Nine Caribbean countries are understood to have signed the ‘Petrocaribe&rs ...

Nine Caribbean countries are understood to have signed the ‘Petrocaribe’ oil trading initiative proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an alternative to free trade deals backed by the US amid rising world fuel prices. Those signing the accords included the Dominican Republic, which has already proposed a series of national measures aimed at curbing fuel consumption, along with smaller countries such as Antigua, Suriname and St Kitts and Nevis. Cuba and Jamaica had previously up to the initiative. Under the plan, Caribbean governments will pay market price for Venezuelan oil, but will only be required to pay a portion of the cost up front. The rest can be financed over 25 years at 1% interest. Governments will also be able pay for part of the cost with services or goods such as rice, bananas or sugar, while oil-rich Venezuela will provide assistance in expanding shipping and refining facilities. The accords are reported to come ‘without any political strings’ - however, some critics of Chavez say it will allow the socialist leader to expand his influence in the region.

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