Mérida, June 20, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– The immigrant incarceration and deportation law passed by the European Union’s (EU) parliament on Wednesday is a “law of shame,” according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who threatened economic retaliation and urged Latin American and world leaders to unite against the measure.
“We call on Latin America, members of parliament, independent of whether we are from the Left or the Right, the OAS [Organization of American States], the United Nations and African nations,” Chávez proclaimed Thursday, “let us unite forces in one single cry: Respect the dignity of our people, we will make it be respected.”
The EU approved a law Wednesday that could force the 27 member states to adopt stricter immigration policies by 2010, including the detention of undocumented immigrants for 18 months prior to their expulsion, 5-year bans on returning after expulsion, and the use of advanced satellite technology and more invasive screening procedures.
Chávez threatened to deny investment opportunities to countries which enforce the new law. “If any European country begins to apply this, and puts in jail Colombians, Paraguayans, Ecuadorians, Bolivians… then we are going to review the investments that they have here in order for us as well to apply a return order. Return their investments to them!” Chávez exclaimed.
The leader of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” also vowed that Venezuelan oil “should not arrive to those European countries” which carry out the law.
In addition, President Chávez asserted that future political and economic summits with EU leaders will not be necessary if the new law takes effect. “For what are we going to meet with them, if they are mistreating our Latin American brothers?” he asked rhetorically.
The EU Foreign Relations Chief, Javier Solana, deemed Chávez’s reaction “totally disproportionate.”
The Czech Foreign Relations Minister, portrayed Chávez’s threats as economically empty. “Venezuela supplies oil principally to the United States, so if they decide to cut off deliveries to us, it would not represent a big change for us,” he said.
According to the Venezuelan newspaper Panorama, the most recently available statistics show that Venezuelan oil represented less than 1% of European oil imports in 2005.
Chávez, however, emphasized along with many of his Latin American counterparts the moral significance of the EU law. He highlighted that “legions” of hungry, impoverished European immigrants came to Latin America throughout the World Wars and depressions of the Twentieth Century, and “none of them was mistreated or returned to Europe.”
Asking where the half a million undocumented immigrants in Europe are supposed to go, Chávez railed, “they will have to make concentration camps… will Europe be so indignant as to return to concentration camps?”
But President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, a country already invested heavily in Venezuela’s banking, airlines, hotel, energy, and communications industries, suggested that Chávez has misunderstood the new law, and promised to “explain to the Venezuelan president exactly what the directive consists of.”
“Have no doubt that we will explain it,” said Zapatero, to be sure that “the relationship of Europe with all the Latin American countries continues being positive.”
The Organization of American States (OAS) and several Latin American heads of state have also issued harsh rejections of the new EU policy.
“Once again the developed world has approved a repressive measure against illegal immigrants that directly affects many Latin Americans,” said OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza in a statement released Thursday.
Insulza called it “paradox” that EU countries “insist on the positive character of the process of globalization,” then “insist on rejecting for political reasons that which is stimulated by economic globalization” by adopting “measures like prolonged internment that treat illegal immigrants like delinquents, without even discussing or negotiating the issue with Latin American governments.”
The Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo, who was visiting Chávez in Caracas Thursday, said the new immigration law is “erasing the image of good will” cultivated by the EU’s behavior at summits such as the Trans-Atlantic summit held in Lima last month at which Latin American and EU leaders pledged to strengthen trade relations and put poverty and global warming at the top of their agendas.
If this law were to take effect, “Europe would be converted into a big jail of immigrants from other continents,” Lugo stated Thursday.
Brazilian Foreign Relations Minister Celso Amorim called the law “contrary to the desired reduction of barriers to the free circulation of people.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa condemned the law as a “true embarrassment” for Europe, and Bolivian President Evo Morales called for Latin American countries to unite with African countries to oppose the policy.
The anti-immigration measure “violates human rights,” according to Carlos Alvarez, the president of the South American free trade bloc MERCOSUR, who reiterated that it is “paradoxical” that the EU supports the free flow of capital but not of people.