Monday, July 21, 2008

Venezuela's Petrocaribe expands to 18 members with Guatemala, shows strength & influence

Last weekend's 5th Petrocaribe Summit held in Maracaibo,Venezuela saw the expansion of the oil alliance with the addition of Guatemala. This is a particularly important development for the regional group as it shows a continued dismissal of American diplomatic efforts to block Petrocaribe's growth.

With the founding of the group in June of 2005, the first expansion came just months later in september when the original founders were joined by the Dominican Republic, in effect adding the region's most dynamic economy into the group. Haiti, the region's most depressed economy joined in April of 2006. The group expanded once again to include Honduras in December of 2007. With Guatemala rounding out the group's membership.

As Petrocaribe's membership grows, the groups influence in regional affairs also grows and by extension the influence of Venezuela. For the United States, whose relations with Venezuela are often strained, Venezuela's growing influence has not been welcomed.

Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados are the only two regional players who have thus far abstained from membership, though some suspect this is due to American pressure.

Petrocaribe's growth now means that its members hold a majority vote in some of the most important regional groups: In CARICOM, thirteen of the fifteen members are members of Petrocaribe. In the Asociation of Caribbean States (ACS) eighteen of the twenty-five members belong to Petrocaribe. In the Organization of American States (OAS) eighteen of the 35 members are part of Petrocaribe, or 51% of the votes. And four of the six PARLACEN members are also Petrocaribe members.

If oil is power in today's world, Venezuela is positioning itself to play the game much like the U.S. did 60 years ago.

Petrocaribe's 18 members now include:
Antigua and Barbuda
The Bahamas
The Dominican Republic
St. Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
San Vicente and the Grenadines

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