A recent analysis published by the The Atlantic Council, an influential US think tank, reveals a growing concern that Venezuela will increase its energy influence in the Caribbean. The publication follows an announcement by the government of Trinidad and Tobago regarding a license issued by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizing the development of the "Dragón" gas field in Venezuelan waters.
February 15, in the Bahamas, the 44th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) began. As a preamble, the US Department of State published a statement on "The commitment between the United States and the Caribbean" in which one of the sections refers to the OFAC license.
In the scenario of the energy crisis of recent years, due to the pandemic and the sanctions against Russia, the increased dependence of the Caribbean countries on energy resources has once again been noted by the high prices of goods, services, electricity, and fuel.
The prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, in July, 2022, suggested that, due to the high cost of fuel worldwide, various Caribbean leaders should agree to resume the Petrocaribe program and should ask the United States to lift "sanctions" against Venezuela. Petrocaribe ran from 2005 until 2019, and at its peak involved 17 Caribbean nations partnering with Venezuela. Aiming to cut out the middle man, Venezuela provided fuel to participating countries at reduced rates.
In this context, in which Petrocaribe aims to recover its role of influence, the Atlantic Council researchers argue that "the United States needs to show it cares and can be relevant. Much more needs to be done to provide energy security to the Caribbean, but this license is a deft and critical first step."
In other words, for the Atlantic Council, the United States must feign concern in the Caribbean, an explicit acknowledgment that the attention the region receives is not sincere but marked by specific interests in the sale of energy, in competition with Petrocaribe.
For this reason, the Atlantic Council considers that this new OFAC license is issued in circumstances in which Venezuela drew up a roadmap to reinvigorate the Petrocaribe Agreement for the commercialization of oil and gas on the Caribbean coast amid innumerable "sanctions" against Venezuelan oil sector, an issue that is causing concern in Washington.
The Atlantic Council sees this reinvigoration of Petrocaribe as negative for US interests, since it supposes a factor of strategic competition. The Council perceives that the license issued to Trinidad and Tobago generates a certain range of action and containment of the United States regarding the geostrategic role of Venezuela in the Caribbean.
The geopolitical importance of Petrocaribe can be analyzed from the comments of the renowned Jamaican professor, Wesley Hughes: "Venezuela became the most important source of bilateral assistance in Jamaica through the PetroCaribe arrangement and that literally saved Jamaica financially. If that were not the case the exchange rate would not have been anything close to where it is now; it would probably be twice what it is."
Translated by Orinoco Tribune.