Mérida, October 8th 2009
(Venezuelanalysis.com) -- In their sixth quarterly meeting on bilateral
cooperation, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador and President Hugo Chavez of
Venezuela signed accords to create binational fishing and mining companies,
enhance joint efforts to prevent drug consumption and fight drug trafficking,
and increase military cooperation.
Chavez said Ecuador and Venezuela are
"called to open the pathways toward true unity between our peoples, between our
governments, and true complementation between our political systems."
Correa called Wednesday's meeting "a
step forward," and added "collective action and unity in the region are
fundamental for the development of its peoples."
In addition, Venezuela agreed to
donate $20 million worth of wheelchairs, crutches, and other special equipment
to bolster Ecuador's new social program called the Manuela Espejo Solidarity
Mission, which seeks to discover the social and economic conditions of disabled
people in Ecuador and provide needed services to that population.
The Ecuadoran program is modeled on
Venezuela's Jose Gregorio Hernandez Mission, which was founded in 2008 and
named after a popular Venezuelan doctor known as "the people's doctor." Both
missions receive assistance from Cuban community doctors.
To improve telecommunications in both
countries, Venezuela's national telecommunications company CANTV and Ecuador's
TELEXA signed preliminary documents for a strategic alliance.
Also, Ecuador incorporated its public
telecommunications infrastructure into the new network of radio stations called
Radio of the South, which was created during the Africa-South America Summit in
the end of September with the purpose of promoting unity among peoples of the
Moreover, the Finance Ministries of
both countries signed a memorandum of understanding about the creation of the
Venezuela-Ecuador Development Fund (FEVDES), which will be used to finance
development projects in the transportation, health, education, agriculture,
energy, and infrastructure sectors.
The twelve-hour meeting in Caracas,
which involved an array of government ministers from both countries, came
amidst a strong backlash from the majority of South American countries against
the recent expansion of the U.S. military presence in Colombia, which both
Venezuela and Ecuador consider a potential threat to their sovereignty.
In this context, Correa and Chavez
agreed to improve the exchange of information, knowledge, technology, and
needed replacement parts between their countries' militaries. This follows
Venezuela's donation of six fighter planes to Ecuador just over a week ago.
"We should prepare ourselves to
reject the aggressions of the [United States] empire," Chavez said. "Only in
unity will we achieve independence; we are still far from achieving it."
The meeting was also the latest step
forward in the process of regional integration. This process has accelerated in
recent years with the creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR),
which convoked the first ever South American Defense Council to diffuse
regional tensions and promote transparency in military spending, as well as the
eight-member Caribbean, Central, and South American trade bloc ALBA (Bolivarian
Alliance for the Americas), which promotes "People's Trade Agreements" as an
alternative to the U.S.-dominated free trade agreements.
Correa currently occupies UNASUR's
rotating presidency, and Ecuador became a member of ALBA in July.
Also on the agenda in Wednesday's
meeting was the Bank of the South, an initiative of the ALBA bloc to wrest
control of the region's development from the U.S. and other foreign capital,
and the creation of a new regional currency, a virtual compensation system
called the Sucre.
Chavez and Correa have initiated
dozens of bilateral accords since the two countries began holding quarterly
meetings more than a year and a half ago. In their fifth meeting in May, the
countries concretized plans to explore for oil off Ecuador's Pacific coast and
proposed the creation of a Latin American Human Rights Commission.
In July 2008, Venezuela's state oil
company PDVSA and Ecuador's PetroEcuador signed a deal to build a $6.6 billion
joint oil refinery with the capacity to produce 300,000 barrels per day along
Ecuador's pacific coast. The following month, the two leaders launched joint
oil extraction projects in Venezuela's Orinoco Oil Belt.
PDVSA has formed mixed enterprises,
in which the company maintains 60% control, with companies from five continents
to exploit the Orinoco, which is estimated to contain the world's largest
reserve of oil, Venezuela's principal export.