation and OPEC founding member, it can offer oil and gas as input for energy integration, hence the initiative of Petrosur and Petroandina.
Now, the new initiative is the establishment of Petrocaribe including the Community of Caribbean States established in 1973, and mostly composed of English-speaking nations.
Fifteen nations from the region met in the city of Puerto La Cruz, eastern Anzoátegui state, to improve oil links with Venezuela -a compulsory reference due to its hydrocarbons potential. It is a project for energy cooperation that follows the initiative of former governments with easy terms for the Caribbean. The only difference now is the inclusion of Cuba.
For the Venezuelan president, socialism of the 21st Century is premised on the Cuban model. Therefore, Havana is to be a central piece in Petrocaribe -the new grouping. If the process is to advance in a rational way, it should share common policies with Petrosur in the context of Mercosur, and Petroandina, within the framework of CAN.
Any oil initiative for the Caribbean -in the face of oil prices over USD 60/barrel and considering critical domestic economies- should be implemented forthwith. OPEC member countries use oil as a tool in foreign policy. In this particular case, Venezuela should cash in on this project for domestic purposes beyond any authoritarian temptation to extend the Bolivarian revolutionary model and the prestige of the head of state.
Arab nations, particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates capitalize on high prices to further development and as reserve for future generations. They allot more than 10 percent of oil revenues to foreign investment because hydrocarbons will be depleted in the medium term.
In addition to the Venezuelan commitment to the Caribbean that dates back to the fourth republic and will continue for sure after President Chávez, hemispheric energy integration should reflect in the best national interest. Foreign policy should not be an ideology. Needless to say oil policy. There is need to be pragmatic. It is time to establish a well-reasoned foreign policy with the recipients of the Petrocaribe project.
Therefore, clear policies should be made for the 15 nations meeting in Puerto La Cruz:
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, and particularly Cuba.
As for Havana and Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, admiration of the model and veneration of the caudillo should be put aside. This is the case for all Caribbean countries, CAN and Mercosur. A sense of real business should guide Venezuelan interests and goals. Oil is a non-renewable resource. It is not government property but belongs to state and future generations.
* Julio César Pineda is an ambassador and foreign affairs analyst.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

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