KINGSTON, Jamaica, April 30, 2022 - The People’s National Party has commended the Government of Venezuela for providing debt relief to St. Vincent and the Grenadines by cancelling 100% of its PetroCaribe debt, and has called on the Jamaican government to settle the outstanding issue of the 2019 expropriation of Venezuela’s 49% shareholding in local oil refinery Petrojam.
In a media release, the PNP noted that this debt relief St. Vincent and the Grenadines, amounts to US$70 Million (EC$189 million), or 9% of the national debt of our CARICOM neighbour which will greatly assist that country in its recovery from the Mount Soufriere eruption and the passage of Hurricane Elsa.
The Opposition noted that Venezuela will also cut in half the debt owed by other Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that are members of PetroCaribe, and they will now be able to access oil from Venezuela at a 35% discount on the prevailing market price.
Venezuela’s recent actions have again demonstrated its commitment and solidarity with the Caribbean region. The people of Jamaica remember well Venezuela’s tremendous act of generosity and solidarity in 2015 when it forgave 50% of Jamaica’s US$3 billion PetroCaribe oil facility debt, the largest debt relief ever received by Jamaica, after a decade of providing very concessionary terms to Jamaica and others for the purchase of Venezuelan oil.
It is in light of this that the Opposition wants the government of Jamaica to deal with the outstanding matter of the petrojam shares. "Indeed, now is a good time for Jamaica to show good faith by settling with Venezuela the thorny bi-lateral issue of the Petrojam shares," the PNP said.
These events serve to underscore the importance of consistent adherence to principle in our approach to international relations. In contrast, they also clearly reveal the folly of the Holness Administration’s hostility and mistreatment of Venezuela since 2016, including by dividing Caricom in the votes against Venezuela at the OAS, and the unprecedented expropriation of Venezuela’s shareholding in Petrojam in 2019, the payment for which remains unresolved.
In 2019, the board of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the South American country’s oil and gas company, filed a lawsuit in relation to Kingston’s forcible takeover of its 49 per cent stake in local oil refinery Petrojam.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith said “The Government of Jamaica now owns the shares in Petrojam in its entirety. We passed legislation in order to give this effect. It was not a negotiated agreement. We passed legislation and the shares have now vested. Forty-nine per cent which was previously owned by PDV Caribe is now held by the Accountant General of Jamaica.
“Fifty-one per cent remain owned by PCJ (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica). So there is no question about completing a transaction. The shares are now owned by Jamaica.” Johnson Smith said that the money for the 49 per cent shares has been placed in an escrow account. The Jamaican Government decided to buy the Venezuelan stake because of delays in upgrading the ageing Petrojam refinery, as well as sanctions imposed by Washington.
"As the table once again turns, the shortsightedness of the Holness Administration has already jeopardized Jamaica’s standing with Venezuela, even as other Caribbean nations are again benefiting from Venezuela’s generosity," the PNP lamented.
"The People’s National Party reaffirms our commitment to a principled, progressive stance in Jamaica’s International relations. It is an approach which has served our country well, and has enhanced Jamaica’s global standing and reputation among the countries of the world," the PNP concluded.