Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered TT help in controlling the drug trade, as well as initiating the possibility for increased non-energy trade between the two neighbours, as he and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley signed off on the Dragon gas deal on Saturday in Caracas.
“Together with TT, we are giving an example to the world in building bilateral brotherhood relations. Latin America and the Caribbean have everything to become a great scientific, energetic and cultural power. A region united and in peace!” Maduro said in a speech following the signing ceremony.
Along with the heads of governments for the two nations, representatives of Shell, the National Gas Company and Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA also signed the agreement.
Reporters were not allowed to attend the ceremony, instead confined to the press room at the Miraflores Palace, the official workplace of the Venezuelan President. Cameramen and photographers were allowed but were not allowed to do more than take photos or videos. Maduro and Rowley both made statements after the signing ceremony. Reporters were given access to these statements via a delayed broadcast in the press room. There was no official English translation of Maduro’s speech.
Rowley did give a brief press conference after the ceremony, but Maduro did not attend.
The Dragon deal was not a contract, per se, but rather an agreement on price and volume to be shared from the Dragon field. Dragon, which is wholly-owned by PDVSA, and by extension, the Venezuelan government, has about 2.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. Venezuela will sell the gas from wells that have already been drilled but capped to TT. The gas will then be transported to the Hibiscus platform off the TT northwestern coast via a pipeline yet to be constructed. From there, it will be transported to Point Lisas and other NGC customers. Rowley had told reporters that there were still some details to be finalised.
Shell and TT will build the pipeline, estimated to cost in the hundreds of millions. “I thank the Shell International Company, we are ready to work,” Maduro said, inviting them and more foreign investors into Venezuela.
The Dragon deal, he said, was one that was settled peacefully and the collaboration between TT and Venezuela is a positive message for the region. “We must cultivate the relations of good neighbours and brotherhood. We must overcome neocolonialism and slavery if we want a region of peace,” he said.
This agreement will generate substantial wealth, transforming these hydrocarbons into money that can be used to improve education, health and the public services, he said.
He also said publicly that he’s given Energy Minister and head of PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo, instructions to visit TT and to hold discussions about the energy sector beyond gas, including oil, the petroleum and refining sectors and supplies. In June National Security Minister Stuart Young had told a press briefing that he had invited Quevedo to TT.
Maduro also encouraged trade in other products that Venezuela could offer TT, including rum, coffee, cocoa, fish and shrimp. TT also has goods Venezuela needs, he said, and gave directives to governors from various states to go to TT to improve trade relations.
Venezuela, TT and the rest of the Caribbean were also victims of narcotrafficking, he said, with Venezuela clearing up to 2,200 kilometres along the border with Colombia dismantling laboratories and drug operations. “We have experience in the fight and we can help. We are engaged in a safe Eastern Caribbean, drug-free, terrorism-free, free of criminal gangs. We can achieve this through joint operations and exchanging experiences,” he said.
The Caribbean and Venezuela shared a very important space, he said, united by history, geography, geology, and geopolitics. “It is our Caribbean. We are Caribbean South Americans. We continue to move in the right direction with this energy association,” he said.