Caracas, March 13, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Following his visit to Argentina, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez continued his tour of Latin America and the Caribbean this past weekend, to Bolivia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Haiti. On the way he signed more cooperation agreements with the respective countries.
Chavez’s first stop after Argentina on Saturday was Bolivia, where he spent Sunday with President Evo Morales. The two signed an agreement to create a “Bank of the South,” which would finance development projects in Latin America with no strings attached, unlike the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The new bank’s funds would come from a portion of the currency reserves participating countries currently have invested in Europe and in the U.S.
About 800 members of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples welcomed Chavez, Morales, and the President of Cuba’s parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, in El Alto de la Paz, about 4,200m above sea level.
Chavez said of the bank that it can help finance “an increase in the production of gas, generate more employment, and provide gas to the homes of the poor…” He also explained that the Bank of the South (Bancosur) would be launched in less than four months, at which point, “there should be a plan of action, with a view towards the creation of its bylaws…”
Morales and Chavez also signed an agreement to create an association of gas exporting South American countries, known as OPEGASUR (Organization of Gas Exporting Producers of South America), and an agreement to strengthen the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Chavez highlighted that thanks to ALBA over half a million Latin Americans have received eye surgery in less than two years.
Chavez’s next stop was Nicaragua, where he arrived Sunday evening. Upon his arrival, Chavez was awarded “Ruben Dario Cultural Independence Medal” from Tomas Borges, one of the founders of the Sandinista party. The award was for Chavez’s work in defense of Latin American and Caribbean culture.
Chavez then held a speech in Ciudad de Leon, Nicaragua’s second largest city, in which he said, “There are new winds blowing in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba that allow these to form an axis of popular forces, of progressive, revolutionary, and socialist governments, which cross the entire American continent to consolidate the union of the people and to defeat the empire and its new offensive.”
Referring to U.S. President Bush’s simultaneous tour of Latin American, Chavez said that Bush is presenting himself to Latin Americans as “a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.”
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and President Chavez signed several agreements during Chavez’s visit. First, Nicaragua agreed to join with Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, and Bolivia in supporting the continental TV channel TeleSur. Second, Venezuela agreed to help Nicaragua construct a refinery that has a capacity of refining 150,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day. The refinery is estimated to cost $2.5 billion. Third, Venezuela committed itself to continue to supply Nicaragua with favorably financed oil. Also, Nicaragua agreed to join the Bank of the South project, once it is financially ready to do so.
On Monday Chavez arrived in Jamaica, where he met with Prime Minister Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller to follow-up on various agreements between their two countries. Among these agreements is the creation of a joint enterprise between Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA and that of Jamaica, Petrojam, to facilitate Venezuelan oil exports to Jamaica. Other agreements include a line of credit with Venezuela for various infrastructure projects, such as the construction of a freeway and a sports center and the renovation of a cultural center near Kingston.
During the singing of a gas cooperation agreement between Venezuela and Jamaica, Chavez criticized the production of ethanol as a replacement for natural gas and that US President Bush had presented ethanol as the “salvation of the world” in terms of energy.
“Venezuela produces a little over three million barrels of oil per day,” said Chavez, “to produce the same quantity of ethanol per day, one would have to plant corn and sugar cane in the entire continent, including the cities.” “We would be using the fertile land that we have available, the available water, technology, machinery, fertilizers, etcetera, to produce food, not for people, but for the vehicles of the rich – this is something to think about,” added Chavez.
Next, Chavez arrived in Haiti, later in the day on Monday, where he first met with Foreign Minister Jean Rénald Clerisme. Clerisme thanked Chavez for Venezuela’s support of Haiti and for recognizing the important role Haiti played historically in the liberation of South America, when Simon Bolivar—who is Venezuela’s independence hero—sought support from Haiti which was already independent.
Clerisme also praised ALBA, saying, “For us South-South collaboration is many times more important than North-South cooperation because with South-South collaboration we have a group of countries that have the same problems and treat each other as brothers. The cooperation between Venezuela and Haiti seems to me to be a manifestation of this friendship, of this fraternity between two countries that share the same problems.”
Chavez then proceeded on a caravan through the streets of Port Au Prince, where onlookers cheered him, shouting, “Viva Chavez, Down with Bush,” as his vehicle passed by.
The following day, Tuesday, Chavez held a press conference with Haitian Prime Minister Rene Preval and Cuban Vice-President Esteban Lazo, at the government palace, where they announced the signing of a variety of cooperation agreements between Venezuela, Haiti, and Cuba.
Among the agreements Preval highlighted one in which the two countries agreed to set up a fund of $1 billion, which would be used for the purchase of equipment for the construction of housing and for the support of Cuban medical personnel in Haiti.
Another agreement will help Haiti construct four power plants, one of 40 and one of 30 megawatts and two of 15 megawatts each. A special tri-partite office will be opened in Haiti to follow-up on the agreements.
Chavez returned to Caracas, Venezuela, early Tuesday morning.