Chile and Venezuela Strengthen Unity

With the official visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to Venezuela on Wednesday, the two countries signed several agreements of cooperation in different areas. The meeting signaled a lowering of tensions between the two, due to the Chilean Senate's recent condemnation of Venezuela's non-renewal of a TV license.

Merida, April 19, 2007 (– With the official visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to Venezuela on Wednesday, the two countries signed several agreements of cooperation in different areas. Without mention of the recent tensions between the two governments, President Bachelet and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez confirmed their commitment to strengthen the union between their countries. Bachelet also met with leaders of the Venezuelan opposition to discuss the case of Venezuelan TV channel RCTV.

After joining leaders of the region for the South American Energy Summit in Porlamar, Venezuela, on Tuesday, the Chilean President then traveled to Caracas on Wednesday for an official visit. Signing a joint declaration, Chávez and Bachelet made the commitment to deepen the relations between Chile and Venezuela in light of their common historic and cultural roots.

"We have, and we want to have, the best relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," said Chile’s Michelle Bachelet during the signing of the agreements. "And we also have (good relations) with Cuba and the United States. But that does not prevent us from having differences, in fact we have had them in the past and surely we will have them in the future," she stated.

The two presidents signed four different agreements of cooperation during a meeting in the Miraflores Presidential Palace. The agreements are for economic cooperation between the two countries as well as cooperation in the areas of energy, education, and social issues.

In the energy sector, the countries made an agreement for cooperation between Venezuela’s state-owned oil company (PDVSA), and the Chilean National Oil Company (ENAP). Venezuela agreed to reserve a part of the Orinoco oil fields for cooperation with Chile, an agreement that could guarantee the nation with a supply of a substantial volume of crude oil in the future.

Regarding education, an agreement was signed to exchange information about the educational activities developed by the Ministries of Foreign Relations of both countries. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro signed the document along with Chile’s Alejandro Foxley.

An agreement was also signed between the president of Venezuela’s Institute of Small and Medium-sized Industry (Inapyme), Américo Mata, and Iván Vuskoc, president of Chile’s United National Confederation of Medium, Small and Micro-industry. The agreement will favor economic and social cooperation between the two countries.

Neither president made reference to the recent conflict between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the Chilean Senate that came about last week after this body demanded that President Bachelet protest to the Organization of American States the case of the non-renewal of the broadcast license of the Venezuelan private television channel RCTV. To the contrary, both presidents expressed the desire for increased union and cooperation.

"It is an obligation for us to raise the level of historic and moral relations between us," said President Chávez. "We must resolve any differences and move forward together toward a better future."

In her speech President Bachelet also made reference to the need for integration between South American nations.  She said Chile would respect the diversity of international relations.

"Our duty in foreign policy is to respect that diversity, and we can work with this diversity among all the nations in a climate of respect and friendship," she said.

Meeting With the Opposition

Bachelet later had a short meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan opposition who spoke with her about the case of RCTV. After President Chávez announced last December that he would not renew the broadcast license for RCTV, which expires next month, the Venezuelan opposition has complained that the Venezuelan government is restricting the freedom of expression in the country.

Manuel Rosales (Un Nuevo Tiempo), Julio Borges (Primero Justicia), Eduardo Fernández (Copei), Victor Bolívar (AD) and Teodoro Petkoff all met with the Chliean President around 7 pm on Wednesday. The political party Primero Justicia made a formal request that Chile take "a firm position in defense of freedom of expression as a human right and an essential element of democracy" before the Organization of American States.

Manuel Rosales, leader of the political party Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) also requested that Chile send a mission of observers to Venezuela in the month of May in order to observe the protest activities that the Venezuelan opposition will carry out.  Opposition leaders have planned protest activities leading up to the May 27th deadline for RCTV’s broadcast license.