Antigua PM Gaston Browne left Antigua and Barbuda last Tuesday on a quick visit to Venezuela that saw Antigua and Barbuda being formally inducted into ALBA Bank as a new member, as well as the signing of the Financing Agreement relating to the loan of US$15.8 million for injection into LIAT.
On his arrival Browne was met on the tarmac with an honour guard by Vice Minister Yuri Pimentel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he was then whisked away to his meetings in downtown Caracas.
The 22nd meeting of the Ministerial Council and the 72ndmeeting of the Executive Board of ALBA Bank were held in Caracas Venezuela during the morning at the headquarters of the Central Bank of Venezuela.
The Governor of the Central Bank Mr Calixto Ortega welcomed Browne and stated how pleased he was that Antigua and Barbuda was becoming the seventh member of ALBA Bank, joining Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Bolivia.
During the meeting, Browne formally deposited the instrument that allowed Antigua and Barbuda to join the Bank, and he expressed his satisfaction at the good financial position of the Bank which would, in his view, engender trust and confidence.
Both St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, in offering their congratulations, indicated that they fully supported the ‘bold move’ by Antigua and Barbuda to join the Bank.
ALBA Bank was established in 2005 as the brainchild of former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, and the former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, and was envisioned as a regional development bank that would provide resources to fill the development needs of the countries of the region.
In signing the Financing Agreement, Browne indicated that although the Government of Antigua and Barbuda was assuming the financial liability, in fact the loan injection into LIAT would benefit the entire region that LIAT served.
‘LIAT is our infrastructure that links our scattered islands into a single economic space,’ Mr Browne said, ‘and it breathes oxygen into our tourism industry.’
After the meetings at the Central Bank, the Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro Moros in the Miraflores Palace.
Both leaders reviewed the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean and agreed to work more closely together to achieve the goals of sustainable development in the region. Accompanying President Maduro in the meeting was Vice President Delcy Rodriguez; minister of foreign affairs Jorge Arreaza; and Vice Minister in the ministry of foreign affairs and chairman of the Executive Board of ALBA Bank Raul Li Causi.