Caracas, November 13, 2006 (Venezuelanalysis.com)— Brazil’s President “Lula” da Silva arrived in Venezuela yesterday to inaugurate a second bridge over the Orinoco River today and to participate in an event marking the certification of Venezuela’s extra-heavy oil reserves. Lula’s visit comes shortly after Chavez declared that his relationship with Lula represented a “perfect” friendship.
Lula’s visit to Venezuela is the first country he travels to since his reelection a few weeks ago. Lula and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez traversed the bridge in a jeep wearing red protective helmets. “I am here to inaugurate a work that was financed by BNDES (National Brazilian Bank for Economic and Social Development), which is a reason for pride for all peoples of South America,” said Lula.
“I am very happy because works such as this one, which we want to build together with Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, allows us to, here in South America, to dream of integration, just as the Europeans have,” added Lula. Chavez and Lula laid a “foundational track” for the Bridge’s rail road.
The second Orinoco Bridge, which will be named Orinoquia, cost $1.2 billion and took five years to build. As such it is one of the Chavez government’s largest infrastructure investments. It spans 4 km and includes both a four-lane highway for vehicles and a rail track.
It was co-constructed by the Brazilian company Odebrecht. Its construction represented a particular challenge to engineers because of the soft ground into which the foundation had to be laid, which reaches 90m into the ground.
Venezuela and Brazil supported its construction largely to increase trade between the two countries, as the Orinoco River, the world’s fifth largest, represents a formidable geographic obstacle between Venezuela’s heavily populated North and Brazil. It will also prove to be very useful for transporting raw materials from the Orinoco Oil Belt, via train, to Brazil.
During the inauguration ceremony, Chavez announced that a third bridge over the Orinoco River is being planned, which will be similar to the second bridge and which will be called, "Mercosur."
Asked about the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela, Lula said he could not comment, but said he believes, "the same thing will happen in this country as happened in Brazil." Lula was recently reelected with 60% of the vote, similar to what opinion polls predict will happen with Chavez on December 3rd.
Following the inauguration of the second Orinoco Bridge, Lula and Chavez plan to participate in a nearby ceremony for the certification of Venezuela’s extra-heavy crude reserves, in the so-called Orinoco Oil Belt. Brazil’s Petrobras oil company is involved in this certification process.
It is estimated that Venezuela has at least 235 billion barrels of recoverable extra-heavy crude in this region, which, if certified, would make Venezuela the country with the world’s largest oil reserves. Currently Venezuela has 81 billion barrels of oil certified, which makes it the country with the world’s seventh largest reserves. The Chavez government has embarked on a major certification process, known as the “Orinoco Magna Reserve Project.”
Last week, during a press conference with international correspondents, Chavez referred to his relationship to Lula as a “perfect friendship,” using a term from one of his heroes, Simon Rodriguez, who was the teacher of Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar. Chavez explained that for Rodriguez a perfect friendship was characterized by emotional, intellectual, and spiritual affinity, all three of which he feels for Lula.