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Obama to offer Alternative to Venezuelan Crude on Caribbean Swing


US President Barack Obama


WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – Barack Obama will become the first US president to set foot on Jamaican soil in more than three decades Wednesday, as the United States bids to check Venezuelan influence in the Caribbean.

Obama will arrive in Kingston for a meeting with the 15-member CARICOM Caribbean bloc, the first time a sitting US president visits the island since Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Obama will be keen to offer an alternative to cheap Venezuelan oil, which has enticed many of the region’s struggling economies, but looks set to end.

Obama will have to woo countries that while geographically close to the United States, sometimes feel politically distant.

“We absolutely feel that the CARICOM region does deserve greater attention and engagement from the United States,” said senior Obama advisor Ben Rhodes on the eve of the visit.  He pointed to a recent energy initiative led by Vice President Joe Biden.

“We are looking to continually deepen our relationship with the Caribbean and can play an important role in enhancing the energy security of the region,” said Rhodes.

The United States had “significant” energy resources and infrastructure, he added.

If the US has not always made its presence fully felt in the Caribbean, that vacuum was filled by Petrocaribe, an initiative by Caracas’ state-owned PDVSA — Petroleos de Venezuela.

The program offered Caribbean and some Central American nations the opportunity to defer payment for oil under low interest rates.

But as Venezuela’s own economy has faltered as oil prices slid, Caribbean states have faced stricter terms and shorter supplies, leaving them vulnerable.

Venezuela “has been reducing its subsidized oil exports to Petrocaribe and the smaller states that receive those subsidies including Cuba,” said Ted Piccone, a former advisor in Bill Clinton’s White House.

Piccone, now of the Brookings Institution, said the cuts to Petrocaribe are estimated to be anywhere between ten and thirty percent of supply.

“The goal of the United states now is to try to break up Petrocaribe and offer in particular the Caribbean states that are so vulnerable and so dependent on energy imports some extra special attention.”

Obama will arrive to Jamaica late on Wednesday. Before the CARICOM meeting on Thursday he will hold talks with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.



Category/ies:Jamaica News.
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