|Venezuelan President Chavez talks to Bolivian President Carlos Mesa.|
Photo credit: Venpres
The summit brought together the Presidents and delegations of the 21 Latin American countries plus Spain and Portugal. Its Final Declaration also called for the strengthening of the State and the creation of mechanisms to allow more participation of citizens in public decision making.
President Chavez has been insisting at international forums about the need to promote participatory democracy as opposed to the representative democracy that most countries currently implement.
Chavez’s International Humanitarian Fund welcomed
The Final Declaration recognized that unfulfilled social demands are a source of political instability, and that new mechanisms must be created to alleviate poverty.
Paragraph number 20 says “We welcome with great interest the initiative to create an International Humanitarian Fund, as a mechanism to finance special programs that contribute to alleviate the effects of poverty in the developed world.” President Chavez came up with the proposal months ago during one of his speeches criticizing the neoliberal policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on developing countries.
Social inclusion and social justice
Venezuela’s Information and Communication Minister Jesse Chacón said that the fact that social inclusion and social justice were the main subjects in the Summit represents a triumph for Venezuela. President Chavez has insisted for almost five years on the issues of social inclusion and social justice as a way to create greater political and economic stability not only in Latin America but around the world. “These issues were taboo subjects five years ago, now they are the main theme in these summits,” said Chacón.
The Final Declaration included a paragraph recognizing the role of small businesses and cooperatives or community associations in generating wealth and employment, and decentralizing the economy. “We recognize the role played by cooperatives and community associations in the development of a society oriented economy, because they contribute to generate employment, promote social integration, as well as the participation of all sectors of society in the productive process,” says paragraph 28.
Venezuela’s opposition to President Chavez generally describes the government’s promotion of small businesses and cooperatives as communist initiatives.
FTAA and bilateral talks
President Chavez and the Venezuelan delegation had bilateral meetings with the presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, as well as with the UN Secretary General Koffi Annan.
With regard to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), Venezuela reaffirmed its position of accelerating the integration of Latin American countries through existing agreements and treaties such as the Andean Nations Community (CAN) and the Common Southern Market (MRCOSUR). Both Brazilian President Lula Da Silva and Argentina’s Kirchner agree with President Chavez on this issue. However, Chavez maintained that integration should go beyond mere economic aspects, and that it must become and instrument that allows Latin America to act as a block so negotiations with the United States and Europe can be done in better terms.
The meetings with Brazilian authorities centered on the issues of energy, literacy campaigns and financing of projects. The creation of a joint oil company was again discussed. President Chavez came up with the idea of a joint venture called Petroamerica last year, which would be a joint venture between the state oil companies of Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and other Latin American countries.
The Brazilian authorities expressed interest in Venezuela’s successful literacy campaign Mision Robinson. Also discussed was the issue of facilitating loans through the Brazilian Development Bank for joint ventures between Venezuela and Brazilian companies.
The meetings with the Argentine delegation centered on supervising the state of the agreements signed between the two nations months ago during President Chavez’s visit to Argentina. Among these agreements are the importation of Argentine agricultural products and the Venezuelan participation in Argentina’s gasoline market.
Chavez and Argentine President Kirchner talked about their position with regard to the FTAA negotiations that will take place in Miami.
President Chavez also met with the new Bolivian President Carlos Mesa. They talked about potential Venezuelan assistance in Bolivia’s gas exploitation and export, as well as the exchange of Venezuelan asphalt for Bolivian agricultural products, as 90% of Bolivia’s roads are thought to be unpaved.
During his meeting with Koffi Annan, Chavez and the Secretary General talked about the situation in Iraq, the latest developments in Latin America, and how the UN could play a more effective role as a multilateral organization to solve international conflicts.
A triumph for Venezuela’s foreign policy
Chavez has been sharply criticized by the opposition in Venezuela, as his anti-neoliberal and anti-poverty rhetoric didn’t have a significant impact in previous international summits. However, the profound social content of the talks and the welcoming of proposals such as the International Humanitarian Fund, the promotion of participatory democracy, the acceleration of Latin American integration and the strengthening of the state, made the XIII Iberian American Presidential Summit into a triumph for Venezuela’s foreign policy.