FOCOL chief: Make ‘every possible effort’ on Venezuela relief




Tribune Business Editor

FOCOL Holdings chairman yesterday urged the Prime Minister and his government to make “every possible effort” to have sanctions on Venezuela removed as the release of its oil will likely have “a material impact” on world markets.

Sir Franklyn Wilson, who heads the BISX-listed petroleum products supplier, told Tribune Business that the negative fall-out from high energy and transportation costs made it imperative that Philip Davis QC and his administration use whatever influence they possess to get Venezuela’s supply moving again.

Suggesting that the Biden administration could swiftly decide to lift financial sanctions and other measures imposed on Nicolas Maduro’s government, he said of such a measure: “It will certainly help. Once that decision is made and released, Venezuela is a significant enough player that it is possible that could affect markets far beyond The Bahamas.

“That could affect the world. Venezuela is a big enough player that could impact way beyond direct Venezuela-Bahamas trade. I don’t know by how much, and what would be reasonable to anticipate, but it would be a material and helpful act.”

The Biden administration is thought to have already reached out to Venezuela as it seeks ways to counter, and replace, Russian oil, gas and other energy supplies due to that nation’s invasion of Ukraine. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, but its output has been severely curtailed amid the imposition of US and other sanctions in a bid to topple the existing government.

Mr Davis, upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference, said The Bahamas has been pushing at recent conferences for sanctions on Venezuela to be lifted as a means to increase global oil supply flows and reduce market prices.

Indicating that The Bahamas should engage other CARICOM nations to assist in this matter, Sir Franklyn said yesterday: “Whatever influence we have, now would be the time to use it. I am satisfied the prospect [of lifting Venezuelan sanctions] would justify every possible effort on the part of the Prime Minister and foreign minister.”

Mr Davis said he had made the case for lifting the sanctions at the recent Summit of the Americas. “Once the valve is released for Venezuela to provide fuel we will see a very significant downward trend on the cost of fuel,” he argued

“As you would have heard me earlier speak about the energy crisis, what we’re doing as small island developing states at these conferences is to have the United States and the industrialised world remove sanctions, in particular for Venezuela, which is now working, that we hope would be a step in relieving the cost of fuel to Bahamians,” Mr Davis said.

“What is in our control, and which I have been doing, is letting our voice be heard about some of the initiatives and policies in some of the industrialised world that is causing the increase in oil prices. Quite apart from the invasion of Ukraine there are also other issues like the sanctions on Venezuela that impacted the cost of fuel, particularly for us.

“So, if those sanctions are lifted it helps, and so we have been agitating. We have had two major meetings in respect to that - one at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago and one at Commonwealth Heads of Government now where Canada and the UK were present, and where we made our voices known.

“Both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Justin (Trudeau) left our meeting to go to the G7 and they are now there and they are charged to carry our voices with them, and hopefully we should see some relief on that.”

In May, it was reported that the US would ease some sanctions on Venezuela in exchange for continued dialogue between President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition. The relief would allow Chevron Corporation to negotiate the terms of its licence and potential future activities with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

A senior Biden administration official stressed the measures are being taken at the “request of the Venezuelan interim government and the ‘Unity’ platform of opposition parties”. They added: “We are going to calibrate our sanctions policy accordingly, to increase pressure or alleviate pressure on the basis of ambitious, concrete and irreversible outcomes that empower the Venezuelan people to determine the future in their country through democratic elections.”

This came after US officials had travelled to Venezuela in March to meet with Mr Maduro as it sought to isolate Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a close ally of Venezuela. It was the highest-level US visit to the country in years.