Chavez Visits South Africa and Strengthens South-South Relations
Date: Wednesday, September 10 @ 04:02:18 UTC
Topic: Venezuela and Chavez
September 10, 2008
By Tamara Pearson and James Suggett
Mérida, September 3, 2008 — Hugo Chavez arrived in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday morning with the aim of developing closer relations with Venezuela, to concretize cooperation and "to strengthen the world of the South," he said.
One of the main agreements reached was that South Africa will work with Venezuela in the Petroleum Belt of the Orinoco River. Chavez met with Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, to become the first Venezuelan president to visit South Africa. Chavez said that to step on South African land "is to reunite ourselves with the roots of our people."
Africans were brought to Venezuela as slaves from the 16th to 19th centuries, to be used by the Spanish in gold mines and on cocoa and coffee plantations, among other things. 32% of Venezuela's population is estimated to be of afro-Venezuelan descent, including the president.
"We are extremely grateful because President Chavez has managed to come to South Africa, and even more satisfied by the results obtained during the talks that confirm again that it is possible to construct a relationship between the two countries that is mutually beneficial," Mbeki said.
On arriving at the airport in Johannesburg, Chavez highlighted the importance to the two nations of strengthening the cooperation within the South.
The vice-chancellor of South Africa, Aziz Pahad, said, "We want to construct a union of the South and President Chavez represents a new type of thought. We want to develop the relations between both countries because we think that based on some of the political decisions taken in Venezuela, here in Africa we can learn from them."
The visit also enabled discussion around Venezuela's preparations for the upcoming summit of African, American, and Caribbean countries this November.
The conference will take place between November 24 and 29, in Caracas. It was confirmed that Mbeki will participate.
Also discussed was cooperation within the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the Group of 77 (130 countries), which represent the interests of the countries of the "South" in international negotiations.
Chavez reasoned, "The bipolar world was terrible for the third world" and that the current unipolar world that "is finishing" was even worse for the Third World.
"Today we're in the middle of a crisis ...a financial, economic, food, energy, ecology and moral crisis, it's a systemic crisis, a general crisis."
For this reason, he said, "it's essential and urgent, because a day can't be lost and a second can't be lost in the work of uniting us, the countries of the Third World."
He also referred to the "democratic and peaceful" revolution occurring in Venezuela and that in Africa "movements and projects of unity and liberation are (also) rising up, and well, only united will we be free and only free will we be able to development ourselves fully."
Whilst Venezuela is interested in South African technology and its resources for refining crude oil it, was also agreed that the South African oil company Petrosa would work with Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA on Venezuelan soil.
"Like Venezuela was sending petroleum to the United States and other developed countries of the North 100 years ago, now its time that we start to send it to our brothers of the South," Chavez said.
South Africa is also currently experiencing an energy crisis, and is looking for alternative sources.
Mbeki explained that the agreement will reduce costs, and therefore prices, as the middle men would be cut out. The South African companies could extract the petroleum in Venezuela, transport it by sea to South Africa, where it would be processed and distributed across the country.
"Until now large multinationals have monopolized the petroleum industry and Venezuela is trying to change the rules of the game," said Shadrack Gutto, an economist from the University of South Africa.
A range of other agreements were also signed in the areas of culture, economy, telecommunications, industry and weaponry. South Africa's involvement in the Bank of the South, Telesur, and Petrosur were discussed.
Another point of discussion was the maintenance of peace, especially in Africa. Over the past ten years Chavez has also visited Algeria, Libya, Mozambique, Mali, Gambia, Benin, and Angola, all countries never before visited by a Venezuelan president. Three years ago Venezuela had ten embassies in Africa, and now has 18.