Thursday, August 13, 2009

Antigua and Barbuda beneficiaries of the 'other' Hugo Chavez

What does it mean that Venezuela's virulently anti-United States president, Hugo Chavez, just gave $50 million to help the Caribbean two-island country of Antigua and Barbuda cope with financial losses from the collapse of a bank owned by Texas billionaire Allen Stanford? Antigua's prime minister, Baldwin Spencer, announced Thursday that Venezuela had agreed to loan the tiny country $50 million on favorable terms to help it weather the crisis. "Today, I am pleased to advise the nation that at one o'clock this morning President Hugo Chavez signed the necessary paperwork to approve the immediate transfer of the full amount of $50 million to the government's call account at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank," Spencer said, according to the Reuters international news service. Spencer led Antigua to join the Chavez-inspired ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American countries two months ago, an alliance that includes Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, which was created as an alternative to U.S. economic influence in Latin America, Reuters said. Aiding Antigua is another way for Chavez to gain influence in the region, since the United States has not offered such aid because it believes Antigua's government was involved in a $7 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by Stanford through his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank. The U.S. Justice Department handed down indictments in June accusing Stanford, three bank executives at the bank and Antigua's chief bank regulator with complicity in the fraud. Investors from the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Peru have sued Antigua for $24 billion, accusing the country of helping the fraud. Venezuelan investors also lost money in the investment scheme, which involved certificates of deposit from the bank, Reuters said. Antigua is a member of another Chavez-inspired group, PetroCaribe, which allows poor countries in the region buy oil on credit. This is not the first time Chavez's dislike for the United States has "encouraged" him to help his neighbors -- hopefully, it won't be the last.

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