$315M CAL debt to be paid

The love was all the more generous given Venezuela’s well-documented economic woes.

Maduro, accompanied by his wife Cilia Flores, brushed cheeks with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as he arrived at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s at about 1.30 pm, to the sounds of the steelpan. Bi-lateral talks opened followed by formal talks surrounding the signing of new energy agreements which were concluded by 3.30 pm.

Maduro broke the air of formality when, at a media briefing held at the end of the proceedings, he called for a new method of deepening ties between nations. He noted many Venezuelans come to Trinidad and Tobago to learn English. But they get more than they bargain for.

“Many come here to study English but others come here and fall in love and they stay here,” the Venezuelan President said. “And that is a way to increase international cooperations.”

On live television, Maduro — who has been criticised for his harsh approach to civil liberties in Venezuela — greeted the people of this nation, blowing kisses.

“To the people of Trinidad and Tobago who have welcomed us with so much affection we would like to take this opportunity to convey our love, our affection and our solidarity,” the Venezuelan President said through an interpreter. “We need to go from the bonds of good neighbours to the bonds of sisters and brothers.”

The Venezuelan President announced a consolidative commission to foster cooperation between both countries and said a meeting of regional governors in Venezuelan districts would be convened. He called for new ways to conduct trade, greater air-transport frequency and more sea links. He said Venezuela would settle its debt to CAL, estimated by Government officials to be US$50 million (TT$315 million). Maduro said both nations are victims of the illicit narcotic trade and will cooperate in intelligence and security matters.

“Our countries have to wage a very serious and expensive fight against drug trafficking even though we are not producers of these products,” the Venezuelan President said. He said there was need for coordination in this regard.

“There is a world that can be built between our two countries,” Maduro said. “Together we are much more and we can do much more and better. We are ready to move forward and continue building prosperity between our two countries.” Without naming specific states, he said the approach between both nations contrasted with the conflicts enveloping areas of the world where development has pitted nations against each other.

At the same briefing, Persad-Bissessar noted two energy agreements were signed and several areas were the focus of talks. She said one such area involved air services and tourism and reported that Maduro was firm on the settlement of the debt owed to CAL. She also said in the area of security, there will be cooperation in the area of intelligence gathering, particularly as it relates to fighting the illegal narcotic and human trafficking trades. The Prime Minister also outlined preliminary talks on a novel form of trade which could take place with Venezuela, involving products from this country being bartered.

“Trinidad and Tobago exports a number of goods to Venezuela, including gasoline, machine parts, air-conditioners, parts for refrigerators, toilet/facial tissue, and cement,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Our main imports include crude petroleum, gas oil, jet fuel, electric conductors, iron ore and bars and rods from Venezuela. Following our discussions today, we are of the view that a mechanism for commodity sharing holds significant promise for both our countries.” The Prime Minister continued, “The concept of commodity sharing is simple — the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from TT’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery, which are needed there. These would then be traded for commodities that are needed for our industries — in particular bitumen and crude oil — which can be supplied by Venezuela.” The Prime Minister said a special committee would be set up to implement this idea.

“This proposal is at planning stages, and we recognise that a monitoring mechanism would be key to its success,” she said. “In this regard a joint inter-ministerial committee will be set up to ensure proper accountability and to monitor and evaluate this proposed system.” She said the measures have the potential to significantly benefit both nations.

“For Trinidad and Tobago, this initiative will see the Government investing in the country’s local manufacturing sector, thereby further stimulating the industry,” Persad-Bissessar said. “With the expected increase in production, it is envisaged that manufacturers in turn will look to expand their businesses, creating much needed jobs for our young people, and stimulating economic growth. It is expected that Venezuela’s economy will also be boosted as a result of this proposed initiative, through the trade of their commodities in exchange for finished products that the people of Venezuela need.”


"$315M CAL debt to be paid"

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