Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gonsalves on ALBA

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has defended this country’s membership in the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), after announcing that Caracas is providing millions of dollars in assistance to Kingstown.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of three Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in ALBA that was established as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposed by the United States.

The other CARICOM members of the grouping are Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica. They are joined by Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba in the initiative pushed by Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez.

Gonsalves, who will attend the ALBA summit in Caracas on April 19, said that the National Development Fund in Venezuela had provided the EC$54 million (US$20 million) as part of the EC$134 million (US$50 million) that St Vincent and the Grenadines was promised from the ALBA group of institutions.

“You recall I had announced in the budget that we were going to get US$ 50 million. I was hoping to receive the first portion of money earlier in the year but there were a number of administrative hiccups,” Gonsalves said.

“Now this amount which we are getting is the US$20 million at 2.6 per cent over 20 years. Where you are going to get that type of money … I must unsign ALBA? I must unsign Petrocaribe?” he asked in response to criticisms by the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of the increasingly close links being developed between Kingstown and Caracas and Havana.

PetroCaribe allows a number of Caribbean countries to purchase oil and energy products from Venezuela with only a certain amount paid up front and the remainder paid through a 25-year financing agreement on a very low interest rate.

Following his visit to Caracas, Gonsalves will travel to Bolivia for the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and then to Brazil on April 26 to attend the Brazil-CARICOM summit.