Mérida, October 15, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)-
The Presidents of Venezuela, Colombia,
and Ecuador met in northern Colombia
on Friday to inaugurate a new transnational gas pipeline. President Hugo Chavez
also invited Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to join the new regional
development fund, the Bank of the South, which he accepted.
"The only way we can take
off and get out of poverty, misery, and underdevelopment, is walking together
towards unification," said Chavez upon opening a valve to permit gas to
flow in the new natural gas line between Colombia
"That is why it is
essential that we design mechanisms of integration, such as the Antonio
Ricuarte Trans-Oceanic Gas Pipeline," he said.
Near the Venezuelan-Colombian
border, the three presidents inaugurated the first section the gas pipeline
project that will eventually carry Venezuelan natural gas across Colombia and into Central
America. This first section measures about 225 kilometers and
required a total investment of around US$ 325 million.
The pipeline, which can
transport up to 500 million cubic feet of natural gas daily, will eventually be
extended to Panama, Ecuador, and the Pacific to facilitate Venezuela's increased trade with Asian countries
such as China.
This first section was completed only 15 months from when Chavez and Uribe inaugurated
its construction in July of 2006.
"The construction of this
infrastructure that will first benefit Venezuela
and will later bring prosperity to the whole region took only 15 months to
build," said President of Ecuador Rafael Correa. "That is an example
that with political will for integration and unification, results can be
Initially the pipeline will
actually bring gas from Colombia
into northwestern Venezuela
to supply Venezuelan communities where the gas supply is scarce. Later, in
2011, once Venezuelan gas production has increased, the direction will be
reversed and Colombia will
begin to import gas from Venezuela.
Correa also expressed interest in connecting Ecuador to the transnational
pipeline as well.
The Venezuelan president has
announced plans to convert the country over to natural gas, instead of
gasoline, and is planning to build a natural gas network to connect all
Venezuelan cities to the cleaner fuel. Rafael Correa expressed interest in
doing the same in Ecuador
by connecting his country to the project.
"Tulcan (Ecuador) could be the first city,
as the pilot project, in using natural gas piped to each house," he said,
emphasizing that natural gas is "much cheaper and much friendlier to the
According to the Venezuelan
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez, about 10 percent of the total investment in the
pipeline actually went to social spending in the communities surrounding the
pipeline. The northernmost part of the long border between Colombia and Venezuela is made up of communities
of indigenous people on both sides of the border known as Guajira, and has
traditionally been a poor, isolated region.
The minister emphasized that
besides employing some 1,300 people in the construction of the project, much of
the money has been used to invest in surrounding schools, health clinics, water
sources, and financing for agricultural and economic ventures in both
countries. On the Venezuelan side of the border the construction of development
projects for industrial and agricultural production was announced to bring
economic development to the region.
Bank of the South
Chavez took advantage of the
occasion to invite Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to join the Bank of the
South, a new regional development fund to be officially launched next month. The
fund already includes the participation of Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay,
Ecuador, and Venezuela. The new
Bank's headquarters will be located in Caracas.
Chavez emphasized that it would be very important in the development of the
"It is our bank, a South
American bank, and I think it is going to be a very important factor in our
economic independence and for the social and economic development of our
populations," said Chavez.
Uribe accepted the offer and
officially requested Colombia's
admission to the multinational fund.
"We are combatants of
ideas, staunch enemies of terrorism, and deeply committed to integration with
brother nations. There is no way that we can be left out of the Bank of the
South," he said.
The new Bank of the South is expected to be officially
launched in Caracas
on November 3rd. The fund will have the objective of financing the economic
development of the region with a focus on reducing poverty and promoting