Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hugo Chavez: If I Pay You, Will You Be My Friend?

One thing politicians know how to do well is to buy votes, and so we learn with little surprise of Hugo Chavez's Petrocaribe initiative, an attempt to buy off his neighbors by selling his products to them at a lower price than currently exist in world markets.
Mr Chavez has pledged highly preferential oil prices, with Caracas picking up 40% of the cost if oil is selling at more than $50 a barrel, as it is now.

He has promised further concessions to the Petrocaribe signatories if prices hit the $100 a barrel mark.

Venezuela is putting $50m into a fund to kick-start the plan, and Mr Chavez has said Caracas will pay for oil shipments and help with setting up storage facilities across the region.

But he has insisted all this new business must be between governments, saying that the region could not hand any more natural resources over to Texaco and other private companies.

While I suspect he has a good opportunity to reduce U.S. influence in the area, I continue to think Chavez has a strong chance to box himself in here. Or is the value of the influence he's buying greater than the capital he'll need to keep that oil flowing?