THE late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was a great friend of Jamaica and was one of the most generous supporters of this country in the throes of the global economic crisis.
Mr Chavez continued the tradition of close ties between Venezuela and Jamaica which was consolidated by the personal friendship between late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley and President Carlos Andres Perez. They shared similar world views, were active in Socialist International and strove for a new international economic order.
Mr Chavez was a socialist of sorts who drew inspiration from Messrs Simon Bolivar and Fidel Castro. Whether for altruism or political calculation, Mr Chavez has been a friend in "deed" to Jamaica through the PetroCaribe programme. It is therefore fitting that Jamaica should mark his untimely death here and by having a Jamaican delegation, led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, attend his funeral and related ceremonies of remembrance in Caracas.
The Jamaican delegation included Foreign Minister A J Nicholson; Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell; Mayor of Kingston Senator Angela Brown Burke; the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Senator Robert Montague, and Clifton Stone, former ambassador to Venezuela.
The prime minister and the foreign minister are capable and sufficiently experienced in international diplomacy to ably represent Jamaica. They require, and are entitled to appropriate administrative and security support to bolster the staff of our mini-embassy in Caracas.
We admit that we don't immediately understand why Mayor Brown Burke was included. Perhaps that will be clarified at an appropriate time soon. And we hope that Mr Paulwell was there to mourn the passing of Mr Chavez and not to begin talks on PetroCaribe, even before he was buried.
In any event, it seems premature to begin talks about developing relations with the new leaders since nobody knows who will be in power after the presidential election constitutionally due in 30 days.
We suspect the JLP was included to show national unity on the subject, but we don't see why it was necessary to send two representatives, since Mr Chavez's socialist party is not known to have fraternal relations with the non-socialist JLP. The customary practice in the case of state funerals is to have state and not political party representatives in attendance.
We question the reasons for such a big delegation because it represents both a financial and a reputational cost to Jamaica. Even if the Venezuelan Government sent a plane for the Jamaican delegation and provided free accommodation, it would not look good to accept on such a scale at a time like this.
The Government, we are sure, is grateful for the assistance received from Mr Chavez. One figure puts that assistance, through PetroCaribe, at US$500 million. That's serious money. But, and we are sure Mr Chavez would agree, in these days of fiscal difficulties, when civil servants have just agreed to forgo needed salary increases, the Government of Jamaica should be more abstemious and demonstrate a demeanour in tandem with the sacrifices that we are all making.