Op-Ed: Chavez and the Caribbean

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - March 6, 2013

By David Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

What be will the impact of Hugo Chavez’s death upon the Caribbean and the Hemisphere at large?

It’s likely that, eventually, the bilateral relationship between Venezuela and Cuba, which was predicated on the personal relationship between Chavez and the Castro brothers, will recede.

Without Cuba and Venezuela acting as a bilateral platform, the United States might be able to initiate a needed rapprochement with Cuba. Many State Department insiders have wanted to work towards normalizing relations between Washington and Havana and to restore diplomatic relations between Washington and Caracas. This could provide an opening.

Bilateral relations between the United States and Venezuela have been strained since Chavez assumed the Presidency of Venezuela in 1999. Chavez reflexively blamed the United States for all of Venezuela’s ills and for interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.

Despite the hostile rhetoric, however, the United States still was Venezuela’s major trading partner, and a significant supplier of oil.

The rest of the Caribbean is faced with the possible loss of the PetroCaribe Agreement subsidizing oil for Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, Haiti and a number of Caribbean nations.

The mathematics of PetroCaribe play a significant role in Jamaica’s ability to close the recent IMF agreement.

Without PetroCaribe, the Jamaica Dollar would be put under tremendous pressure, as oil prices could increase significantly.

Jamaican Minister of State Julian Jay Robinson recently noted that, without PetroCaribe, Jamaica would have to find an additional $500 million annually to pay for oil imports.

The Island of Dominica, a recipient of PetroCaribe subsidies, has declared a state of mourning. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller expressed deep and profound sadness at Chavez’s passing and called him “a leader with a helpful heart.” Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar called Chavez’s a “great friend of Guyana” and a “committed integrationist.”

For most Caribbean nations, PetroCaribe represented the largest, individual source of bilateral aid from any country or institution.

What’s next for the region in the post-Chavez era?

Political unrest in Venezuela is not out of the realm of possibility.

The Venezuelan Constitution calls for an election within 30 days of Chavez’s death, which will pit Chavez’s preferred successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, against Henrique Capriles Radonski, an opposition Governor.

The major speculation is that if Capriles wins, the pro-Chavez military will not tolerate a centre- right regime, although right now Maduro is favoured to win.

What will happen to Venezuela’s oil exports and the PetroCaribe Agreement while these issues are being resolved?

Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution was complicated and dependent upon his larger-than-life personality for practical operation.

He created a presidential personality cult, abolished term limits and controlled the Armed Forces, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the state oil company.

Most Caribbean leaders were happy to benefit from his munificent international policies, but must have looked at his domestic policies with silent trepidation.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

Popular Posts belize hotel mayan world

At the Falling Leaves Lodge in Belize, a Portal to the Maya World

SAN IGNACIO — There has been some form of settlement on this site for more than 3,000 years, here on a leafy hill above the town of San Ignacio, Belize. In other words, this is no ordinary hill. This is Cahal Pech, […]

In San Ignacio, Belize, The Art of Adventure (And Pupusas)

pupusas belize

The sizzle is calling you. In the early morning, corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and beans and meat sing a particularly strong siren song.  It could be that perfect blend of dough and heat, or the aroma. It might just […]

Delta Is Adding More Nonstop Curacao Flights, Citing “Booming Demand”  

the beach at the avila hotel in curacao

Curacao is hotter than ever, with a wave of new hotels and record-breaking tourism numbers. And just a few months after Delta made its long-awaited return to the island, the carrier is adding even more flights.  The reason? What Delta […]

Related Posts

Op-Ed: Rethinking PetroCaribe

By Jevon Minto Op-Ed Contributor The International Monetary Fund’s Director for the Western Hemisphere Department, Alejandro Werner, warned this week, during a forum held in Montego Bay on Unlocking Economic Growth in the Caribbean, that the likelihood of fallout in […]

Owners of St Croix's HOVENSA Seek Extension on Sales Agreement

Above: the HOVENSA refinery in St Croix By the Caribbean Journal staff The owners of the HOVENSA oil facility in St Croix have asked for an extension of the agreement governing the sales process for the property, the US Virgin […]

Major Oil Discovery in Trinidad

Above: Port of Spain (CJ Photo) Spain-based energy firm Repsol recently made what Trinidad’s government is calling a “major” oil discovery. The Ministry of Energy said Repsol had discovered 40 million barrels of oil, which is “already on production and […]


Sign up for Caribbean Journal's free newsletter for a daily dose of beaches, hotels, rum and the best Caribbean travel information on the net.

No. Thank You