August 30, 2011
PM unhappy with media’s reaction

At a recent press conference, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that he is “disappointed” with the way in which the media has reacted to his disclosure that{{more}}

the Venezuelan government has not yet reimbursed this government money as promised.

During the sitting of Parliament on Thursday, August 11, Gonsalves, in answer to a question posed by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, said as at the end of July 2011, a total of EC$8.78 million was paid by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Cuban workers, at an average monthly rate of $368,572. None of the money has been reimbursed by Venezuela.

At a press conference on Monday, August 22, the irate prime minister reminded his audience that the money expected from Venezuela is not a debt, but a gift.

He also pointed out that the people of St .Vincent and the Grenadines should be grateful for Venezuela’s contribution, given that they have been so willing to assist financially in the past.

“The way some persons have commented and carried the story, it is as though Venezuela owes us this money and they haven’t paid it; and they should be traduced!” said Gonsalves.

“People must really look at the factual matrix, and see the extent of the generosity of the government of Venezuela to us.”

Gonsalves outlined several instances of Venezuelan assistance, including: several million dollars towards the construction of the international airport; donation and delivery of three wind stations; and the setting up of a laboratory for Cuban workers to conduct soil testing.

“All of that [for] free!” exclaimed Gonsalves.

He also spoke of a loan from the Petro Caribe fund towards the international airport, to be repaid at 2 per cent interest over 25 years.

“In practical terms, where are you having money cheaper than that for that length of time?”

Gonsalves also mentioned that the Venezuela government sent food, water and medical supplies after Hurricane Tomas struck the island last year; and donated $9 million towards the relief fund.

“The very country which has been extraordinarily generous, you want to pick on them?” he questioned.

“Do we want to be so ungrateful? We don’t understand the act of solidarity?”

The prime minister said that what the Venezuelan government had intended as a display of “ Bolivarian solidarity” has been twisted into some kind of debt owed to the country.

“They don’t owe us!” he admonished.

“I’m not going to tolerate that kind of a thing being said without responding robustly. I want to reaffirm our thanks… for what the Venezuelans have done for us on the airport and other things.”

He added: “I will not allow ingratitude and ignorance!”