Mérida, October 29, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa met in the Amazonian town of Puyo, Ecuador, on Tuesday to review ongoing bi-national cooperation initiatives and to discuss Latin American integration as a response to the world economic crisis.
Commenting on the meeting’s purpose, Chávez said, “Some presidents meet and call for the re-foundation of the capitalist system, but we, the socialists and seekers of alternative paths, are obligated to reflect and act… I think our time has come… to activate our own mechanisms and not sit cross-armed.”
Also focusing on the context of the meeting amidst a world crisis, Correa said, “In this crisis we can find an opportunity to emerge strengthened.” He added that the integration of South American countries “is the best way to confront this inhumane and cruel globalization” in which “the profits are privatized and the losses are socialized.”
While Venezuela says its foreign reserves and sovereign control of oil reserves protect it from the international crisis, Correa has said it is possible Ecuador will have to suspend debt payments because of the crisis.
During the meeting, the presidents reviewed the participation of Ecuador’s state oil company, PETROECUADOR, in the exploitation of Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt. They also moved forward on plans for PETROECUADOR and Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, to build a petro-chemical complex and a 400,000 barrel per day refinery in Ecuador, and to explore for natural gas off the Ecuadoran coast.
Correa and Chávez also founded a new bi-national “Government and Planning School of the South,” which will train public functionaries in how to manage and promote the new mechanisms of integration that are emerging across the continent.
In the area of international finance, the leaders revived their previous proposal to construct a Bank of the South and a new international currency with which southern nations can trade independently from the dollar.
“How much longer are we going to have our reserves in the banks of the North?” Chávez asked the press upon arriving in Ecuador. “It is a stupid thing to continue with this model that they imposed from the North! What, are we going to wait until the world sinks?”
Correa, a U.S.-educated economist, advocated that the allied socialist governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia unite their reserves into a joint fund, to serve as an example for the rest of the region.
“If each country has its own separate reserves, it is like punching with an open hand; each finger breaks. With united reserves, it is like punching with a fist,” Correa explained.
Venezuela and Ecuador have already initiated a bi-national development fund to finance construction, transportation, health and educational services, and the production of food, energy, and steel in each country.
As a gesture of solidarity, Chávez offered Ecuador access to the telecommunications services provided by Venezuela’s new satellite, which China manufactured and launched on Wednesday as part of a bilateral cooperation accord.
Also with regard to telecommunications, the two presidents spoke of a possible submarine fiber-optic line between Ecuador and Venezuela.
The mayor of Puyo, Oscar Ledesma, and some indigenous residents honored Chávez with gifts and expressed appreciation for Venezuela’s health care assistance through a free eye surgery program called the “Miracle Mission.”
Ecuador’s Confederation of Indigenous Nations has strongly opposed the Correa administration’s expansion of large-scale mining and oil extraction, but recently rallied in support of a new, very progressive national constitution that Correa also advocated.