Obama In Jamaica: The President Discusses Energy Security In Island Nation

After three decades, the United States government is now reviving ties with the Caribbean territories starting off with Jamaica. With President Barack Obama’s arrival in Kingston last Wednesday evening, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) is now presented with aide regarding their impending troubles on energy security.

Over the years, most members of Caricom have participated in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe. However, the said discounted oil program is now facing economic distress due to low oil prices and analysts are projecting that in time, the Caribbean will be facing a major crisis if they do not seek energy alternatives.

“As the economic crisis in Venezuela escalates, countries reliant on Petrocaribe, the dubious Venezuela-led oil alliance, will need alternative energy sources sooner rather than later. Look for Caribbean leaders to articulate that urgency,” explained Jason Marczak, deputy director of Latin America Center based in Washington.

This looming dilemma has long been perceived by the U.S. government and last year, the Obama administration officially launched the Caribbean Security Energy Initiative. Conferences about the said issue have started since the early part of this year when Vice President Joe Biden welcomed Caribbean prime ministers (except Cuba) to the first Caribbean Energy Summit in Washington. The summit explored potential options on how to obtain financing for the Caribbean’s shift from diesel-powered energy plants to natural gas, solar and wind sources.

White House deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes has also expressed the administration’s eagerness to support the Caribbean territories in their endeavor. “We, in looking at the region, saw that a number of the (Caribbean) countries had significant energy needs. At the same time, the United States has significant resources, not just in terms of our own energy production, but also in our energy infrastructure, in our ability to work with countries that have formed cooperative solutions to promote energy security.”

Although Obama was able to visit Trinidad in 2009, this is the first visit of a U.S. president to Jamaica since President Ronald Reagan’s back in 1982. Throughout the two terms of the Bush presidency, the U.S. government’s relationship with the Caribbean became dormant but now, the Obama administration is committed to rekindle the connection.

“We absolutely feel that the Caricom region does deserve greater attention and engagement from the United States,” Rhodes said.

Obama will then proceed to Panama for a summit with the heads of Western Hemisphere governments.

[Image via Getty Images]