“Ahead of Financial Crisis,” Venezuela’s Chávez Spins through Europe

Continuing on a world tour that started with Cuba and China, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chávez concretized plans for a joint energy company and
bank with Russia, strengthened political ties with France, and secured
the importation of one million laptop computers from Portugal this Thursday
and Friday.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, September 26, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Continuing on a world tour that started with Cuba and China, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez concretized plans for a joint energy company and bank with Russia, strengthened political ties with France, and secured the importation of one million laptop computers from Portugal this Thursday and Friday.

"We are, luckily, ahead of the world financial crisis," Chavez said after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the second time since July. "It will not get us."

President Medvedev greeted Chávez warmly. "Esteemed President, dear Hugo, I am happy to greet the delegation of our friend Venezuela," he said.

During the visit, the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA formed a mixed energy company with five Russian companies, Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, TNK-BP, and Surgutneftegaz. The company will exploit Venezuelan oil and national gas and, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution, the majority share will be controlled by PDVSA.

The Russian and Venezuelan governments also agreed to form a bi-national bank, which Chávez said would help curb the impacts of the financial crisis in the United States.

"For some time now we have been pushing for a multi-polar world that has already been born and is growing," Chávez said. "It is not about two blocs, the socialist one and the capitalist one. It is about a new, plural era that is more diverse and varied."

Russia also offered to help Venezuela develop nuclear energy. After meeting with Chávez Thursday evening, former Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "We are ready to study the possibility of operating in the sphere of peaceful atomic energy."

In military cooperation, the Russian government approved a loan of $1 billion to Venezuela to assist in future purchases of Russian military equipment.

Venezuela has spent $4.4 billion on Russian helicopters, fighter planes, machines guns, and other weapons since 2005, and Chávez recently expressed interest in purchasing Russian anti-aircraft systems.

Venezuela now awaits the arrival of a Russian naval fleet to conduct exercises in neutral Caribbean and Atlantic waters. Earlier this month, two Russian T-160 bombers carried out trainings with Venezuela in neutral airspace over the Atlantic.

Indicating Russia's increased interest in Latin America as a whole, Putin said Thursday that "Latin America is becoming a noticeable link in the whole chain of the emerging multipolar world."

France

On Friday, President Chávez met with French President Nicolás Sarkozy to prepare the groundwork for an upcoming meeting of a mixed commission of the French and Venezuelan governments and of private business officials scheduled for next month.

Following the visit, Chávez said international cooperation is the solution to the world financial crisis, not "issuing more paper money that keeps losing value" referring to U.S. President George W. Bush's proposal of a $700 billion bailout of failed financial firms in the United States.

"The United States has not known how to act responsibly around the planet, having this power in its hands, the hegemony of the dollar," he told the press.

According to the Venezuelan Ambassador to France, Jesús Arnaldo Pérez, France and Venezuela have an "excellent dialogue of mutual respect" and France is a strategic "a source of science and technology" for Venezuela.

Currently, PDVSA and the French oil company Total have signed contracts to jointly exploit Venezuelan oil, and the French company Alstom, which has operated in Venezuela for three decades, has shown interest in renovating Caracas's subway system, according to Venezuelan news reports.  

Portugal

Friday evening, President Chávez met with Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates to sign cooperation accords in the areas of housing, telecommunications, and energy.

According to current plans, Portugal will export one million low-cost laptop computers to Venezuela in early 2009 to boost Venezuelan public education programs. Technology transfer, including the construction of a computer factory in Venezuela, has also been discussed.

The two countries also agreed to construct 50,000 homes, either prefabricated in Portual or assemblied
in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Ambassador to Portugal, Lucas Rincón, said Friday that Venezuela seeks assistance from a Portuguese energy firm to improve Venezuela's electricity sector, which was nationalized in 2007 and has been struggling to satisfy rapidly growing demand.

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