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Caribbean News Desk for Tues Jan, 27, 2015…U.S. works to reduce Caribbean dependence on Venezuelan oil

Washington, Jan 27 (EFE).- The U.S. government has urged Carribean countries to accept a new energy paradigm based on private investment in order to diversify its energy sources and reduce dependence on “Petrocaribe”, the Venezuelan plan for subsidized oil.

The first Caribbean Energy Security Summit held on Monday in Washington did not include any direct references to Venezuela.

There were, however, constant allusions to the need for the region to ease its dependency on a single energy source such as Venezuela which is a major oil supplier to the region.

The summit was hosted by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who said that no country should be able to use their natural resources as a tool of coercion against another country, in an apparent reference to Venezuela.

Most of the countries participating in the summit benefit from the initiative launched in 2005 by then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to export cheap oil to the countries of the bloc in exchange for cash, goods and services.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned that falling oil prices had prompted Venezuela to begin to reduce support to the plan which could have possible repercussions on the Carribean countries.

In such a scenario, the U.S. government pushed for a World Bank proposal to create a Caribbean Energy Investment Network to improve coordination and communication among development partners and to empower Caribbean nations to direct and align external support with their own national goals.

The Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Amos Hochstein, said that it was the right opportunity and the right time to move towards a new future which did not consist simply in replacing petroleum products from Venezuela but rather in creating a new energy paradigm.

Senior Caribbean officials who met Biden in private showed “remarkable support” for the idea of creating an environment that would allow the private sector to flourish in these countries, added Hochstein.

Backing the World Bank initiative, Puerto Rican governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla asked that it be used to create a network that would connect Florida to Curaçao and northern South America with a single connection and allow the most economic activity to be shared throughout that region.

In a speech, Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie said that although the countries of the Caribbean clearly needed more private investment, they also wanted the U.S. “to facilitate export of its natural gas” to the region.

Responding to that point Hochstein said that natural gas was not the magical solution to solve all problems and that energy transformation in the Caribbean would not be possible if there were no fundamental changes in the regulatory and investment climate of the region.

Also present at the summit were Vice-President of the Dominican Republic Margarita Cedeño; Spain’s Secretary of State for Ibero-America, Jesus Gracia; President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno; and the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, among other regional leaders.

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