Front Page
February 23, 2007


He arrived in style last Friday around 6:50 p.m. aboard a military helicopter amidst stifling security. What was described as a working visit, Minister of Housing, Senator Julian Francis later called the deepening of a marriage with “no divorce in sight.”

Hundreds of enthusiastic Vincentians began gathering outside the E.T. Joshua airport at around 5 p.m. in anticipation of the announced 5:30 p.m. arrival of Hugo Chavez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.{{more}}

When he touched town in the largest of the three military helicopters, he was greeted by Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves. He was given a 21-gun salute, following which he inspected the guard of honour.

Lined up along with the Vincentian ministers of government were the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his Dominican counterpart Roosevelt Skeritt who were scheduled to have bi-lateral talks with President Chavez at the official residence of the Prime Minister on Friday night.

President Chavez and his huge entourage toured the site of the US$200 million Argyle International Airport on Saturday morning. What was scheduled to be a one and a half hour pit stop transformed into a four-hour impromptu rally where President Chavez was in at his controversial best as he blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and took other swipes at the United States.

An official luncheon hosted by the Governor-General was followed by a trip to the US$17 million fuel storage facility where a cornerstone was placed and the official sign for the plant unveiled. This new storage facility will store diesel under the Petro Caribe agreement for VINLEC.

President Chavez then visited another of his gifts to St Vincent and the Grenadines, the LPG filling station in Campden Park, which was commissioned at a cost of US$2 million.

At last Saturday’s rally at the Bureau of Standard’s compound at Campden Park, the Venezuelan president, along with Prime Ministers Spencer, Skerrit and Gonsalves signed a historic joint statement of cooperation and unity.

Five other agreements on student exchange, telecommunications, tourism, and economic and social cooperation were signed by representatives of the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ government and the government of Venezuela.

The closing rally, which featured speeches by Prime Ministers Baldwin Spencer, Roosevelt Skeritt, Dr Ralph Gonsalves and President Chavez was beamed live to Venezuela, as were the other aspects of his visit via three television stations, including the state-owned entity.