The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela says it is pleased to have come to the help of it Caribbean neighbors hit by Hurricane Irma and again threatened by Jose, which is quickly following in Irma’s deadly path.
Spokespersons for the administration led by President Nicolas Maduro loudly lauded Caracas’ rapid response, equating it to the solidarity shared between Venezuelan and South American Liberator Simon Bolivar and Caribbean revolutionaries who assisted in Venezuela’s war of independence.
Venezuela’s National Constituents Assembly (NCA) President and former Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez underlined the importance of the assistance as more proof of her country’s commitment to assisting its smaller Caribbean neighbors.
Among the Caribbean figures being remembered in Caracas today as it helps the small twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda is Jean Baptiste Bideau, a Saint Lucia-born seaman and shipwright who built boats for Bolivar and the revolutionaries, saved Bolivar’s life once, became a captain of Bolivar’s flagship and was made Governor of Eastern Venezuela after victory.
Bideau died on April 7, 1817, in the battle at Barcelona where he died defending Venezuela’s independence at Casa Fuerte, an abandoned religious hermitage, where his bones remain 200 years later.
Venezuela earlier this week responded in quick and real time to a direct appeal from Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister for assistance in the wake of utter devastation on both islands by Hurricane Irma.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made a direct telephone call to President Nicolas Maduro Wednesday, following the utter devastation of the tiny island of Barbuda by the most powerful hurricane on record this century to hit the Atlantic region.
By Thursday, a Venezuelan Air Force aircraft had been dispatched with rescue and assistance material and supplies for Antigua and Barbuda comprising 40 volunteers with medical and other emergency supplies.
The first aircraft landed at VC Bird International Airport on September 5 with 10 tons or relief materials along with 20 firefighters and 34 civil defense personnel.
The supplies included mattresses, medicines, boots and water.
The gesture to Barbuda came just days after Venezuela also donated US$5 million to support Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas, as well as free fuel supplies to emergency vehicles, plus a pledge of over US$3 million to assist the Mayor of Houston’s relief program.
Responding to the call for assistance from a smaller neighbor, Venezuela also ensured implementation of continued assistance through a roster of rescue personnel to ensure ongoing support to Barbuda.
By Friday, another Venezuelan Air Force aircraft was in Saint Lucia collecting water supplies for Barbuda, sourced and loaded by the Venezuelan Embassy in Saint Lucia, with Ambassador Leiff Escalona on hand to ensure timely loading and departure of the airplane's peaceful humanitarian mission.
Prime Minister Browne, who had visited Barbuda during what he described as a most awful lifelong experience, was particularly thankful for Venezuela’s lightning-fast response to his direct appeal to the Venezuelan President.
Under pressure from an accumulated list of U.S.-imposed sanctions over several years, Venezuela is now faced with the real possibility of a U.S. military invasion, which President Donald trump refuses to pull off the table.
Economic conditions, aided and abetted by nefarious political means, have multiplied the hardships on the ordinary Venezuelan while the tiny minority of well-off citizens face no such daily life hardships.
But even in the worst of times, Caracas has remained committed to its Bolivarian pledge to always assist and offer solidarity to its Eastern Caribbean neighbors in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), from where Simon Bolivar got much support the struggles and battles for Venezuela’s independence.
President Hugo Chavez set out from 1998 to re-establish the sort of interminable bond between Venezuela and the Eastern Caribbean.
Chavez personally attended the funerals of Dominican Prime Ministers Roosevelt ‘Rosie’ Douglas and Pierre Charles.
Venezuela is also party to a bilateral agreement with Antigua that has seen the ALBA Bank support investments in tourism and petroleum on the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda.
Under Chavez and Maduro, Caracas has strengthened its Bolivarian ties with the Eastern Caribbean through PetroCaribe and ALBA, two entities that have ensured the beneficiary nations – large and small – enjoy near-zero interest charges and seemingly endless years to repay related petroleum and other related loans.
The United States has fought hard – albeit unsuccessfully so far – to urge an influence Caribbean states to wean themselves off their reliance on dependable fuel supplies at low cost from Venezuela (urging them to either switch to ‘shale’ gas with all its ‘fracking’ risks) or to select Mexico as another supposedly more dependent supplier.
The Venezuela help to Barbuda (and Antigua) also comes at a time when several public, private and non-government efforts are under way to provide additional direct help to Barbuda.
Dr. Jacqueline Bird, a prominent Antiguan national with much exposure in Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS, is working with others to access and provide any possible additional relief that citizens of the neighboring islands can and are willing to offer.
Other individuals and entities are also coming together to garner and deliver as much aid and assistance that can be provided by private and non-governmental sources.