Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

What Does PDVSA Have to Do with the Crisis in Haiti?

By Clodovaldo Hernandez – Supuesto Negado – November 7, 2019

Haiti has been on fire for weeks, without the so-called ‘international community’ or its associated press paying any attention.

Fuel shortages have plunged the Caribbean country back into social turmoil which borders on civil war. There are many causes behind this dramatic panorama, which has been exasperated by the decrease in production by Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA, corruption scandals in the Caribbean country and relentless US pressure on Venezuela, which have all damaged the PetroCaribe crude oil supply programme, which Haiti was reliant on.

PDVSA’s internal collapse, coupled with the labyrinth of obstacles placed by the US’ unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) against Venezuela, has forced the dismantling of what was one of Commander Hugo Chavez’s most powerful initiatives.

The project is a regional mechanism for selling oil at preferential prices with financing for the residents of the Antillean Basin. Local opposition groups and the Washington-led international coalition have, however, always branded the programme as a way for Venezuela to ensure support in the international arena based on the so-called ‘petro-chequebook.’

Internal corruption

Before the programme was damaged by PDSVA’s fall in production and the blockade [against Venezuela], there were already revelations of financial irregularities by unscrupulous Haitian civil servants and entrepreneurs who took advantage of Venezuelan aid to line their own pockets.

In Haiti, these crimes are particularly outrageous because the programme was conceived as a way of providing financial assistance to the government to address serious internal problems, exacerbated by the 2010 earthquake and five major hurricanes, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Under the programme, PetroCaribe delivered crude oil to a state agency called the Monetisation Bureau of Development Aid Programmes, which proceeded to sell it to private Haitian companies. The resulting funds should have been used to rebuild infrastructure, especially in the areas of health, education, housing and roadways, however around US $2 billion is estimated to have been stolen.

The responsibility of Venezuelan officials in this and other Petro Caribe- related corruption cases remains to be seen.

The issue of corruption is so important in the Haitian political debate that in addition to demanding the resignation of pro-US President Jovenel Moise, the opposition and Haitian grassroots movements, which have led the wave of demonstrations in recent months, also demand the prosecution of those involved in irregularities that distorted the initial objectives of the programme. Opposition Deputies Youri Latortue, Moise Jean Charles and Shiller Louidor have been the flag-bearers of these demands.

The political reasons

In parallel, and in accordance with Washington’s instructions, the Haitian government of businessman Jovenel Moise, which is propped up by the US, has preferred to sever its relationship with PetroCaribe, supposedly to distance itself from the influence that revolutionary Venezuela exerted on previous Haitian presidents, such as René Preval and Michel Martelly.

Moise (whose name also appears amongst the list of alleged benefactors from the theft of PetroCaribe funds) was snared with promises that the US would supply the oil that Venezuela would no longer deliver. But that obviously hasn’t happened.

As the country ran out of fuel, what has been described as Haiti’s worst political crisis has erupted. The nation has lived in perennial instability due to, among other reasons, the continued interference of the US in its internal affairs.

Apart from Haiti, the PetroCaribe programme favoured Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Suriname. Guatemala and Belize abandoned the agreement in 2014 and 2017 respectively, and in June 2018 Venezuela announced that it was suspending shipments to all these nations due to a drop in production, with the notable exception of Cuba.

Denouncements of irregularities [in the programme’s funds] were well exploited by Venezuela’s opponents to discredit the project between 2016 and 2018. Simultaneously, the US toured the Caribbean offering to supply US oil extracted through fracking in exchange for support for its aggressive political moves against the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro. Of course, in the US’ case, we aren’t talking about a social programme but rather winning the Caribbean market for its oil corporations, while continuing to strangle Venezuela economically.

In 2018, a Caribbean Energy Security Summit was held in Washington, which mentioned adopting sustainable renewable energy systems for the region. The political purpose, the true one, was later expressed by a spokesman for the US State Department: “That the Caribbean doesn’t increase its debt to the only energy supplier which has attended the region to date.”

PDVSA’s inability to continue honouring the programme, in addition to corruption scandals in countries like Haiti, allowed this goal to be achieved just as the US wished.

Now, the entire Caribbean region once again depends on the savage capitalism’s suppliers , and Haiti’s social protests are one of the first symptoms of this return to the harsh reality.

Clodovaldo Hernández is a Venezuelan journalist who has written for left leaning news sites Supuesto Negado and Aporrea.

Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Hispaniola Rising: How the US Coup in Venezuela Is Taking Root in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, and the people of those nations are not taking their governments’ support for the US coup in Venezuela lightly.

By Ariel Fornari | MintPress News | February 15, 2019

As Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss for 20 pieces of silver, the institutionally corrupt governments in Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo have written another sad chapter in their nation’s history.

Ironically, it was Venezuela that helped to develop the island’s energy infrastructure in recent years. A key part of this is the REFIDOMSA oil refinery in the Dominican Republic which the Venezuelan government helped to develop and partially owns, and which has also been used to help alleviate increased fuel demands and shortages in Haiti.

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, which provided subsidized crude oil prices to meet the countries critical energy demands.  The Petrocaribe oil agreement, allowed for governments to pay only 60 percent of the oil shipments they purchase from Venezuela. The remaining 40 percent could be financed over 25 years at 1 percent interest, as long as oil prices stayed above $40 per barrel. This allowed for tremendous savings, and money that (according to the agreement) was supposed to be used for socially beneficial purposes.

Countries such as Nicaragua, Jamaica, Cuba, and many islands in the eastern Caribbean have successfully utilized Petrocaribe funds and other Venezuelan support mechanisms, investing in vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, and have used the funding to avoid austerity deals with the IMF and other international financial institutions. Corrupt politicians in Hispaniola, though, whose regimes are closely aligned with Washington, have by contrast become well-known for robbing many of the funds meant for the social needs of their population.

For this reason, the date of January 10, 2019, will go down in the historical memory of the Dominican and Haitian peoples, as an ignominious reminder of the historically aberrant role of the Organization of American States (OAS), when that body was used as a front by neo-conservative policymakers in Washington. It was on that date that the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic voted to no longer recognize Venezuela’s legitimately elected president.

The people of Hispaniola, on both sides of the island, are waking up. They are coming to understand how the political orders in their countries are being managed by Washington and how local corrupt elites are stealing the solidarity funds sent by Venezuela while failing to meet the needs of the local population. Haitians and Dominicans are organizing protests, meeting at homes and schools to discuss what is happening, learning on social media and through news spread over Whats App and Facebook. Hispaniola’s betrayal of Venezuela will not be taken lightly.

The people of Hispaniola know better. They know that it was the U.S., not Venezuela, that twice invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic; they know of the multiple coups and occupations that the U.S. has carried out in Haiti.  The Dominican collective memory still bears the deep scars of the over 2,000 Dominicans that perished during the invasion of Santo Domingo by the U. S. marines in April, 1965. (Dominican historians calculate that the actual figure of deaths including civilians & military during the 1965 invasion & occupation, could have been as high as 5,000). Haitians still march annually protesting the 1991 and 2004 Coup d’états, which cost the lives of so many thousands, as many human rights studies verified, such as a paper in the Lancet Medical Journal that found that upward of 8,000 people were killed as a result of the 2004 coup and pro-US paramilitary violence. A decade prior it was estimated that more than 10,000 were killed in the wake of the 1991 coup.

We need also to remember how the U.S. supported the ruthless Trujillo and Duvalierist dictatorships. We must not forget the first U. S. invasion & occupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that took place in the early 20thcentury during the Era of Gunboat Diplomacy in the Central-American and Caribbean Basin.

It is against this compelling & stark historical background, that we are confronted again with tumultuous events in the region, when the U. S. is once more employing the infamous & wholly discredited OAS, in its theatrical charade to lend an air of “legitimacy” to the recent lopsided vote against Venezuela. While 14 of the CARICOM states, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Uruguay, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, India, South Africa, and nearly all of the states in mother Africa continue to recognize the elected government, the U.S. has found support from its rightwing and neoliberal allied governments across Latin America, Europe, and in Israel. Shockingly, the Dominican Republic and Haiti joined with the U.S. in denouncing Bolivarian Venezuela.

This eerily reminds some of us old enough to remember, of those similarly turbulent days in the hemisphere during 1962, when an OAS meeting took place in a beach resort known as Punta del Este, Uruguay as Cuba was removed from the body. It was at that OAS meeting, that the legendary Foreign Minister of Cuba Dr. Raul Roa, forever baptized that odious organization as “The Ministry of Yankee Colonies”.

Dominicans won’t accept their government stabbing Caracas in the back

Precisely because of these historical realities that transpired in Hispaniola & the region, vis-à-vis the “Colossus of the North”, the popular movements & social organizations of the Dominican Republic have again assumed their vanguard roles as national leaders, mobilizing throughout the country, reminding the people of the historic legacy serving as background to current events, once again building up the people’s collective consciousness, illustrating that these latest events have not happened in a vacuum.  Within this context, a broad coalition of popular movements & organizations, scheduled a vigil on February 5, 2019, In Santiago, the heart of the northern Cibao region of the country, comprising 13 key provinces which have played a determining role in this country’s history, going back all the way to its independence in the mid 19thCentury.

The deep solidarity bonds of Venezuela towards the Dominican nation can be traced further back in time, when in 1930 the first outflow of Dominican exiles began arriving in the “Patria de Bolivar”, fleeing the U.S. backed Trujillo’s dictatorship. Professor Juan Bosch, a legendary figure of Dominican history & who in 1962 became the first democratically elected President after the fall of Trujillo, arrived in this first contingent of Dominican exiles in Venezuela. Bolivar’s homeland in turn became the safe harbor of patriotic activism against Trujillo, by the Dominican diaspora. This anti-Trujillo militancy from Venezuela became so intense, that the “Satrap of the Caribbean” as Trujillo was sometimes known, ordered an assassination attempt against President Betancourt of Venezuela in 1960. The Dictator Trujillo was finally assassinated in 1961

After the fall of Trujillo & the ascent to power in Dominican Republic of another lackey of U. S. imperialism-President Joaquin Balaguer, whose elections in 1966 were known to have been financed by the U. S. Department of State according to declassified files, over 2,000 Dominican combatants that participated in the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1965, arrived in Venezuela. Afterwards during the re-election of Balaguer in 1971-72, hundreds of Dominicans also migrated to Venezuela.  The situation in D. R. then became so untenable for many Dominicans due to Balaguer’s fierce persecution of opponents, it is estimated upwards of 60,000 of them migrated to Venezuela. Eventually, the Dominican diaspora in Venezuela became the largest migration inflow from the insular Caribbean, up to the ascent to power of Chavez, at which time Cubans began to increasingly arrive in Venezuela, composing in part the core of Chavez’s “Mision Barrio Adentro” massive health clinics projects, in the poor neighborhoods of the country.

In summary, the brotherly hospitality & solidarity afforded to Dominicans in Venezuela, throughout 20thCentury migratory periods, along with the aforementioned fact of Venezuela’s consistent solidarity with Dominican Republic through the generous Petrocaribe oil agreement, this honorable background stands in stark contrast to D. R.’s “Kiss of Judas” vote at the OAS against Venezuela, on January 10, 2019. This “Kiss of Judas” comes at a time when Bolivarian Venezuela faces a mounting economic war undertaken by the U.S. and its allies, compounded by a huge decline in the international price of oil.

With Dominicans aware of their history and learning the truth about the empire’s actions in the region, in the coming months, it appears very likely that the elite consensus in Dominican politics will begin to be shaken, as Danilo Medina faces a crisis of legitimacy.

Jovenel Moïse’s treason and the oncoming tidal wave of resistance

It was Haitians who stood out within our concert of colonized Caribbean nations, as the people which decisively proved in the field of battle, that the very best of Europe could be defeated in war when it finally gained independence from France in 1804. Venezuela’s & Haiti’s history is also intertwined, when in 1816 Petion gave arms, money & men to Bolivar, for the cause of independence of Venezuela, which in turn eventually liberated Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia from imperial Spain.

More recently, during the second Presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Venezuela was one of the only countries which kept providing financial support to the Haitian government as it was embargoed and undermined by the George Bush administration. Furthermore, it was Chavez who was the only Latin American leader who forcefully denounced the 2004 coup against Aristide. Afterwards, during the Preval and then the rightwing Martelly & Moise regimes, Venezuela continued its unconditional solidarity with the people of Haiti, through its Petrocaribe agreement, as well as providing financial assistance for infrastructure projects. Venezuela has never required the conditionalities, nor the political alignment, for its aid, as have the supranational agencies and countries of the north. A true friend.

Regarding Venezuela & Haiti we must remember, that during Chavez’s tenure & following Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution soon thereafter announced Venezuela would “write off” Haiti’s undisclosed oil debts.  At an ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) foreign ministers’ meeting after the earthquake, Chavez remarked that “it wasn’t Haiti that had a debt with Venezuela, but just the opposite Venezuela had a debt with that nation.”  He also mentioned that an initial donation of $10 million would be disbursed to Haiti for emergency energy needs, along with an additional $100 million “for starters” towards infrastructure projects. Additionally, Chavez mentioned, one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via “mobile service stations” to be up and running within a few weeks. The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti also included support for such sectors as agriculture production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc’s member-states. At that time also, Cuba and Venezuela sent assistance and aid workers to Haiti within days of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that left an estimated 150,000-200,000 dead and more than a million people homeless.

To illustrate that unique internationalist relationship between Venezuela & Haiti, we must witness the Venezolana de Television report of Chavez’s trip to Haiti in 2007,  exemplifying the close emotional bond between these two Caribbean nations, which Chavez in great measure revived as he recuperated its historic memory jogging openly with the peoples of Cite Soleil and Bel Air through the streets of Port-au-Prince. In this report, you will witness the incredible feat of Chavez leaving his vehicle, as he actually joins the joyful masses in Port Au Prince, which are jogging in unison along his motorcade. On the other side of the historical spectrum, when Nixon as Vice President visited Venezuela in 1958 the total opposite occurred at that time. Instead of joyful crowds awaiting Nixon, enraged Venezuelans violently assaulted his limousine, manifesting the people’s rebuke of the U. S.’s close collaboration with the ruthless dictatorship of Perez Jimenez, which had recently ended.

As Moïse’s unpopular government has been caught up in corruption scandals and as complaints grow over the worsening economic situation and a lack of government support for the poor, in recent months the USPGN (Moïse’s own personal security forces) took part in a violent massacre targeting an anti-government slum. With Moïse facing mass protests his government increasingly takes its cues from Washington.

With regards to Jovenel Moïse’s governemnt’s treasonous vote against Venezuela at the OAS, another of its aberrant dimensions was its diametrical position vis-à-vis the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member. CARICOM’s position has been unequivocal in contravention to the virtually neocolonial position of OAS Secretary Almagro, who by all reasonable standards has become a virtual mouthpiece of Uncle Sam at the “Ministry of Yankee Colonies.” CARICOM on the one hand recognizes the legitimacy of President Maduro of Venezuela, while the OAS secretary general Luis Almagro has recognized the so-called “self-proclaimed” interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.

Haiti has long been in the crosshairs of the Empire and its local proxies. In recent years top elites have sought to restructure the county’s economy and political scene. This has come after the U.S. and its allies have essentially neutralized the country’s sovereignty & independence, heavily influencing, installing regimes, or supporting political processes that relied on heavy vote suppression and years of political disenfranchisement (such as in 2016 with one the lowest percentages of voter participation in the world). This is the same unpopular & corrupt regime, which has been the subject of massive nationwide protests against its misuse of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe funds, starting on August, 2018, and which continually burst out throughout the following months & into February, 2019.

These protests were practically made invisible by Western mainstream media, even as their brutal repression has been well documented by citizen journalists and local grassroots groups.

Hispaniola Rising!

In spite of the backstabbing vote of the corrupt Dominican and Haitian administration’s against Venezuela at the OAS, the people of Hispaniola’s solidarity with Venezuela has been manifest in many ways.

Huge marches backed by many grassroots groups and Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party have called for an end to the foreign occupation and new sovereign elections, while a smaller opposition party Pitit Dessalin has planned demonstrations in support of the legitimacy of President Maduro. Already Haitian paramilitary and police forces are being used to brutally attack these demonstrations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Hispaniola, on February 17, 2019, a massive demonstration in support of Venezuela is scheduled to take place, at the Parque Independencia of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Student groups and activist circles across the country are being mobilized and are coming to understand the threat that Trump and his neo-con allies present.

In view of all the aforementioned, this writer while not an expert on geopolitics or history, by virtue of the fact of having been born in the Caribbean, & having closely observed its regional history since childhood & comprising many decades, I have reasonably concluded that this recent crisis between Venezuela & the Empire (or the “Colossus of the North”), could perhaps be opening a new threshold in the correlation of forces in the hemisphere, to the point where we could almost start leaning towards the conclusion, that perhaps the United States of America is no longer the absolute master of this hemisphere, say as it was the case prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

What we are witnessing now are key nations such as Venezuela deciding to chart a course in favor of thier own people, implementing the re-foundation of the nation-state, while further steering away from the imperial diktat. At the same time, it is obvious that the Empire while commencing its decline, still exerts plenty of hemispheric muscle, as the treacherous OAS vote of Haiti & Dominican Republic has shown, in spite of Venezuela’s committed and honorable solidarity record with these two sister nations. Informing the younger generations about the history of the U.S. empire in the region, about the role of soft power in the media, and what is happening around the region today is vital. Also vital are creating new bonds and working to unify popular sectors to oppose the plans of Washington and their clients, to once again build south-south bonds and regional development from below.

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next US Coup in Latin America: Obama Takes Aim at Venezuela’s Maduro

Sputnik – 06.05.2016

Unsatisfied with only ousting Brazil’s President by leaking NSA surveillance to the country’s judiciary, Washington now seeks to break the back of Venezuela by fracturing the powerful Petrocaribe energy alliance.

On Monday, the US began a two-day energy summit in Washington, attended by several Caribbean countries, in an attempt to undermine the Petrocaribe oil alliance between Venezuela and Caribbean nations, in what some see as a bid to break the back of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

The energy summit comes on the heels of a proposed recall referendum against the Venezuelan leader, who was elected following the death of Hugo Chavez. The Maduro government faces flagging public opinion due to economic disruption brought about by dwindling oil prices, now at $35 per barrel.

The Venezuelan economy relies on oil revenues for some 95% of its income. Regional agreements set forth under the Chavez regime allow for Latin American and Caribbean countries to pool resources in markets where they possess a competitive advantage.

With oil prices nearing decade lows, the Venezuelan economy and its populace continue to be ravaged by deep poverty and over 1000% inflation. Dire conditions in the country are a consequence of policies that long pre-date the Maduro government, and have been exacerbated by Western market manipulation and Saudi Arabia’s push to bankrupt competitor countries by artificially deflating oil prices below profitable levels.

In a Wednesday interview with Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker, Francisco Dominguez of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign explained that this is not the first time that the White House has attempted to fracture the Petrocaribe oil alliance. In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden created a fracas by attempting to meet secretly with Caribbean leaders to woo them away from the alliance. The Vice President and the State Department initially denied the meeting before retracting that position.

Dominguez speculated that this week’s energy in summit in Washington revolved around US imperialistic hopes to replace Maduro with an opposition leader more favorable to American oil companies. “I think this whole thing has more to do with the overall policy of the United States seeking to oust the government of Venezuela once and for all,” said Dominguez.

US relations with the Latin American country have long been strained, both under Maduro and under his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Many remember the late-President Chavez stating before the United Nations that he smelt sulfur, a reference to the Christian devil, after walking past then-President George W. Bush. The Chavez regime opposed the Bush administration’s penchant for regime change and US intervention in oil rich countries.

Yet, Dominguez believes that the Venezuelan people have more to fear from Washington Democrats than from a Republican Party led by presumptive nominee Donald Trump. He suggested that this week’s round of meetings was sparked by a positive general election outlook on the side of Democrats, who expect a Clinton presidency that will mirror the policies of Obama.

“It looks good for the Democrats against the Republicans so now they want to take a tougher policy against Venezuela,” said Dominguez.

Dominguez asserts that it remains unlikely that Caribbean states will abandon the Petrocaribe alliance, providing as it does for impoverished countries with stable oil supplies preferential conditions and favorable prices for 25 years. He suggests that at least 13 Caribbean nations have benefited from an arrangement that also contributes to regional unity.

But the Washington-supported opposition in Venezuela includes among their grievances the Petrocaribe energy alliance, which has become increasingly expensive for the country to maintain as oil prices have dropped. The White House is seen to be aiming to fabricate the fear among Caribbean states that Venezuela will not maintain their commitment to Petrocaribe, in a bid to force the smaller nations to accept an arrangement with the United States.

Some see the effort to fracture the Petrocaribe alliance as an attempt by Washington to strike a fatal blow at Chavez’s legacy. The controversial former leader established a number of regional political bodies in an effort to strengthen Latin America against Western corporate interests.

Dominguez recalls that the string of coalitions established by Chavez saw to it that each regional country contributed what they had into a broader pool, expanding the fortunes of all Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“In the case of Venezuela it was oil, in the case of Brazil it was industrial goods, Argentina provided agricultural goods, and Cuba supplied the doctors,” said Dominguez. “Chavez was very successful, if you look at the regional political map.”

That legacy now rests in the hands of the embattled Maduro government, likely facing a recall election following a review of referendum signatures. The opposition will need some 7.5 million votes to oust Maduro, equal to the amount of votes he won when elected. The outcome of the referendum remains unpredictable, and to date the opposition remains divided.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garifuna Communities of Honduras Resist Corporate Land Grabs

FINALLY 2

By Samira Jubis | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | September 23, 2015

The fate of the Garifuna people of Honduras hangs in the balance as they face a Honduran state that is all too eager to accommodate the neoliberal agenda of U.S. and Canadian investors. The current economic development strategy of the Honduran government, in the aftermath of the 2009 coup against the democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, has not only benefited the political and economic elite in Honduras, but it has also encouraged the usurpation of some of the territories of indigenous peoples of this Central American nation. The often-violent expropriation of indigenous land threatens the Garifuna’s subsistence.

The Garifuna people are descendants of African slaves and two indigenous groups originally from South America—the Arawaks and the Carib Indians. In 1797, the British deported 5,000 Garifuna, also known as Black Caribs, from St. Vincent to Roatán. Since then, the Garifuna people have immigrated throughout North and Central America.[i]

Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra are home to two of the forty-eight Honduran Garifuna communities along the Honduran Atlantic coast corridor. Due to an ecologically rich geopolitical position, these regions have attracted foreign-backed investments, including tourist and recreational centers, natural resource extraction industries, and self-governing corporate zones. The concept of “self-governing” does not apply to democratic procedures of native citizens, but to the domination of foreign elites who view the Garifuna land as a mere means to the private accumulation of wealth.

Mega development projects have been advertised as a stimulus to economic growth and employment within the country. However, in practice, they have aggravated discrimination and harassment against indigenous and ethnic groups, whom developers generally perceive as obstacles to the expansion of such economic projects. Hence, the Honduran political system, in thrall to ambitious tycoons and foreign interventionism, has infringed on the Garifuna community’s relationship to and management of their ancestral lands. The displacement of these Honduran Afro-descendant communities from their ancestral lands for the development of economic projects accelerated after the coup d’état of June 28, 2009 against the democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya, and the installment of a U.S. backed golpista regime.

The United States and Canada perceived the center-left policies of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya as an intolerable restraint on American and Canadian investment objectives in Honduras. The alignment of Honduras with the left-leaning Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and PetroCaribe along with stricter domestic reforms to rein in the damage caused by neoliberal policies, emboldened the U.S.-Canadian intervention in the Honduran political system. The coup brought the golpista regime of Roberto Micheletti (June 28, 2009 to January 27, 2010) to power and was followed by the subsequent election of two right wing presidents. Tegucigalpa has pursued policies that are more obedient to the economic consensus of Washington and Ottawa, reversing its march towards progressive land and labor reforms and opening the doors wide to foreign investors. As a result, Honduras has been the bloody stage for human rights violations against those who have resisted some of the more intrusive features of the neoliberal economic model.

The Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, for example, possessed title deeds of full ownership to their ancestral territories. However, the U.S. and World Bank-backed 1992 Agrarian Modernization Law not only led to the expansion of Tela’s city boundaries, but also stimulated future transactions of ancestral lands without consent of the Garifuna community members.[ii] Grahame Russell is the director of Rights Action and has devoted his life to protecting human rights in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Russell points out: “All along the north coast, most particularly in the Tela Bay and Trujillo Bay areas, Garifuna villages are being pressured—with false legal documents, with forced sales and with repression—to sell their lands and territories to international tourism operators that are supported by the illegitimate and repressive Honduran regime.”[iii]

The municipality of Tela sold ancestral territories to a corporation called Inversiones y Desarrollos del Triunfo S.A de C.V. The municipality later issued construction permits for the development of tourist projects, such as the Indura Beach and Golf Resort.[iv] Government officials and foreign investors have overlooked the Garifuna people’s opposition to these projects. In turn, there have been frequent territorial disputes between the investors and members of the Garifuna community. In 2014, the Honduran national police and military officials attempted to violently dislodge the Garifuna population from their lands. Despite the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring that the Garifuna culture is one of the nineteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (2001), violence and physical force have been constantly used to threaten the livelihood of the Honduran Garifuna communities. Oscar Bregal and Jesus Alvarez, two committed Garifuna leaders, were murdered in 1997 while protesting against the violation of the human and civil rights of the Garifuna communities. Oppression and harsh conditions been the principal causes of displacement and emigration of the Honduran Garifuna inhabitants

According to the Indura Beach investors, the first phase of this US $120 million tourist-complex development has created 400 direct jobs and 800 indirect jobs.[v] The Honduran Tourism Institute insists that these jobs have primarily benefited the communities around the complex, especially the Garifuna communities. These benefits, however, have not reached the hands of the Garifuna population. As a matter of fact, unsustainable tourist projects have threatened the Garifuna people’s food sovereignty. As stated by Miriam Miranda, leader of The Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), the Garifuna people cannot continue to exist without the land required to grow their subsistence crops. Foods like rice, beans, and yucca not only make up the Garifuna daily diet, but also represent critical components of the Garifuna culture. The women of the communities sow and harvest the land for household consumption and income. The Honduran state’s failure to protect the interests of these Honduran citizens has led Garifuna indigenous communities to request the intervention of international organizations.

From August 24 to August 29, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its 53rd period of extraordinary sessions in Honduras. During the sessions, the court visited the Garifuna Communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra to commence proceedings against the Honduran state. OFRANEH— speaking on behalf of the Garifuna inhabitants of Triunfo de la Cruz, Punta Piedra, and Cayos Cochinos—claimed that Honduras has failed to ensure these communities’ right of land ownership as well as their right to free, prior, and informed consent. Although Honduras has ratified the International Labour Organization Convention no. 169, and the Honduran constitution recognizes the rights of indigenous and ethnic peoples, the Honduran Garifuna communities continue to face discrimination and harassment within the Honduran economic and political systems. The petition of the Honduran Garifuna communities was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human rights on October 29, 2003. [vi] Following the commission’s hearings, the Honduran state agreed to put in place measures to protect the property rights of the Garifuna people. The state, however, has failed to uphold this agreement.

In February 2013, the commission submitted the case Garifuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members v. Honduras to the Inter-American court after the Honduran government failed to inform the Commission of the measures it had taken to enforce the property rights of the Triunfo de la Cruz inhabitants.[vii] This case not only confirms state collaboration with the violation of Garifuna people’s rights in Honduras, but it also challenges the effectiveness of the international community—in this case the court’s jurisdiction, in protecting those rights.

It has been 12 years since the petition was presented to the commission and the Honduran Garifuna communities are still living in despair and fear. Do we hear their call for justice in the North? Russell remarks that “while OFRANEH and the Garifuna communities are waiting for the Inter-American Court to render its final decision, which—if justice is to prevail—will find in favor of the Garifuna people, against the actions and omissions of the Honduran State, they are not depending on it.” Furthermore, Russell adds that the Honduran Garifuna communities, “resist peacefully, resolutely, on and on, from one community to the next.”

The usurpation of ancestral territories by multinational corporations backed by the political and security structure of the Honduran state has evoked justified skepticism among the Honduran Garifuna communities in regards to neoliberal economic policies that put profits before human needs and respect for participatory democratic procedures. While the Garifuna communities are still waiting for the court’s final decision on their case against the State of Honduras, they have been committed to voicing their grievances. The leadership and determination of the Honduran Garifuna has encouraged other indigenous and ethnic groups in the western hemisphere to fight against hegemonic neoliberal policies that threaten their ability to live and develop in community.

Featured Photo: Chachahuate, a small Honduran island inhabited by Garifuna communities. From: Dennis Garcia

[i] Escure, Geneviève, and Armin Schwegler. “Garifuna in Belize and Honduras.” In Creoles, Contact, and Language Change Linguistics and Social Implications, 37. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=622399.

[ii] Brondo, Keri V. “La pérdida de la tierra y el activismo de las mujeres garífunas en la costa norte de Honduras.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, 9, no. 3 (May 2008): 374.

[iii] Grahame Russell, e-mail message to author, September 20, 2015

[iv] IACHR, Merits Report No. 76/12. Case No.12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), November 7, 2012, paragraph 159, 160.

[v] Diario El Heraldo Honduras. “Lista Primera Etapa De Indura Beach and Golf Resort.” Accessed September 20, 2015. http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/566419-209/lista-primera-etapa-de-indura-beach-and-golf-resort.

[vi] IACHR, Merits Report No. 76/12. Case No.12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), November 7, 2012, paragraph 1.

[vii] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, (2013). IACHR Takes Case involving Honduras to the Inter-American Court. Available at: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2013/076.asp [Accessed 22 Sep. 2015].

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Visits Jamaica, Urges Caribbean Nations to Break from PetroCaribe

By Z.C. Dutka | Venezuelanalysis | April 8th, 2015

Boa Vista – US President Barack Obama arrived today in Jamaica as part of an ongoing effort to persuade the island and its neighbors to reduce dependency on Venezuela’s bilateral PetroCaribe program.

As the first active US president to visit Jamaica in 33 years, the primary goal of Mr. Obama’s trip will be to develop, in coordination with the World Bank, an investment plan in the Caribbean’s energy sector.

Vice-president Joe Biden has alleged that PetroCaribe, founded by Hugo Chavez in 2005, is being used as a “tool of coercion” against the region by the South American nation.

For almost a decade, Venezuela has shipped fuel to 18 nations in the Caribbean and Central America with favorable terms for payment, such as low-interest loans, while investing in community projects including hospitals, schools, highways, and homeless shelters.

Last week, the Bolivarian government, through the Petrocaribe initiative, donated US$16 million to help the government of St. Kitts and Nevis provide for former sugar industry workers.

In January, Biden gathered Caribbean heads of state in Washington as part of his Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, which he claims is seeking clean energy solutions for small island governments. However, the focus of the event was less about environmentalism and more about breaking away from Venezuelan trade.

“Whether it’s the Ukraine or the Caribbean, no country should be able to use natural resources as a tool of coercion against any other country,” he told the leaders in attendance.

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned of “strategic damage” on Venezuela’s part which could cause “a serious humanitarian crisis in our region.”

According to a Miami Herald report published on March 26th, Venezuela has halved subsidized shipments of crude oil to Cuba and other PetroCaribe member nations from 400,000 barrels per day in 2012, to 200,000 barrels per day.

The article, which claimed to cite a Barclay’s Bank report, has since been refuted by the Venezuelan government.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez insisted last week that the information was “not true,” and was being published in a concerted effort to discredit PetroCaribe.

Maintaining that the organization remains “pretty strong” despite sliding oil prices and a contracting economy, Rodriguez said a “war” is being waged against the socialist program, because it “brings solutions to poor people.”

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chávez in The Americas: Increasing Autonomy in Latin America and the Caribbean

By Stephanie Pearce, NACLA

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 edition “Chavismo After Chávez: What Was Created? What Remains?”

Countries in the “developing world” have, since the end of formal colonialism, seen their ability to act autonomously systematically constrained by a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to, macroeconomic policy conditions attached to World Bank and IMF loans, poor terms of trade with the Global North, lack of effective agency in international organizations, and the actions of multinational corporations operating in their territory.

Venezuela’s regionally oriented foreign policy during the Chávez era counteracted each of these dynamics, and in doing so opened up autonomous policy space for other states in Latin America and the Caribbean. The concrete achievements of a number of mechanisms, including counter-trading and credit provision within the PetroCaribe framework, and the recent establishment of a virtual regional currency, the SUCRE, all played a part in this process.

The first crucial action undertaken by Hugo Chávez as Venezuelan President in protecting regional economies was to vociferously oppose the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at the third summit of the Americas, held in Quebec in 2000. The proposal represented the perfect consolidation of U.S. economic power, and was designed, in the words of General Colin Powell, to “guarantee control for North American businesses…over the entire hemisphere.”1 After Chávez voiced concerns, the Mercosur countries followed suit, stopping the FTAA conclusively at the subsequent Mar del Plata summit in 2005. If the FTAA had gone ahead, it would have resulted in the substantial economic subordination of Latin America to U.S. corporate interests. Agricultural sectors in particular would have suffered from an influx of low-cost subsidized U.S. products. In addition, areas of the public sphere that had previously avoided commoditization or privatization would have been fair game for trans-national corporations. Under the FTAA, Amanothep Zambrano, ALBA Executive Secretary, told me last August that states would not have been able to “lead any aspect of economic policy, and therefore their political capacity to solve social problems” would have been heavily constrained.

Their shared opposition to these proposals encouraged Cuba and Venezuela to form an alternative regional integration framework, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004. This quickly matured from a bilateral socio-centric cooperation agreement to a nascent regional bloc, or alliance, with the addition of Bolivia in 2006. Bolivia’s newly elected president, Evo Morales, brought with him the idea of a “Peoples Trade Treaty” (TCP), which extended the ALBA’s self-identified principles of solidarity, complementarity between economies, and respect for sovereignty, into a 23-point agreement that systematically opposed the tenets of orthodox free trade agreements. The TCP opened the possibility of pursuing economic policies outside of the market fundamentalist approach of the neoliberal era, for example by stating that people’s right to access healthcare should be prioritized above protecting pharmaceuticals’ corporate profitability. In the following three years, membership of the ALBA-TCP grew to nine countries encompassing much of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

During this time, the Venezuelan government also constructed PetroCaribe, a framework designed to facilitate the supply of its oil products to neighboring Caribbean states under preferential conditions, which at the time of writing had 18 members. Through these two channels the Venezuelan government has opened up autonomous policy space in the region, to some extent overcoming the constraints identified above. Venezuela has, largely through ALBA and PetroCaribe, become an important source of funding in the region. Oil supply agreements, signed between Venezuela and several members of both frameworks, permit countries to defer payment on set portions of their oil bill and use the capital obtained for government spending. Crucially this capital is obtained without the macroeconomic conditionality and policy prescriptions associated with World Bank or IMF loans. PetroCaribe agreements, for example, state that “member nations of the group are allowed to defer payment of 60% of their oil bills to Venezuela for 25 years, at 1% interest, in addition to a 90-day grace period on all payments, and a two year initial grace period on the credit facility.”2

This credit facility offers an alternative to IFI loans, while maintaining small Caribbean nations’ ability for autonomous decision making, which is considered critical in the post-colonial context. Specifically, credit provision has enabled Jamaica and Antigua to delay recourse to IMF loans, and put them in a better negotiating position so, I was told in August 2011 by Norman Girvan, former Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States, “they were able to make an easier deal.” Venezuela, under the current administration, has also purchased billions of dollars’ worth of bonds issued by the Argentine government, enabling the country’s early exit from all of its IMF debts and associated policy prescriptions.

As a result of this mechanism, PetroCaribe funding to the Caribbean now exceeds both EU and U.S. aid by a wide margin, with only remittances from the Caribbean diaspora exceeding it in funding to the signatory states.3 For Dominica, Venezuela is now the “single largest creditor…surpassing traditional sources of credit such as regional development banks and the IMF.” Venezuela is owed 27.7% of the country’s total debt, which grew 12.6% in 2011 alone, to $8.8 billion.4 Such figures inevitably raise concerns that the agreement is increasing debt levels in the region and developing dependence on Venezuelan largesse. Barbados’s Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, has stated that his country would not join because he “would not permit the present generation of Barbadians to consume oil now to be paid for by succeeding generations of Barbadians.”5 However, the deferred portion of the bill does not constitute debt in the orthodox sense, as it is kept by the Caribbean partners and can be spent as capital towards any project deemed socio-productive, or saved to accrue interest to offset the bill, as has been the case in Guyana. The domestic opposition sees the PetroCaribe scheme as Chávez “giving away” oil irresponsibly. However, the amount is relatively small and sustainable. Supply to PetroCaribe members, including Cuba, peaked in 2009 at an average of 196.4 thousand barrels daily, which constituted only 7% of total Venezuelan oil exports that year, and operates under market prices in accordance with Venezuela’s OPEC membership.6

Due to a high level of dependence on imports, Venezuela has also been uniquely able to position itself as a regional alternative to North American and European markets. This dynamic has, again, been apparent within both ALBA-TCP and PetroCaribe. In 2008, the PetroCaribe framework was augmented with a “compensatory exchange mechanism” via which oil bills from Venezuela could be offset by the export of domestically produced goods and services. The Venezuelan market is particularly important for Caribbean countries who suffer from poor terms of trade with the North due to dependence on primary commodity exports, the continued use of tariff and non-tariff barriers by developed nations, and the erosion of colonial trade preferences. For example, up to 90% of Guyanese rice exports per annum were going to EU countries when, in 2000, the Overseas Territories (OCT) loophole was closed, resulting, I was told by the Guyanese Ambassador to Venezuela, in a “50-60%” drop in prices. When the compensation mechanism was announced, the then-president of Guyana, Jagdeo Bharrat, actively sought a better deal with Venezuela through the PetroCaribe framework. The resultant export of both rice and unprocessed paddy has seen Venezuela become the single largest importer of Guyanese rice, replacing Portugal.7

In the case of ALBA countries, a strategic reorientation towards intra-regional trade, and particularly export to Venezuela, has reduced dependence on the United States and subsequently its ability to constrain autonomous action. For example, when Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008 following his alleged involvement in separatist actions in the Santa Cruz Department, Washington retaliated by excluding Bolivia from the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Agreement (ATPDEA). Bolivia lost its U.S. tariff advantages, which was a particularly painful blow to its textile industry. Chávez immediately offered them a market under “the same or better conditions” that Bolivia had enjoyed with the United States. As a result, says the Bolivian Ambassador to Venezuela, in 2010 Venezuela “imported almost 50 million dollars in textiles alone, or nearly double that which [Bolivia] used to export to the USA” annually.

The purchase agreement was supported by initiatives by both governments to facilitate small and medium sized businesses’ entry into the regional market. A fund was established in the Bank of ALBA to provide short-term interest-free credit to Venezuelan importers in order to purchase Bolivian textiles, paired with a fund in the Bolivian national development bank to provide small textile producers credit to purchase raw materials. This agreement therefore not only minimized the impact that U.S. market sanctions could have over autonomous decision making by the Bolivian government, but also created direct relations between regional producers and consumers.

These patterns are part of a wider renewed focus on South-South trade, both within the region and with extra-hemispheric partners. However, the United States remains the region’s single most important trading partner. The objective is not to be “anti-American,” rather to reduce the U.S. ability to exert controlling influence over its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors by creating alternatives to the dollar in international trade. One way in which this was achieved was through the PetroCaribe mechanism and similar counter-purchase agreements with other regional allies. As direct non-market transactions, they circumvented the use of the dollar, thereby avoiding its automatic privileging in international trade, and avoiding the transaction costs associated with its use.

This concept was extended by the ALBA’s virtual common currency, the Unified Regional System for Economic Compensation (SUCRE). The SUCRE is essentially a series of clearing accounts between Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador that allow the countries to trade freely without transaction costs. Accounts are balanced every six months with one hard currency transfer. The value of trade conducted via the SUCRE in its first year of operations, 2010, was just over $8 million. It grew exponentially, to almost 100 times that the following year ($172,905,344).8 Though the SUCRE’s value was originally set against the dollar ($1 to XSU1.25), and it is typically used as the convertible currency to make balancing payments, in the long term the intention is to no longer use the dollar at all. The direct and deliberate countering of U.S. economic hegemony that the SUCRE represents has been of particular importance to Ecuador, whose macroeconomic policy options have been constrained by a prior administration’s decision to dollarize the economy in 2001. In fact, the mechanism was largely designed by Ecuadoran economists, and of the $170 million traded in 2011, $140 million was for Venezuelan purchases from Ecuador (mainly tuna).9

As we have seen, Chávez’s time in office saw an unequivocal reassertion of the state as economic actor throughout the region. This dynamic was particularly felt in the crucial energy sector. In Venezuela, governmental control of the state oil industry was consolidated, while both Bolivia and Argentina nationalized hydrocarbons with investment and technical assistance from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), via agreements with YPFB and Enarsa, state owned gas and oil companies in Bolivia and Argentina respectively. Even in centrist or center-right Caribbean nations, Venezuelan investment has enabled state-owned oil companies and agencies to supply oil products directly to their population, “to effectively intervene in their markets to minimize retail prices” in the energy sector which had previously been “dominated by foreign companies.”10

Where state energy companies or agencies did not exist prior to PetroCaribe, they have been formed to facilitate the direct import of oil products from PDVSA. These can take the form of joint ventures with the PDVSA subsidiary PDV Caribe. Venezuelan credit and grants have also been used to fund improvements in energy infrastructure; that is namely the capacity of the member countries to store and refine oil, and in turn to generate and distribute energy. Central to this scheme has been investment in the Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba and at the Kingston refinery which now almost exclusively refines Venezuelan crude. The refinery is run by Petrojam Ltd, a mixed state enterprise in which Jamaica Oil Company owns a 51% stake and PDV Caribe 49%. This reassertion of state control over energy resources is seen as a fundamental facet of PetroCaribe’s “new oil geopolitics…at the services of our peoples not at the service of imperialism and big capital.”11

The right and power of multinationals to dictate domestic policy has been systematically undermined, both through a reassertion of the state as economic actor and in the tenets of the TCP which we briefly touched on earlier. This offers a stark contrast to the World Trade Organization’s policies such as Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which consistently privilege corporate interests, and/or offer beneficial “loopholes” for developed nations. This has been possible through the creation of new regional forums in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which members’ interests are not subordinate to those of more powerful nations. For example, in the TCP, economic asymmetries between members are recognised and therefore tariff reductions do not have to be reciprocal, disregarding the “most favored nation” principle. In addition, ALBA has no supranationality; it is best described as a framework for cooperation rather than an integration body in the orthodox sense. All programs and agreements are optional, flexible, and voluntary, thereby protecting the national autonomy of members.

Though statist in its organization, ALBA facilitates continual dialogue through presidential and ministerial summits, which have also been attended by international observers. Non-member countries are also represented in the council for social movements, whose proponents include groups such as the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement. ALBA proved to be the first in a series of new regional spaces, catalysed by massive rejection of the FTAA proposal—a rejection led by Chávez—and culminating in the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was put together as an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS), and includes all the countries of the Americas except the United States and Canada. In this way, lessened economic dependence has resulted in increased diplomatic autonomy from the United States.

There are those who argue that Venezuelan projects in the region created new constraints, replaced one set of dependencies with another. But this is not the case. Though he was a catalyst for and investor in regional development, Chávez avoided constructing a position of power or privilege for Venezuela. This is evident in the lack of conditionality attached to credit mechanisms and the fact that the controlling stake of each mixed state enterprise was maintained by the partner country. Though oil wealth put Chávez in a unique position to invest in regional projects, these were not unilaterally devised or constructed; the TCP came from Bolivia, SUCRE is an Ecuadoran concept, and of course ALBA social programs were exported from Cuba. However, these ideas were made a reality by the capacity for rapid implementation that oil largesse afforded. Such apparently altruistic actions led many to question Chávez’s motives. It is important to point out that these frameworks and counter-purchase agreements have also helped reduce Venezuela’s dependence on the United States as a market and refining destination for oil. The volume of Venezuelan oil exported to the United States decreased from 1,500,000 barrels per day in 2008, to 1,166,000 bpd in 2011, a drop of 334,000 barrels per day. This can, in part, be attributed to the diversification of markets in Latin America (190 bpd to PetroCaribe, plus supply agreements with Argentina among others). This is in addition to securing crucial imports without financial outlay, specifically agricultural commodities, which are often then provided to the Venezuelan population at low cost through state owned agencies such as the supermarket chain Mercal.

***

Under the last ten years of Hugo Chávez’s Presidency, Venezuela’s foreign policies resulted in an opening up of autonomous policy space in Latin America and the Caribbean. What was begun in 2004 with the rejection of the proposed FTAA continued into the post-crisis conjuncture, when Chávez was instrumental in creating a new regional financial architecture to limit the power exerted by Washington-based IFIs. PetroCaribe credit provided funds for capital expenditure, without imposing macroeconomic conditionality. In addition, guaranteed oil supplies allowed the small and energy dependent nations that made up its membership to move beyond reactive policies and look to longer term socio-productive investment.

Venezuela’s concurrent strategy of sourcing imports from the region offered primary-commodity-dependent economies some opportunity to diversify their markets and baskets, with better terms of trade than offered by the United States or ex-colonial metropoles in Europe. Chávez also took the bite out of attempted control via market sanctions, as was clearly demonstrated in the Bolivian example.

These regional imports often took the form of non-market exchanges and counter-purchase agreements within PetroCaribe, ALBA, and beyond. Combined, they arguably represented a strategic de-linking from international trade and finance systems, specifically from the U.S. dollar. As such, these frameworks have lessened both the dependence on, and influence of, the United States in the region, protecting countries’ ability to act autonomously and not follow the dictates of Washington. Chávez effectively undermined U.S. economic power by offering alternatives to the hegemony of the dollar, with the SUCRE in particular offering a concerted challenge. Lessened economic dependence in turn allowed for greater diplomatic autonomy from Washington, demonstrated in its strategic exclusion from the newly formed CELAC. The various new regional initiatives provide space to build development strategies and devise economic policies, beyond the constraints of “market-friendly” logic. This allows for a reassertion of the state as an economic actor and service provider, within a culture of regional cooperation. Though the Venezuelan state is not operating outside of capitalism per se, from the initial rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2001 the Chávez government demonstrated that there are alternatives beyond the policy prescriptions of the neoliberal era, and what’s more, facilitated their use throughout the region to mutually beneficial ends.


1. Colin Powell cited in Katharine Ainger, “Trading Away the Americas,” New Internationalist, Issue 351, November 1, 2002, available at newint.org

2. Venezuela: Two Countries Hold Out Against Cheap Loans and Barters,” Countertrade & Offset, 26:15 (2008)7

3. Sir Ronald Sanders, “The Chavez Effect: A life belt for the Caribbean,” Kaieteur news online, July 27, 2008, available at kaieteurnewsonline.com

4. Andrés Rojas Jiménez “Deuda dominicana con PDVSA aumentó durante 201,” El Nacional, February 16, 2012, available at elnacional.com

5. Wendell Mottley, Trinidad and Tobago’s Industrial Policy 1959-2008 Kingston. (Randle, 2008) 157.

6. This data, and all data not otherwise cited, elaborated from PDVSA annual reports, 2009-2011.

7. Guyana Rice Development Board, “Guyana Rice Development Board Annual Report 2010,” 2011.

8. Consejo Monetario Regional del SUCRE, “SUCRE Informe de Gestión 2011,” 2012.

9. Ibid

10. Curtis Williams, “Venezuela Urged to Fast-track Petrocaribe Initiative,” Oil and Gas Journal, 102 (2004):26.

11. Hugo Chávez Frías, Petrocaribe, Towards A New Order in Our America, (Colecciones Discursos, Ministerio de Poder Popular para Comunicación.)


Stephanie Pearce is a doctoral candidate at the School of Politics & International Relations, Queen Mary College, University of London. Her research focuses on the role of countertrade in Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution.”


Read the rest of NACLA’s Summer 2013 issue: “Chavismo After Chávez: What Was Created? What Remains?”

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elections in Venezuela and Chile Advance Left Agenda and Latin American Economic Integration

By Roger Burbach | alai | January 7, 2014 

The elections in Venezuela and Chile in December provided new momentum for the left-leaning governments in Latin America and the ascent of post-neoliberal policies. Over the past decade and a half, the rise of the left has been inextricably tied to the electoral process. In Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, under the governments of Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the electorate has gone to the polls on an average of once a year, voting on referendums, constituent assemblies as well as elections for national offices.

In late November, it appeared the right might be taking the initiative, as the oligarchy and the conservative political parties in Honduras backed by the United States used repression and the manipulation of balloting to keep control of the presidency. And in Venezuela, it was feared the right would come out on top in the December 8 municipal elections. After Maduro’s narrow victory margin of 1.5% in the presidential elections in April, the opposition went on the offensive, declaring fraud and waging economic war. If the opposition coalition had won in the municipal elections, or even come close in the popular vote, it was poised to mount militant demonstrations to destabilize and topple the Maduro government. But the decisive victory of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the municipal elections gave a boost to the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, enabling him to advance the twenty-first century socialism of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The PSUV and allied parties won control of 72% of the municipalities and bested the opposition in the popular vote by 54% to 44%.

A class war is going on that is focused on the economy, particularly over who will control the revenue coming from its large petroleum resources that account for over 95% of the country’s exports. With no new electoral challenge until the parliamentary elections in late 2015, Maduro now has the political space to take the initiative in dealing with the country’s economic problems and to pursue a socialist agenda. As Maduro said on the night of the elections, “we are going to deepen the economic offensive to help the working class and protect the middle class….We’re going in with guns blazing, keep an eye out.”

At the other end of the continent, Michele Bachelet one week later won a resounding victory in the Chilean presidential race with 62% of the vote. She has put forth an ambitious package of proposals that would increase corporate taxes from 20% to 25%, dramatically expand access to higher education, improve public health care and overhaul the 1980 Constitution imposed by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Chile has the highest level of income inequality among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 34 member countries. Within her first hundred days, Bachelet has promised to draft legislation to increase tax revenues by about 3 percent of gross domestic product. On election night Bachelet proclaimed: “Chile has looked at itself, has looked at its path, its recent history, its wounds, its feats, its unfinished business and thus Chile has decided it is the time to start deep transformations,” Bachelet proclaimed on election night.” There is no question about it: profits can’t be the motor behind education because education isn’t merchandise and because dreams aren’t a consumer good.”

If these policies are implemented, they would shake the neoliberal paradigm that has been followed by every government since the Pinochet dictatorship, including Bachelet’s during her first presidential term from 2006 to 2010. Like most presidential candidates before they take office, the actual changes may fall far short of what she is promising. But the student uprising and the resurgence of the social movements over the past four years has led to a popular movement in the streets that is unprecedented since the days of Pinochet. Militants on the left have already made it clear they will challenge her from the first day she takes office. According to Reuters, right after the election, hackers posted a message on the education ministry’s website saying: “Ms. President we will take it upon ourselves to make things difficult for you. Next year will be a time of protests.”

The elections in Venezuela and Chile also set the stage for a challenge to the latest U.S.-backed trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes a dozen Pacific rim nations. Ever since Chavez became president, Venezuela has led the way in opposing U.S. efforts to dominate hemispheric trade starting with the Free Trade Area of the Americas that George W. Bush launched in April, 2001. The FTAA was dealt a fatal blow at the 4th Summit of the Americas in Argentina in 2005 under the leadership of Chavez, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, who advocated Latin American integration without the United States.

With the victory in the municipal elections behind him, Maduro was in a position to play a central roll ten days later in the second summit of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for Our America (ALBA) and PetroCaribe, a bloc of 18 nations receiving oil at concessionary prices. (Five of the members are overlapping.) ALBA, founded in 2004 by Venezuela and Cuba, is based on the principal of “Fair Trade, not Free Trade.” Now including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua as well as five more Caribbean nations, they met with the nations of PetroCaribe, a concessionary oil trading arrangement, to put forth a program to create a “special complementary economic zone” between the member countries of both groups to eradicate poverty in the region. Maduro proclaimed the economic zone “is a special plan…in order to continue advancing the food security and sovereignty of our peoples, and to share investments, experiences, and actions that promote [agricultural] development.” The action plan to implement the proposal includes cooperation with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. An executive committee to coordinate the regional plan is being set up in Ecuador.

Maduro will take the document for the creation of a complementary economic zone to the January 31 meeting of Mercosur in Caracas “to advance in the great zone Mercosur-PetroCaribe-ALBA.” In all these economic and trade endeavors Venezuela plays a strategic geo-economic role. It is Latin America’s largest oil producer, and it is located on the southern flank of the Caribbean Basin and on the northern end of South American continent. Venezuela is already a member of MercoSur along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, while Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, and Suriname are associate members. As Bolivian president Evo Morales said at the conclusion of the ALBA-PetroCaribe summit, “We should never stop strengthening our integration, the integration of anti-imperialist countries.”

A key question is around the role that Chile, led by Bachelet, will play in the growing movement for Latin American integration. Under Bachelet’s billionaire predecessor, Sebastian Pinera, Chile has been involved in setting up the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and is a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, a trade and investment group that includes Columbia, Peru, and Mexico. The United States has observer status.

Bachelet has given signs that a pursuit of these trade groupings alone is not in Chile’s interest, and that she intends to breach the Pacific versus the Atlantic/Caribbean divide. Her campaign manifesto stated: “Chile has lost presence in the region, its relations with its neighbors are problematic, a commercial vision has been imposed on our Latin American links.” She is particularly interested in closer relations with Brazil, where she identities with Dilma Rousseff, who also fo­rged her political identity as a young clandestine activist jailed and tortured under a repressive dictatorship. It is notable that in 2008 during her last presidential term, Bachelet convened an emergency session of UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations), to support Evo Morales against a right wing “civic coup” attempt that received direct material support from the U.S. embassy.

It is of course impossible to predict where Bachelet will wind up in the growing continental divide. Her commitment to the Pacific Alliance and to TPP may undermine domestic and international challenges to neoliberalism. The militancy of internal mobilizations to pressure her at every turn is critical. In Venezuela, Maduro faces daunting economic problems as he tries to bring inflation and the black market under control, while dealing with serious corruption problems in and outside of the government. However, the December municipal elections have opened up a space for Maduro to deal with these issues in the coming year, while playing a leadership role in advancing Latin American integration in opposition to U.S. initiatives.


Roger Burbach is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas, and co-author with Michael Fox and Federico Fuentes of Latin America’s Turbulent Tran

January 17, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela to Build 4,400 New Houses in Haiti

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | October 10, 2013

Mérida – The Venezuelan government has pledged to construct 4,400 new housing units in Haiti worth around US$260 million, according to Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

Lamothe announced the initiative after a one day visit to Caracas on Monday.

3,900 of the houses will be constructed in Port-au-Prince, while 500 will be built on Ile-a-Vache. An island just off Haiti’s south-west peninsula, Ile-a-Vache is currently being developed for tourism by the Haitian government. The Venezuelan government is partially funding a US$66 million hotel project on the island.

Along with housing and tourism deals, Lamothe’s visit reportedly focused on discussion of Haiti’s Petrocaribe debt obligations. Under Petrocaribe, Caribbean states are able to purchase Venezuelan oil at preferential rates. Following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, Haiti was forgiven US$400 million in Petrocaribe debt.

Debt can also be paid back in products instead of currency. According to a Haitian government press release, Lamothe’s delegation met with Venezuelan officials to negotiate exchanging agricultural products for debt payment. The agreements discussed this week will be finalised in a second meeting later this month.

The two governments also reportedly discussed a US$15 million health services deal, which will see the Development Bank of Venezuela fund new health facilities in Haiti. Lamothe also met with officials from the Bank of ALBA, which pledged to invest a further US$10 million in Haitian literacy programs.

Haiti is yet to recover from the 2010 disaster, and is one of the poorest countries in the region. In July, Haitian president Michel Martelly praised Venezuelan aid, stating that the majority of state projects in areas including education, infrastructure and agriculture are supported by Petrocaribe.

“Most of what is done today in Haiti is achieved with Petrocaribe funds,” Martelly stated.

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: An Ethical Foreign Policy?

By Ewan Robertson | Carnegie Council | July 10, 2013

HugoChavez-Brazil

CREDIT: Manu Dias, (CC)

Venezuela’s foreign policy under the late President Hugo Chávez, and now his successor Nicolas Maduro, has been subject to sharply differing interpretations. Some observers see the oil-rich country’s foreign relations since Chávez’s election in December 1998 as shaped by a visionary who has promoted international solidarity with the oppressed, combated poverty, and pushed for a just world order free of uni-polar domination. For critics, however, Venezuela’s foreign policy has been incoherent, militaristic, and prejudicial to regional stability.

Does Venezuelan foreign policy include ethical considerations, as its supporters claim? The evidence suggests it does and that as a result we can be more optimistic about possibilities for incorporating ethics into international affairs than some scholars would have us believe.

The Ethical Dimension of Venezuelan Foreign Relations

To evaluate a possible ethical dimension to Venezuelan foreign policy, it is necessary to understand the ideology Chávez imbued in the country’s international affairs. Five concepts are central. The first two are the primacy of national sovereignty and Latin American and Caribbean integration. These are based on an understanding of foreign policy as a continuation of the Pan-American vision of Venezuela’s founder and 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, who also gives the name to Chávez’s “Bolivarian” political project. The third and fourth are the importance of international solidarity and south-south cooperation, which hold that Venezuela’s development should be based on mutual solidarity and cooperation with the countries of the global south. Finally, these concepts coalesce to form the pursuit of a multi-polar world order, which sees Venezuela’s international role in strengthening ties with emerging powers across different regions as part of a shift to a more balanced international system which will guarantee “world peace” and “universal well-being.” This implicitly involves an attempt to counter-balance the weight of the United States in international affairs.1

One example of Venezuela’s pursuit of these values is the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). This alliance of leftist Latin American nations founded by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004 has implemented regional development strategies based on the principles of “solidarity, cooperation and complementing.” Programs aiming to guarantee food security, universal literacy, free health and education, and decent housing are strongly marked by values of social justice and human development.2 Social programs promoted by the ALBA include the “Miracle Mission,” which provides free eye treatment and surgery to Venezuelan citizens and those of several Latin American countries. The program has treated around 1.2 million people in Venezuela since its launch in 2004.3

Development assistance and solidarity have also been evident in Venezuela’s outreach to the Caribbean, particularly with the PetroCaribe initiative. Launched in 2005, the program offers Venezuelan petroleum to Caribbean nations at a discount rate. Participating nations only pay a percentage of the oil’s market price up front, with the rest converted into low-interest, long-term loans. A portion of these loans can be amortised through payment in goods and services; for example, Cuba sends medical personnel to Venezuela in exchange for oil shipments. The loans also become important sources of capital spending for the region’s governments. Eighteen Caribbean states now participate in the program, and Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez estimated in 2011 that PetroCaribe covers 43 percent of participating nations’ energy needs.4 In the context of rising oil prices in the 2000s, a Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) report on the scheme described it as “the most concrete proposal on the table to alleviate the region’s suffering.”5

Perhaps no other Caribbean nation has benefitted more from this kind of regional solidarity than Haiti. Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, Venezuela pledged $2.4 billion in financial and relief aid, more than any other of 58 donors. This aid has included building power plants, shelters, a new hospital (in collaboration with Cuba), sending food and medical supplies, and assistance to develop Haiti’s agricultural sector.6 Venezuela even wrote off $400 million of Haiti’s PetroCaribe debt. This important reconstruction aid was given despite the fact that Haiti is by no means an ideological ally of Venezuela’s leftist government; its president, Michel Martelly, is close to Haiti’s business elite and the United States. Nevertheless Martelly has publicly thanked Venezuela for its solidarity and help since the earthquake, commenting in December 2011 that for Haiti, “cooperation with Venezuela is the most important right now, in terms of impact, direct impact.”7

Africa is another continent where relations seem to be driven as much by ideology and ethical values as by strategic interests. From 2005, Chávez began referring to Africa as a “motherland” and pursuing “south-south cooperation,” or mutual development strategies, in the region. Over the next six years Venezuela established diplomatic relations with all 54 African countries, opened new embassies, and signed over 200 cooperation agreements with the continent, where only 20 had existed beforehand.8 Many of these agreements contain a clear element of solidarity and humanitarian assistance. In 2009 Venezuela pledged $20 million to the West African ECOWAS group for malarial eradication programs, while in February 2013 it offered technical assistance and personnel training to the Sahrawi Democratic Republic to improve the population’s access to safe drinking water. Further, around 500 students from over 15 African countries study in Venezuela courtesy of government scholarships, many of these in medical courses, with the intention that after their studies these newly-trained professionals return to their home countries to provide much needed public services.9 A similar program is offered to Palestine, where Venezuela has also committed to build medical facilities.

Such attempts at greater cooperation with countries of the global south have led Venezuela to play a key diplomatic role in moves toward intensifying Latin American and south-south integration. In addition to founding the ALBA and PetroCaribe, Venezuela was also a founding member of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008, and played host to the founding conference of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011, which brings together every nation in the Americas with the exception of the U.S. and Canada. Venezuela was also host to the II Africa–South America (ASA) summit in 2009, and is set to host the tri-annual summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2015, and thereafter become the president of the grouping of 130 developing nations. The country was also elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for 2013–2016 and is a mediator in peace talks underway between the FARC guerrilla group and the Colombian government. Taken together, these aspects of Venezuela’s foreign policy have led observers such as Venezuelan geographer and analyst Rosalba Linares to conclude that Bolivarian-era foreign relations aim to construct “a sovereign, democratic and more humanitarian multi-polar world, of greater social justice and fair trade in benefit of those most in need in Venezuela and the world.”10

The Pursuit of Strategic Interests

Of course, it would be mistaken to understand Venezuelan foreign relations as solely motivated by ethical or altruistic considerations. Even solidarity-based policies have clear “soft” benefits such as raising the government’s diplomatic and international standing. Venezuela’s foreign relations have also been shaped by concrete strategic interests. Chief among these are energy interests, which are woven throughout foreign policy, as Venezuela holds the largest crude oil reserves in the world. The Bolivarian government has sought to increase ties with other energy powers for the extraction of Venezuelan crude and to diversify its oil export markets. In the context of the deterioration of relations with the United States, strategic policy goals have also included creating a robust network of international alliances and securing alternative sources of financing, technological assistance, and military hardware.

In the first years of Chávez’s presidency the state oil company PDVSA was brought under greater government control. At the same time the government pushed for the revitalisation of OPEC, advocating the policy of production quotas to help ensure that world oil prices rose to levels favourable to exporting countries. The elevation of oil prices in the 2000s gave the Venezuelan government flexibility to pursue active energy diplomacy abroad while funding a wave of new social programs at home.

The government has built what it calls “strategic alliances” with several energy powers, including Russia and China. Russian energy giant Gazprom now works with PDVSA to explore gas deposits in the Gulf of Venezuela and Russian firms are active in the extraction of oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt. Russia is also useful to Venezuela as a source of military hardware, with Chávez’s government becoming Russia’s biggest customer of military goods after India.11

Meanwhile China has provided Venezuela with a new market for its petroleum exports. Oil exports to China rose from almost zero in 2004 to 460,000 bpd in 2010, a number that officials want to increase to one million.12 The relationship has also resulted in over 300 bilateral agreements and 80 major projects, and has allowed the Venezuelan government access to financing and technology, the latter exemplified by the launching of Venezuela’s first satellites with Chinese assistance in 2008 and 2012.

Venezuela has formed a web of links with other countries enjoying oil and gas reserves, such as Iran, Syria, Brazil, and certain African countries. Given their relatively independent diplomatic stance in world affairs, strengthening ties with these nations has also fitted within the ideological goal of building “south-south cooperation” and a “multi-polar world order.”

Meanwhile relations with Venezuela’s traditional commercial partner and top recipient of crude exports, the United States, have been frozen at the charge de affairs level since 2010. Venezuelan officials blame this on the U.S. government’s belligerence and lack of respect for Venezuela’s independence and sovereignty, including support for and alleged involvement in the short-lived coup attempt to topple the Chávez administration in 2002. For its part, the United States has accused Venezuela of failing to sufficiently cooperate with counter-narcotics and anti-terrorism efforts, and of acting against U.S. interests by pursuing relations with “enemy” states such as Iran. Nevertheless, there are signs that the relationship is improving under the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, after Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua met with Secretary of State John Kerry during an OAS summit in early June.  “We would like to see our countries find a new way forward, to establish a more constructive and positive relationship,” said Kerry  following the meeting. However, it remains to be seen whether the recent decision by President Maduro to offer asylum to ex-NSA intelligence leaker Edward Snowden will have an impact on efforts to improve bilateral relations.

Criticisms and Contradictions

Critics point to contradictions in the conduct of Venezuela’s foreign policy, and question the existence of an ethical dimension to Venezuelan foreign relations.

An accusation which emanates principally from the United States is that rather than seeking “world peace,” Venezuela in fact pursues an aggressive policy of building up its arms stockpile while forming alliances seen as threatening to U.S. national security. In September 2009 then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton raised concerns over  Venezuela’s arms purchases from Russia, arguing that the Chávez administration was engaging in a military build-up which could trigger a South American “arms race.” “They [Venezuela] outpace all other countries in South America [in military purchases] and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region,” she said.13 Further, some conservative politicians and analysts have argued that Venezuela should be considered a “national security threat” due to its ties with countries regarded as hostile to the U.S, such as Iran and Syria.14

However, neither the figures nor events bear out fears that Venezuela is unduly arming itself or seeking military-style alliances with U.S. adversaries. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2009 Venezuela put 1.4 percent of GDP toward military spending, the 5th highest in the region and less than the U.S., Colombia, and Chile. By 2012, military spending in Venezuela had halved as a percentage of GDP to 0.7 percent, with the country spending less than most major countries in the region, being only 153rd out of 173 countries measured globally for military spending.15 Venezuelan government officials meanwhile state that its international alliances are “about peace” and not in any way an aggression toward a third party. This point was highlighted during the visit from former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajad to Venezuela in January 2012. Nicolas Maduro, in his capacity of foreign minister, said to press at the time that bilateral ties between the two countries were part of a “peaceful relationship…we have a relationship of cooperation for development… and above all, for peace”.16

This appraisal of Venezuela’s diplomatic and defence policy appears to be shared by the U.S. military establishment. In August 2012 General Douglas Fraser, chief of U.S. Southern Command, said that although he would like greater cooperation from Venezuela against drug trafficking, he did not consider Venezuela a security threat to the United States. When asked if he thought Venezuela’s arms purchases constituted a danger to the U.S., Fraser replied, “From my standpoint, no…I don’t see them [Venezuela] as a national security threat.” Further, when asked whether Venezuela’s relationship with Iran amounted to a “military alliance,” the general disagreed, stating, “As I look at Iran and their connection with Venezuela, I see that still primarily as a diplomatic and economic relationship.”17 President Barack Obama has taken a similar stance, announcing in an interview in July 2012, “Overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”18

Thus the notion that Venezuelan military purchases and bilateral relationships represent a threat to the United States appears to be an overreaction from certain observers within U.S. political and media spheres, who confuse Venezuela’s independent foreign policy with one threatening U.S. security.

Others argue that there exists a contradiction in Venezuelan foreign policy between claims to pursue the values of democracy, humanitarianism, and solidarity, while supporting governments considered authoritarian or with poor human rights records. In 2011, political sociologist and author Gregory Wilpert argued  that Venezuela ran a “significant” risk of losing legitimacy among progressives when  Chávez continued to support former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi against an insurgency in that country, a point that could be extended to several other of Venezuela’s allies in the Middle East.19

Another seemingly contradictory move by a government purporting to promote ethical values in its foreign policy is Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from the OAS’ Inter-American Court and Human Rights Commission (IACHR) in 2012, on the basis of the body’s alleged “shameful” bias against the Chávez administration. The decision is also part of a shifting focus toward Latin American autonomy and integration, with several states in the region pushing for the formation of new mechanisms to promote human rights within the UNASUR and CELAC. 20

A final question for Venezuela’s foreign relations is the extent to which policies pursued under Chávez will continue under the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, who was elected to power in April, following Chávez’s death in March. Maduro was Chávez’s foreign minister from 2006–2012, and in that role helped to build Venezuela’s contemporary foreign relations. The new president has pledged to continue these policies and his active foreign diplomacy over the previous three months seems to confirm this. Present challenges for Maduro include assuming the presidency of the Mercosur trade bloc this summer, and seeking productive relationships with the U.S. and Europe; steps toward which appear to have already been taken.

Between Ethics and Interests

In common with all nation states, over the past 14 years Venezuela has pursued clearly defined strategic and economic interests through its foreign policy. These have included developing greater links with other energy powers and ensuring access to sources of financing and military hardware. The government has also sought commercial, technological, agricultural, educational, health, and other forms of cooperation considered beneficial to Venezuela’s national development.

Although certain criticisms of contradictory behaviour can be levelled at Venezuela’s foreign relations, policymaking has followed a coherent logic. From technological cooperation with China to malaria eradication assistance in Africa, Venezuela’s new foreign relations have been built within an ideological framework embodied by the notions of “south-south cooperation” and a “multi-polar world.”

Further, while all nations could be said to act in their own strategic interests, not all have also placed norms of cooperation, solidarity and humanitarianism as a central focus of foreign policy. These values can be seen in agreements Venezuela has made with countries across all continents, but especially in the Americas and Africa. Even in the United States, PDVSA subsidiary CITGO aids around 100,000 low-income families during the winter with donated Venezuelan heating oil.21 Thus while it would be false to state that Venezuelan foreign policy is solely motivated by ethical considerations, it would be misleading to explain the country’s external relations without reference to these. This ethical dimension to Venezuela’s foreign policy is a demonstration that if the political will exists, governments can pursue such values within their foreign relations. In doing so, concrete and mutual benefits can be reaped for both the development of societies and the wellbeing of peoples.


NOTES

1 Chávez, H. (2012), Plan de la Patria: Programa del Gobierno Bolivariano 2013 – 2019, accessed at: http://www.minci.gob.ve/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/04/PLANDELAPATRIA-20133-4-2013.pdf.

2 Ullán de la Rosa, F.R. (2012), La Alianza Bolivariana para las Americas – Tratado de Comercio de Los Pueblos (ALBA-TCP): Análisis de un Proyecto de Integración Regional Latinoamericana con Una Fuerte Dimensión Altermundista, Estudios Politicos, no. 25, (Enero – Abril), pp131 – 170, Mexico, D.F. (p151-152).

3 Morales, M. (27/5/2013), Hija de Chávez Manejará Presupuesto Millonario en la Misión Milagro, El Nacional.

4 Rojas, R. (December, 2011), Venezuela Increasing Influence in Caribbean through PetroCaribe, Press TV.

5 Lai, K. (January, 2006), PetroCaribe: Chávez’s Venturesome Solution to the Caribbean Oil Crisis, Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).

6 Information taken from, Wyss, J. (05/07/2010), Venezuela Leads the World in Earthquake Relief, Miami Herald; Edmonds, K. (February 2012), ALBA Expands its Allies in the Caribbean, North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA.org); Robertson, E (01/06/2012), Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina Sign Development Assistance Agreements with Haiti, Venezuelanalysis.com.

7 The Editors, (April, 2012), Haiti Using Funds from PetroCaribe to Finance Reconstruction, Council for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

8 Bolivar, R. J., (February, 2011), “Entrevista: Reinaldo José Bolívar, Viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores para África,” Encontrarte.

9 (14/01/2011), “Venezuela ha Firmado 200 Acuerdos de Cooperación con África,” Agencia Venezolana de Noticias.

10 Linares, R., (2010), “La Estrategia Multipolar de la Political Exterior Venezolana,” Aldea Mundial,  Año 15, No. 15, Julio – Diciembre (2), pp51-62, (p60).

11 Rinna, A. (09/03/2013), “Russia’s Uncertain Position in Post-Chávez Venezuela,” Centre for World Conflict and Peace blog.

12 Ellis, R.E. (2010), “Venezuela’s Relationship with China: Implications for the Chávez Regime and the Region,” Centre for Hemispheric Policy, University of Miami, pp1-10; Cornejo, R. & Garcia, A.N. (2010), “China y América Latina: Recursos, Mercados y Poder Global,” Nueva Sociedad, No. 228 (Julio-Agosto), pp79-99 (p95); Manduca, P.C. (2012), “La Energía en la Política Sudamericana: Características de las Relaciones entre Brasil y Venezuela,” Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,” no. 216, (Septiembre – Diciembre), pp81-100.

13 Labott, E. (16/09/2009), “U.S. Fears Venezuela Could Trigger Regional Arms Race,” CNN.

14 Noriega, R. (08/02/2013), “Hugo Chávez: An Uncounted Enemy,” The Washington Times.

15 Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook (Military Expenditures, Venezuela), accessed at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2034rank.html?countryname=Venezuela&countrycode=ve&regionCode=soa&rank=153#ve.

16 Pearson, T. (10/01/2012), “Iran-Venezuela Relationship “About Peace,” Venezuelanalysis.com.

17 (01/08/2012), ” Top US General: Venezuela Not a National Security Threat,” Associated Press.

18 Mazzei, P., Bolstad, E., (11/07/2012), “Mitt Romney, GOP howl over President Barack Obama’s remark about Hugo Chávez,” Miami Herald.

19 Wilpert, G, (06/03/2011),  “Venezuela and Libya: An Interview with Gregory Wilpert,” Venezuelanalysis.com.

20 Britto Garcia, L. (12/05/2013), Avanza el Golpe Judicial, Aporrea.org.

21 Citgo Press, (31/01/2013), “Eighth Annual Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil Program Launched,” Venezuelan Embassy, Washington.

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment