Adrienne Arsht Center Director Peter Schechter and Deputy Director Jason Marczak cowrite for CNN Global Public Square on what must be done to prevent a regional energy crisis in Central America and the Caribbean:
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Caracas last week with a new $4 billion gift for a country desperately looking to external financing to keep its economy afloat. The catch? Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro reportedly must send China an additional 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil in addition to the more than 500,000 bpd of crude it is already providing to China.
With Venezuela’s production in decline, this latest announcement calls into question the long-term viability of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil alliance and the energy future for the Caribbean and Central American states that depend on it. The United States must act to proactively prevent a crisis off our shores. Vice President Biden has taken initial steps to lead this effort, but more must be done.
For nearly ten years, some of the United States’ closest neighbors have used Petrocaribe – Venezuela’s financially attractive energy alliance and Chávez’s brainchild – to procure flexible credit terms to purchase crude oil and petroleum products. But Venezuela’s economic situation is dire, putting the benefits of the oil alliance at risk. Central American and Caribbean states will have little recourse if credit dries up, and the alliance’s government ministers, business leaders, and consumer advocates privately fret about how continued dependence on Venezuela for energy supplies might come back to pull the rug from under their economies.