Venezuela approves Panama's request to join Petrocaribe

Venezuela, following a meeting between Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, will allow Panama to join Venezuela's Petrocaribe fuel assistance program.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 4 -- Venezuela, following a meeting between Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, will allow Panama to join Venezuela's Petrocaribe fuel assistance program.

Venezuela "takes note" and accepts "with great satisfaction" Torrijos' request, which "will contribute to strengthening the ties of cooperation among the countries making up the initiative," said Venezuela's foreign ministry after the two presidents met.

Launched by Chavez in 2005, Petrocaribe now includes 18 countries in and around the Carribbean Sea. Under the initiative, member countries pay 60% of the cost of Venezuelan oil at the time of purchase and can defer the remaining 40% as financing for development projects, repayable over 25 years at a 1% interest rate.

During 2005-08, Petrocaribe distributed some 59 million bbl of oil and derivatives to its members, who saved $921 million, according to Venezuelan government data. Cuba is the main beneficiary, receiving about 92,000 b/d of Venezuelan oil, while the other nations in the scheme each receive around 80,000 b/d.

Last December, Panama's trade and industry ministry reported that studies on the proposed construction of a 350,000 b/d refinery at the Port of Armuelles were almost finished. In 2007, Panama agreed to cooperate with Qatar Petroleum and Occidental Petroleum on the project. The two companies commissioned Foster Wheeler to conduct the studies.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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