GEORGETOWN: President Donald Ramotar is optimistic about the future of integration of South America and the Caribbean, which he believes will yield significant benefits for both sides.
During an interview last week with Venezuelan state-owned Television Telasur in Paramaribo, Suriname, where Ramotar was attending the heads of government summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), he said the Caribbean/South American partnership is growing slowly but surely.
“The tempo (of integration) has increased, particularly, since the presence of president (Hugo) Chavez, who had placed more attention to this issue,” said Ramotar. “Over the years I would say the integration of South America and with the Caribbean has increased quite a lot.”
Ramotar described the late President Chavez as a strong integrationist, whom he praised for his efforts to bring the two regions together.
“He has left a very good base for us to build on, and that’s what I hope this meeting here will help to promote,” he said.
Addressing possible causes for the pace of integration, Ramotar listed the scale of economies, language barriers and the different cultures and history of Latin America and the Caribbean.
“You have to recognize that we are not at the same level of economic development, therefore the progress which we will make in the integration process should not be expected to be tremendously faster than it is,” he said. “We have to remember that even though we were on the same continent, that we have not had this regularity of contact, some of this had to do with, probably, separation of language and our history and traditions but now, I think, conditions have improved, with the development of transport and science and technology, it is bringing people closer into contact with each other and those barriers are gradually being broken down.”
Ramotar said he believes Guyana and Suriname have critical roles to play to progress the integration of the Caribbean and South America because of their geographic location. He also expressed gratitude to Venezuela for its support to Guyana, particularly under the PetroCaribe agreement, and that country’s decision to purchase Guyana’s rice and paddy.