FRIDAY the 13th means different things to different people the world over. To the superstitious, it’s a ‘Black Friday’ – a day to remain on edge and expect ‘bad luck’. To the Seventh Day Adventist, it’s the start of their weekly Sabbath. For Muslims, it’s their weekly day of prayer at the mosque. And for us in the Caribbean, it’s the date of the anniversary of the Grenada Revolution of 1979.
But just as the Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skeritt went to Grenada last Friday to deliver a major address on the role and place of the revolution in Caribbean history, we see and hear signs and signals from Washington that it could be readying to do to Venezuela what it did in Grenada: end a revolution to start its brand of regime change.
Interestingly, just as Washington claims to be getting ready to ‘normalize’ relations with Havana, just as President Barack Obama is saying he wants to bring Cuba into the American fold, Obama is, at the same time, threatening to reverse the progressive and revolutionary process that has been unfolding in Venezuela since the start of this century.
President Nicolas Maduro is continuing along the same path set by his predecessor Hugo Chavez: pursuit of a Venezuelan brand of socialism that will not be dictated by Washington, but by the needs of Venezuela. But where the Americans thought Maduro would have changed from Chavez’s path, the current Venezuelan president has turned out to be no less committed to Venezuela’s national sovereignty than the man who chose him as his successor.
But why should Washington so want to see regime change in Caracas? What does America have to gain by getting rid of Maduro and erasing the Chavez legacy? Answer: It’s all about oil.
A little known (and much suppressed) fact is that Venezuela has the largest certified reserves of oil underground – more than Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, American oil is running out — and with world oil prices too high to maintain, America wants to change the global energy game.
By extracting shale gas through a still-uncertain process called ‘fracking’, America has been moving with much pace to replace oil with natural gas. That way, instead of depending on the Middle East for fuel, the rest of the world will come knocking on America’s door for ‘natural gas’.
Same with the Caribbean: Washington wants to stop CARICOM states from getting too accustomed to receiving oil from Venezuela, so US Vice President Joe Biden invited CARICOM leaders to Washington to lecture them about how bad Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fuel is — and how much better American “shale” gas can be for the Caribbean.
With Venezuela having delivered — on easy credit terms — over US$200 billion worth of PetroCaribe oil to Latin America and the Caribbean so far, Washington is now telling CARICOM and OECS leaders they should be scared of what will happen if there is regime change in Venezuela.
In other words, while supporting the opposition in Venezuela to get rid of Maduro and the Chavez legacy, Washington is urging CARICOM and the OECS to break with PetroCaribe and embrace the ‘fracking’ US natural ‘shale’ gas.
But it is what President Obama has said and done most recently that should be cause for alarm here and everywhere else. The US President has categorized Venezuela as ‘a national security threat to the USA’ and has started applying hostile tactics and policies towards Venezuela.
All the Latin American and Caribbean governments in PetroCaribe and ALBA, in CELAC and MERCUSUR have signalled their support for Venezuela. Even the European Union says it will not be going the American route on Venezuela.
OECS and CARICOM governments in PetroCaribe and ALBA (all six OECS member-states are now members) have also expressed their support for PetroCaribe and for the launching of the new PetroCaribe Economic Zone launched last weekend in Venezuela.
The small and weak Caribbean states that have been benefiting from PetroCaribe have not been as loud in their condemnation of Washington’s latest anti-Venezuela as they would probably like to. But we know too well the true value of PetroCaribe and ALBA to the benefitting populations in the OECS and CARICOM.
Saint Lucia has not bought one cent of Petrocaribe oil from Venezuela and we don’t owe Caracas one cent for one fluid ounce or dry litre of any type of fuel. But see what we’ve already got from just being members of PetroCaribe and ALBA: 7,000 free laptop computers for students, teachers and principals at all qualifying secondary schools across the island, $27 million to ensure the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) keeps employing unskilled people around the island and $6.29 million to build three new ALBA bridges.
But it’s not only for what we can get from Venezuela that we in the OECS and CARICOM must support Venezuela against attacks by Washington – or indeed any other country.
We must support Venezuela because it is a sovereign and independent country with a government that has been elected in free and fair elections. Chavez won every election he contested and Maduro was elected President in free and fair elections after Chavez died two years ago.
With Washington showing all the signs of being ready to take advantage of any excuse it can get to invade Venezuela, or to support any type of overthrow of the present Venezuelan President and his socialist government, CARICOM and the OECS have to be very careful about being set up to be the horses on which American troops can ride into Venezuela to trample on and wipe out the Chavez legacy away.
The OECS governments gave President Ronald Reagan that free ride into Grenada in 1983, so Washington may have been dreaming of a repeat. It is for the OECS and CARICOM today, under stronger collective leadership, to either send an early signal or get ready from now to say a loud ‘No!’ if and when Washington requests any type of support, political or otherwise, to reverse the Chavez legacy in Venezuela or to turn our backs on President Nicolas Maduro.
On this the 36th anniversary of the Grenada Revolution, I therefore appeal to all OECS and CARICOM governments – especially the current Director General of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules – to ensure that they play absolutely no role at all in any attempt by Washington to overthrow or support the overthrow of the present Venezuelan government, or to pressure the OECS and CARICOM member-states to pull out of PetroCaribe or ALBA.
Venezuela is a Caribbean state, a sister Caribbean territory that has been better to the Caribbean in the past ten years than the USA has been by way of aid, assistance and cooperation.
Our Caribbean brothers and sisters in Venezuela have been good to us, so let’s be good to them too — and let’s be there for them too in time of need.