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A Friend Has Left Us

JOHANNES “John” De Veer passed away peacefully on Wednesday May 27th, 2020 in Caracas, Venezuela.

The eldest of three brothers, John was born in Oranjestad, Aruba in 1930 to a Venezuelan father and an Aruban mother. He attended La Salle Elementary School in the Venezuelan city of Valencia and graduated high school at Seton Hall in New Jersey, USA (1950).

Following his father’s footsteps, he began his professional career in the oil industry and worked for the Royal Dutch Shell in Venezuela (1951-1966) as district superintendent and chief of operations of various oil terminals on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. He studied Petroleum Engineering in Rotterdam, London and Houston. He founded and headed the insurance department of the Royal Dutch Shell at the main headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela (1967-1968).

In 1967, he became the directing member of the Venezuelan Association of Exporters “AVEX” and this was the beginning of his life in the Caribbean. He understood that the West Indies and Venezuela shared a common geo-economic space and was convinced it could be mutually advantageous, enthusiastically pursuing and endorsing Venezuela to begin commercial relations with all the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, specifically related to the trade of products and the cultural exchange related to a common history. He promoted and coordinated three floating cultural-commercial exhibitions “Venezuela in the Caribbean – The same sea, the same future” (1969-1973). He was the Technical Coordinator of the Venezuelan pavilion EXPO69 of CARIFTA in Grenada; President of the mixed commissions between Venezuela and Barbados, Curaçao, Aruba, Martinique, Trinidad, Jamaica, Miami and the associated states of the Caribbean, Commercial advisor and permanent representative in CARICOM (1968- 1975) and Director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Americas, based in Panama (1969-1971). In 1971, he helped establish and manage the Winward Island Packaging Company “WINERA”, the first joint venture between the governments of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Dominica, Grenada and the Venezuelan private company “Papelera Industrial, S.A.”.

After years of travelling the Caribbean, he gained a wealth of knowledge of its culture and geography and became well acquainted with leaders and businesspersons. In 1972, he was appointed Consul General of Venezuela for the Windward and Leeward Islands, establishing the first diplomatic representation of the country, with jurisdiction in Grenada, Saint Vincent, Dominica, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Monserrat, Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia, choosing the latter as its headquarters, in large part due to the support, drive and leadership of Sir John Compton.

For nine years, he carried out tireless political, economic and cultural promotional work between Venezuela and the islands and coordinated numerous official visits by leaders and prime ministers, building strong fraternal relationships. He was honoured to witness, as a special representative, the Acts of Independence of Dominica (1978), Saint Lucia (1979) and Saint Vincent (1980). During his time, he played a decisive role in many important inter-governmental cooperative agreements on diverse projects including the Rousseau Valley Dam project (Sir John Compton Dam) for the water supply in Saint Lucia; obtaining Venezuelan financing for the bailout and acquisition of LIAT airline by multiple island governments; the establishment of the first commercial air route with Venezuela through Aeropostal, among others. In 1980, he was appointment as Director of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), based in Saint Lucia, becoming its first director and the first representation of the organization in the Caribbean. There were many cooperative agreements, financing, assistance and scholarships awarded for the benefit of the islands and its many Caribbean people.

In 1988, he retired from diplomatic activity but kept himself busy. He was a promoter and advisor to Venezuelan private companies that carried out the construction of the Castries Banana wharf, Inbond warehouses and industrial plants in Vieux Fort. He was an executive member of the commission for the visit of Saint Pope John Paul II to Saint Lucia and was an Advisory Member of the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church of Castries, among other activities.

In 1994, together with his wife Gyldha and his children, he inaugurated the ecological garden and tourist attraction “Tropica Gardens” at his home in Bonne Terre.

He was a pioneer, great visionary and entrepreneur, a brilliant diplomat and a tireless worker that left many great accomplishments and dear friends in the entire region. His love and passion for the Caribbean was evident, especially towards the island of Saint Lucia, where he was proud to have witnessed and felt part of its development, prosperity, and destiny, making it his home and second homeland.

In 2006, after almost 40 years of living in St Lucia, he moved back to Venezuela with his wife where he enjoyed his final years surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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