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Venezuela dumps Guyana, turns to Suriname for rice under PetroCaribe deal

Suriname’s President, Desi Bouterse (left) and the President of Nicolas Maduro (right) during a working session. At centre is a an interpreter.

It’s official! Venezuela has turned to Suriname for its some of its rice supply in exchange for selling oil under the PetroCaribe agreement.

Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro and his Surinamese counterpart, Desi Bouterse on Friday reached agreement on the deal in principle. It would be finalized very soon by a Surinamese team.

“In the coming weeks a Surinamese commission will travel to Caracas to finalize the agreement,” said Maduro, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez.

According to the agreement signed between Maduro and President Bouterse, Suriname will continue to receive favorable rates on oil in exchange for an agreement on rice imports from Suriname. 

The state-run TeleSurTV quoted Maduro as saying that PetroCaribe would be the foundation of cooperation between the two South American nations.

Formal announcement of the rice-for-oil deal came weeks after Venezuela decided to stop buying Guyanese rice under a similar arrangement.

Guyana has stopped buying 50 percent of its oil from Venezuela and has since opted to buy all from sister Caricom nation, Trinidad and Tobago.

The Surinamese President has recently gone on record as saying that he would be reviving his country’s claim to the New River Triangle that dates back to Dutch and English colonial times.

Venezuela has intensified its stake to Guyana’s mineral and forest-rich Essequibo Region and the Atlantic Ocean off that region ever since American oil giant, Exxon-Mobil, announced a significant oil find offshore Essequibo in late May, 2015.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon is currently considering Guyana’s request to have the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land boundary taken to the International Court of Justice.

Venezuela prefers a revival of the 23-year old UN Good Officer mediation process which Guyana says has yielded no progress in ending the controversy.

TeleSur reported that Maduro and Bouterse agreed Friday that Petrocaribe will be the base of their bilateral relations going forward. Petrocaribe is an alliance established by Venezuela in 2005 to sell oil at discounted rates to its Caribbean allies. 

“Petrocaribe is the starting point for advancing economic relations between the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said President Maduro. 

Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname are members of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations.

Guyana and Suriname are also members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom). Maduro has been doling out various forms of assistance to several Eastern Caribbean countries like Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda,  and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The President of Guyana, David Granger has expressed confidence in Caricom’s solidarity with Guyana against Venezuela’s heightened aggression.