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Petrocaribe forms economic zone
CARACAS—At the eighth summit of the Latin-American organisation PetroCaribe held over the weekend in Managua, Nicaragua, representatives from 21 countries agreed to further the creation of a special economic zone to foster the region’s development. In order to “strengthen, streamline and consolidate” the organisation, the development will focus, in particular, on transport and communication, productive chains, tourism, trade, and social and cultural integration, according to the summit’s final declaration, which was read by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. “This represents an opportunity to build innovative spaces that stimulate trade and the processes of integration between our peoples,” the declaration concluded. “It represents a measure to expand the productive capacities of our member countries, taking into account their existing potential.”
The initiative of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, PetroCaribe was founded in 2005 through an energy co-operation agreement aimed at securing access to energy sources for underdeveloped countries. Its membership currently includes Venezuela and 17 countries from Central America and the Caribbean. At the summit, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro indicated his support for the organisation’s development through economic, educational, and cultural means. “We must be clear that there will only be fair trade that benefits our people if we are capable of working within our criteria to create conditions that benefit production and commercial exchange,” he said. “If we don’t do it ourselves, no one will come and do it for us...We should see that PetroCaribe, in addition to being an economic zone, becomes a zone without poverty.” The summit also featured a proposal by Bolivian President Evo Morales calling for the creation of an economic zone between PetroCaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba), an organisation that promotes Latin American integration.
“If we don’t have economic liberation, if we don’t have financial liberation, we can’t easily guarantee our social and cultural liberation, the liberation of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said. Specifically, Morales suggested a greater focus on the provision of water in the region, to expand its access for “humans, irrigation (and) livestock” and “to add value to our natural resources.” Though Bolivia is not a member of PetroCaribe, the South-American country received a special invitation to attend the summit, in addition to non-member countries Ecuador and El Salvador. Following the meeting, Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro sent a letter to Ortega in which he praised the “talent (which) shined” among the delegates of the representative countries, specifically referring to “the sincere, brave, and clear voice of Nicolas Maduro, a man with a pure lineage of work, modesty, honour, and poverty.” The island of Dominica will be hosting the Ninth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the PetroCaribe alliance. The decision to convene the summit in Dominica was made at the conclusion of the Ninth PetroCaribbe summit.