Mérida, October 31st 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva met in Venezuela with President Hugo Chavez on Friday to evaluate the progress of bilateral development projects, in particular accords related to Venezuela’s industrialization, production of soy, and entrance as a member in the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR).
The Brazilian Industrial Development Agency and Venezuelan Ministry for Science, Technology, and Medium Industry signed a series of cooperation accords to develop the “Puerto Ordaz – Manaos Productive Axis,” which will integrate the infrastructure, communications systems, and industries of Venezuela’s natural resource-rich, southeastern Guyana region with Brazil’s northern Amazonian region.
President Chavez said this integration would help Venezuela industrialize rather than export purely raw materials such as aluminum and steel. “These are spaces that we should fill with our exports, but in order to do this we should work on industrialization,” Chavez said.
The two presidents visited a soy plantation in Venezuela’s Anzoategui state that is the result of a joint project meant to boost Venezuela’s soy production with an investment of more than BsF 500 million (US $233 million).
So far, 2,000 hectares have been planted to produce seed. Next year, 25,000 hectares will be planted, and in 2011, 35,000 hectares will be planted in order to produce soy-based products including soymilk, oil, cattle feed, and meat substitute, according to Venezuelan Agriculture and Lands Minister Elias Jaua.
The bilateral cooperation also includes the joint construction of a biotechnological research complex in Venezuela, which will benefit from a knowledge sharing agreement with Brazil’s biotechnological research center in Manaus.
The two presidents also celebrated the fact that the Foreign Relations Committee of the Brazilian Senate approved Venezuela’s entrance into MERCOSUR, a regional free trade bloc that currently includes Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay. Venezuela still needs the approval of the Brazilian and Paraguayan parliaments in order to become a member.
Lula reiterated his confidence that the bloc will eventually open its doors and expand its reach. “I am confident that the Brazilian senators understand the importance of this step, which is necessary so that in the future, all South American countries will be able to be a part of MERCOSUR,” said Lula during his visit with Chavez on Friday.
Francisco Marcondes, the president of the one year-old Federation of Venezuelan-Brazilian Chambers of Industry and Commerce (which groups together the various Brazilian-Venezuelan chambers of commerce already in existence), expressed his strong support for Venezuela’s entrance in to the bloc, as it could increase bi-national trade from the current US $6 billion per year to as much as US $20 billion.
In the energy sector, Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, and Brazil’s Odebrecht moved forward on joint plans to upgrade Venezuelan oil refineries and incorporate PDVSA into the construction of the 3.3 million barrel per day Abreu e Lima refinery in Pernambuco, Brazil, a project launched more than a year ago.
Also, Venezuela’s petrochemical company, Pequiven, signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil’s Braskem to produce petroleum-based chemicals in Bahia, Brazil.
To help Venezuela reach its goal of equipping half the cars manufactured in Venezuela with natural gas-powered engines, Brazil’s MAT S/A group signed a memorandum of understanding with PDVSA to share knowledge and develop the necessary technology.
In the area of communications, the respective communications ministries of both countries signed accords for the integration of their digital television networks as well as their fiber optic lines through a connection point in Venezuela’s Bolivar state.
Finally, the two presidents discussed the assistance provided by Brazil’s public bank, la Caixa Economica do Brasil, to Venezuela’s public banking sector, specifically in the construction of affordable housing for Venezuelan communities.
Among the many other accords reviewed or signed during Friday’s visit were agreements to cooperate in the upkeep of tourist hotels and the expansion of social programming, including health care, food security, and education in both countries.
The next meeting between Lula and Chavez about bilateral cooperation is scheduled to take place in the frontier region of Roraima, Venezuela, in March 2010.