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No fears Chavez visit will damage relations with US

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August 23 Kingston Jamaica: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Jamaica today is good news for this country, despite Venezuela's worsening relations with the United States, says Don Mills, former Jamaican ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Chavez and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson are to finalise a bilateral agreement under the PetroCaribe Accord on energy cooperation in Montego Bay today.

The Petro-Caribe agreement will supply cheaper oil from Venezuela directly to participating Caribbean countries and replace middlemen in oil transactions.

On a trip to South America last week U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Venezuela and Cuba of attempting to destabilise Bolivia. Mr. Chavez fired back on a visit to Cuba, calling the U.S. the region's "great destabilisers".

U.S.-backed coups and free market economic policies were responsible for South America's instability charged Mr. Chavez against whom an attempted coup, allegedly supported by the U.S., failed to remove from power in 2002.

Jamaica, maintained Ambassador Mills, should continue in its relationship with Venezuela. "As a small country we have to make different associations with different countries."

"We make our way in the world and we hope that we will be seen as pursuing our interests in a responsible way," said Mr. Mills who represented Jamaica at he UN between 1973 and 1981.

Yesterday Glen Guimond, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in St. Andrew, expressed Washington's growing concern over Venezuela.

"There are some disturbing things going on in this region and we hope responsible actions will be taken by all involved.

Minister of State for Foreign Trade Delano Franklyn welcomed Mr. Chavez's "historic" visit. "I do not see any foreseen difficulties between us and the U.S. from this visit. President Chavez is a duly elected leader of his country and Jamaica and Venezuela have always enjoyed very good fraternal relations."

Jamaica has benefited from its relations with Venezuela starting with the 1980 San Jose Accord which allowed nations up to 80 per cent credit on the oil they bought from Venezuela and Mexico. San Jose funds were used to redevelop the national stadium, finance the Greater Portmore housing project and buy buses for the Jamaica Urban Transport Corporation (JUTC).

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