At a special handing-over ceremony in the Cabinet Room at Government Headquarters on March 30, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, flanked by Cabinet ministers and Venezuelan Ambassador, His Excellency Bernado Alvarez Herrera, along with his Venezuelan entourage, hailed “the agenda of support for sugar workers” as part and parcel of the partnership and commitment of Venezuela to the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis under the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) and Petrocaribe projects.
Dr. Harris said that the sugar workers were “deprived” of their full severance package and “disenfranchised” by the former Labour Administration led by Dr. Denzil Douglas.
The government had made the commitment to assist the former sugar workers who were deprived with respect to the management of the severance package by procuring additional resources to deal with those who were disenfranchised, said Prime Minister Harris.
“You will recall, for example, that they (Venezuelan Government) have been involved in the building of homes for some of the former sugar workers and they therefore had become interested in assisting the government in meeting this very major policy initiative that we had announced,” said Dr. Harris. “This is just the first of several initiatives that we tend to pursue with the Government of Venezuela.”
Venezuelan Ambassador, His Excellency Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, said that his government through the Petrocaribe agreement is not only interested in providing “some levels of energy security to countries, particularly countries in the hemisphere and in the Caribbean, but that “the whole idea is to make a balance and to give opportunity to have energy security, to promote economic and social development and to promote regional integration.”
Minister of Energy, Ian “patches” Liburd, who along with Prime Minister Harris, travelled to Caracas, Venezuela, to attend a Petrocaribe summit two weeks ago, said that there was much more to come in the relationship between St. Kitts and Nevis and Venezuela. He outlined some of the benefits had from the Petrocaribe agreement including four generators leased to SKELEC (St. Kitts Electricity Company) and asphalt to repair roads.
“Our actions speak louder than words,” Mr. Liburd said.
St. Kitts and Nevis signed the Petrocaribe agreement in 2005. In 2014, St. Kitts and Nevis committed to ALBA. Petrocaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The alliance was launched on 29 June, 2005, in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. In 2013, Petrocaribe agreed links with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), to go beyond oil and promote economic cooperation. ALBA has an alliance of 11 member states which are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. As of 2010, three countries hold observer status: Iran, Syria and Haiti.
Prime Minister Dr. Harris asked Ambassador Herrera to convey his greetings to the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, whom Dr. Harris said is building on the initiatives of late President Hugo Chavez to help with poverty alleviation.