St. Lucia says it is not adversely affected by Venezuela crisis

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 11, CMC – The St. Lucia government says the island has not been affected by the economic crisis in oil-rich Venezuela even though the island is a signatory to Caracas’s oil initiative, PetroCaribe.

“St Lucia has never taken a gallon of petroleum products from Venezuela,” Energy Minister Dr. James Fletcher, told reporters as he responded to comments reportedly made by United States  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America and the Caribbean, Juan Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said that some Caribbean countries were running into fiscal problems now that the padding provided by Petrocaribe is no longer there.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

Fletcher said that while he could not speak on behalf of the other Caribbean countries, in the case of St Lucia, the initiative has not impacted the local economy at all.

He said that while St Lucia was one of the early countries to agree to the arrangement, the previous administration did not avail itself of that opportunity.

Fletcher noted that when the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) was returned to power in 2011, it re-established relations with Petrocaribe.

“There were one or two areas that we wanted to enter – for example the supply of fuel to our ships in the harbour,” Fletcher said, adding that St. Lucia believed that this was an area of competitive advantage.

Regarding the ongoing political situation in Venezuela, Fletcher told reporters “I think at the end of the day what we want is democracy and the will of the people to prevail and however that manifests itself is something we will always respect”.