Jamaica's economic and political relations with Venezuela are of vital importance, beginning with the Petrocaribe deal which remains almost indispensable in these times of turbulent oil prices.
Under this pact which covers oil supplies to Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries except Trinidad, Barbados, Cuba, Honduras and Guatemala, beneficiary countries can purchase up to an agreed amount of oil from Venezuela at market prices but can defer part of the payment for a grace period of two years with payment over 25 years at an interest rate of one per cent.
The relationship with Venezuela, traditionally good, was consolidated by Mr Michael Manley and Mr Carlos Andres Peres, Third World leaders in Socialist International and in the call for a New International Economic Order. During the 1980s, Mr Edward Seaga's closeness with Washington, DC obscured the relevance of Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba, in favour of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) offered by President Ronald Reagan, largely to cauterise the influence of the Soviet Union and the example of leftist Nicaragua and Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Mr P J Patterson and the PNP revitalised the relationship with Venezuela, highlighted by the famous visit of President Hugo Chavez to the second Summit of Caribbean governments on Petrocaribe in 2005.
In our view, there is goodwill on both sides, but it is a relationship which is complex and requires the most skilful diplomacy at all levels.
The skills and experience of those appointed as ambassadors must match the requirements of the particular posting, even if they are career diplomats of many years. For example, the appointment of Wayne McCook to Geneva/World Trade Organisation is a workable situation because of his academic training and his involvement in international trade matters. We can only hope that our ambassador to Venezuela has the necessary qualities for that posting.
First, a command of Spanish — verbal, reading and written — is indispensable to immerse into society and communicate effectively and accurately.
Second, an in-depth knowledge of Latin American history, culture and politics is essential given their uniqueness. This type of background will allow a grasp of the peculiarities of the sometimes enigmatic Venezuelan politics and foreign policy.
Third, this is no time or place for a neophyte who will be learning on the job. This posting requires a skilled diplomat ideally with some exposure to international affairs and diplomatic experience. Appropriate conduct in Caracas is not the same as in Beijing or Brussels.
Fourth, knowledge of the global energy situation, priorities of Jamaica's energy strategy and where Venezuela fits into plans for the future.
We are entitled to raise the question of whether any ambassadorial appointee is suitably qualified for the particular posting and the tasks to be confronted.
Given the paramount importance of the relationship with Venezuela, as with all our other postings, we would like the assurance of the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade that we need not be worried.
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