February 19, 2018 / 7:24 PM / 2 years ago

REFILE-Venezuela, oil likely to feature on Mexican min's visit- Jamaica

(Refiles to add full name and title of Venezuelan president in para 3)

By Gabriel Stargardter

MEXICO CITY, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s political situation could well be on the agenda during a trip by Mexico’s foreign minister to Jamaica next month during which Mexican oil sales are likely to be discussed, Jamaica’s foreign minister told Reuters on Monday.

Last week, Reuters reported that Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray will travel to Jamaica and other Caribbean nations in March, as part of efforts to erode Venezuela’s oil-based influence in the Caribbean.

Mexico has been looking at the possibility of replacing Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program that provided cheap loans for oil to Caribbean nations and has helped Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro retain diplomatic support in the region.

“Jamaica buys (Mexican crude) ... on the spot market, so in terms of Jamaica having an energy relationship with Mexico, that exists, of course, and probably there will be discussions around that,” Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said in a phone interview on Monday, when asked about Mexico’s commitment to help improve energy security in the Caribbean.

Johnson Smith said she had invited Videgaray to Jamaica last October and they decided his visit should coincide with a regional conference of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), due to be held in Jamaica on March 5-8.

Videgaray’s visit represents the latest development in U.S.-led pressure on Maduro, who retains loyalty from some Caribbean nations that have long benefited from Caracas’ oil largesse and have been unwilling to shun the country in regional diplomatic efforts.

“It could be,” Johnson Smith said, when asked if Venezuela would be on the agenda with Videgaray. “Hemispherical matters will, of course, be on the agenda.”

“But the focus is very much on our bilateral cooperation, deepening trade and investment,” she added.

Videgaray’s trip follows a visit to Latin America and the Caribbean earlier this month by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who announced plans to study how possible oil sanctions against Venezuela could be mitigated in the Caribbean.

Mexico’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Mexican official told Reuters last week that Videgaray has sought to engage more with the Caribbean in the wake of a June meeting in which foreign ministers from the 34-nation Organization of American States (OAS) failed to reach agreement on a resolution criticizing Venezuela. (Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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