Mérida, September 22, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traveled to Manaus, Brazil, yesterday to meet with his Brazilian counterpart President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The two presidents met to discuss various matters including the Gas Pipeline of the South project, Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, the Bank of the South, and other bilateral projects. The two leaders agreed to meet every three months from now on to continue with the integrationist agenda and move forward with the bilateral agreements.
"We spoke about everything," said Chavez upon leaving the meeting. "With regards to energy we agreed to accelerate the technical meetings in order to move forward with the agreements for the formations of joint companies."
Brazil and Venezuela agreed two years ago to build a joint oil refinery in northeastern Brazil between the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, and the Brazilian Petrobras, but little progress has yet to be made with the construction of the refinery. President Chavez has claimed that the delay in the work is due to bureaucracy in the Brazilian government, but critics have alleged problems between the two countries in coming to an agreement. The Brazilian president, however, assured this is not the case.
"There is no secret here, there is no rumor that is preventing Brazil from deepening the strategic energy relationship with Venezuela," Lula said.
As a counterpart to the joint refinery project in Brazil, the two leaders had also agreed on a joint company in Venezuela to extract oil from the Orinoco reserves. At the meeting yesterday the two presidents confirmed the formation of both projects and assured they would continue forward with the cooperative initiatives despite the controversy.
"Today we observe the beginning of the construction of the Pernambuco (Brazil) Refinery, where Petrobras and PDVSA are working together. Likewise a refinery in the Orinoco will be constructed with both companies," said Chavez.
Also discussed was the Gas Pipeline of the South project, an initiative that Chavez has been pushing and that would carry Venezuelan natural gas through Brazil all the way to Argentina. Although the project appeared to not be progressing in recent months, Chavez assured recently that he would be bringing it up again at the meeting with the Brazilian president.
According to Lula, Brazil and Venezuela will continue moving forward with technical meetings and will be contracting companies to carry out the necessary studies to determine the viability of the project. Chavez emphasized the strategic importance of the pipeline, calling it the "skeleton" of regional integration and affirmed the existence of political will on the part of both countries to carry it forward.
"Venezuela ratifies here, in Manaus, the strong will to construct this great gas pipeline," he said. "It will serve to protect us from the threats of an energy crisis and assure us the necessary energy."
Chavez also thanked Brazil for their collaboration in the industrial development of Venezuela and their technological cooperation in this area.
Regarding the project of the Bank of the South, a multinational fund to finance development projects in the region, Chavez assured that the project is "ready to begin" with or without Brazil and that the countries that have already joined, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, "cannot wait any longer."
"We don't need any more meetings. Everything is ready. We have done all the meetings we need to do. We have already waited enough," said Chavez to the press upon arriving to Brazil.
Brazil, however, has been hesitant to join the project, and the Brazilian foreign minister said upon finishing the meeting yesterday that there still are "details" that the Brazilian government needs to know about before participating in the multinational fund.
Chavez assured that the bank will begin operating before the end of 2007 and that its headquarters will be located in Caracas.
The leaders also touched on the topic of Venezuela's entry into the South American trade block Mercosur. The Brazilian Parliament has continued to delay the decision to allow Venezuela's entry, after the other Mercosur members, Argentina and Uruguay, have already approved the measure. The other parliament which has not yet approved Venezuela's entry into Mercosur is Paraguay's.
Chavez has criticized the Brazilian parliamentarians, accusing them of being "parrots who repeat the orders from Washington," and set a deadline on the parliament's decision last June, giving them three months to decide after which he said he would withdraw the request for membership.
"We have dignity. We aren't going to be dragging ourselves around begging anyone. If this really can't be approved, what can we do?" said Chavez.
The Brazilian president expressed his desire for the Brazilian Parliament's approval of Venezuela and said he hoped the Brazilian Senate would vote on the matter "as soon as possible." Chavez blamed the delay on political issues, saying that it was "the empire that wants to keep us divided."
"If Venezuela doesn't enter Mercosur it will be a victory for the empire. But it will be a worthless victory, because no one will stop the integration of South America," Chavez assured.
The two leaders agreed to meet every three months from now on in order to assure the cooperative projects continue to move forward. The next meeting will be in Caracas in early December.