Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Private companies offered to buy Venezuela's Petrojam shares in December - Campbell

Published:Saturday | January 12, 2019 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell, the former People's National Party (PNP) general secretary as well as former minister of information and development, says that the Jamaican Government must come clean on the Venezuelan issue in light of its recent decision to acquire the South American country's 49 per cent stake in the Petrojam oil refinery.

Campbell, in a column in today's Gleaner titled 'Slapping Venezuela in the face', charges that there was a curious sequence of events leading to the announcement on Tuesday by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith, that Jamaica would buy back the shares after Venezuela failed to respond to an offer from the Government.

"After much digging, I have put together the sequence of events, which can assist our understanding of the issues at stake. First, there was an agreement to sell, and that was reached at the highest level in a meeting between Prime Minister Andrew Holness and President Nicol·s Maduro," Campbell said.

He said that in March 2018, Johnson Smith and then energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley met the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza, and Petroleum Minister Manuel Quevedo in Caracas to follow up on the agreement between Holness and Maduro.

Campbell claimed that nothing happened until October, when Jamaica put a US$40 million offer on the table, following a meeting in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly between Holness and Maduro.

"On November 2, 2018, Venezuela responded, telling the Jamaican Government that it had a valuation of US$84.7 million. There was no response from Jamaica until December 12, 2018, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade reaffirmed its interest in the buyback but offered a new price of US$50 million and requested a response in seven days," claimed Campbell.

 

No response

 

There was no response from Venezuela, he said, noting that a message was sent to them outlining the urgency of the situation and asking for a response by December 31.

Campbell charged that a day before Johnson Smith's letter to Venezuela with the new offer, "a private Jamaican company contacted the Venezuelan government and made an offer to buy the shares for US$100 million. This offer was preceded by another offer of US$55 million from another Jamaican company, which, strikingly, resembled the offer of US$50 million made to Venezuela by the Jamaican Government."

He said that on the same date on which the Jamaican Government demanded a response, "one of the private entities sent a revised offer of US$70 million to Venezuela".

He said that it was now history that in the first week of January, the Government took the decision to expropriate the shares of PDVSA through an act of Parliament.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com