US embassy cable - 05NASSAU1191

BAHAMAS: ENERGY MINISTER TO ATTEND MEETING WITH CHAVEZ

Identifier: 05NASSAU1191
Wikileaks: View 05NASSAU1191 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Nassau
Created: 2005-06-27 18:24:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ENRG PREL KDEM BF Energy and Environment VZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NASSAU 001191 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR WHA/CAR WBENT 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/27/2009 
TAGS: ENRG, PREL, KDEM, BF, Energy and Environment, VZ 
SUBJECT: BAHAMAS: ENERGY MINISTER TO ATTEND MEETING WITH 
CHAVEZ 
 
REF: A. STATE 117564 
 
     B. NASSAU 754 
 
Classified By: DCM Robert Witajewski, Reasons 1.4 b and d 
 
1.  (U) Ambassador raised CARICOM's upcoming meeting with 
Venezuelan President Chavez in general terms with Foreign 
Minister Mitchell on June 23.  Minister Mitchell indicated 
that The Bahamas would be represented by the Ministry of 
Trade of Industry, which has oversight over the country's 
energy matters.  Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller 
has attended the previous discussions of PetroCaribe. 
 
2.  (C) DCM conveyed Ref A talking points on June 27 to Dr. 
Patricia Rodgers, MFA Permanent Secretary (the #2 position at 
the Ministry) and Ms. Helen Ebong, Permanent Secretary at the 
Ministry of Trade and Industry.  Dr. Rodgers privately 
expressed concern that a "loose cannon" like Minister Miller 
would be representing The Bahamas and that rather than 
request him to speak out it might be better for both 
countries if he stayed in the background, but offered no 
other substantive comment.  PS Ebong, a long-time skeptic of 
PetroCaribe whom Minister Miller no longer consults on the 
subject, believed the summit-like nature of the event might 
prompt the Prime Minister to expand the Bahamian delegation 
beyond Minister Miller.  She promised to forward the talking 
points to both Minister Miller and the Prime Minister's 
office. 
 
 
Minister Miller Responds 
------------------------ 
 
3. (C)  Shortly after receiving a copy of the demarche from 
his Permanent Secretary, Trade and Industry Minister Miller 
called DCM to discuss his trip.  He promised to take the 
points made in the demarche up with his CARICOM colleagues at 
a meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 28, in Caracas 
that he is chairing.  Responding to DCM's urging that the 
best long-term solution to the energy situation would be a 
market-based solution within the context of a stable, 
democratic political system, Minister Miller said that in 
petroleum, economics and politics always mixed.  He called on 
the United States to itself construct new oil refineries in 
the U.S. to relieve supply shortages.  Miller then went on to 
describe himself as a "nationalist" saying that he understood 
why the "dirt poor people in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina" 
were upset with oil companies.  When DCM cautioned about 
concluding an agreement with an unstable government whose 
president had a penchant for tearing up and re-writing 
contracts, Miller responded by declaring that paying 
royalties from extracted natural resources of "one percent" 
was "ridiculous and unfair."  Miller went on to comment that 
unless oil companies shared their profits more equitably, it 
was understandable that governments would seek to abrogate 
existing contracts and re-write them to retain more of the 
proceeds.  This, he argued, was the only way to create a 
stable middle class.  He pointed out that he had negotiated a 
contract with a company currently exploring for oil in The 
Bahamas that called for 12-25 percent of the profits to be 
paid to the government. DCM responded that investment 
required stability, transparency, and predictability and that 
all of these were in short supply in President Chavez' 
Venezuela at the moment. 
 
4. (C)  Miller promised DCM to provide a full debrief of the 
meeting upon his return. 
 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
5.  (C) Recent headlines in Bahamian newspapers are 
trumpeting the possibility of $4 (or more) a gallon gasoline 
in The Bahamas.  Minister Miller has been promoting 
PetroCaribe as a politically easy way to lower local gasoline 
prices without reducing the government's per gallon tax or 
distributors margins.   He also dreams of creating of a 
National Energy Corporation under his control to administer 
the program (Ref B).  Prime Minister Christie has remained 
silent on the issue but has shown no inclination to embark on 
the type of sweeping project that Minister Miller envisions. 
On the other hand, Christie has also shown no inclination to 
silence a minister whose more outrageous comments regularly 
make for embarrassing headlines.  Minister Miller is an 
erratic figure within the Christie cabinet and his frequent 
dramatic pronouncements on issues ranging from PetroCaribe to 
hurricane relief funding to liquefied natural gas projects 
are taken with a large grain of salt.  His recent comments on 
high gasoline prices have focused less on Venezuela and more 
on decreasing the fixed markups that local gasoline importers 
and retailers are permitted to charge. 
 
6.  (C)  The Bahamas is sufficiently interested in possibly 
lowering its energy bill to keep sending Minister Miller to 
PetroCaribe meetings, but it has little in common politically 
with President Chavez.  The one possible exception is Cuba, 
with which The Bahamas shares a pragmatic working 
relationship based on migrant issues and other 
people-to-people matters such as tourism and medical training 
and treatment. 
 
ROOD 

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