Merida, October 15th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez began his ten day international tour yesterday in Russia. The visit, which lasted yesterday and today, was his ninth to the country, and centred on a nuclear energy agreement as well as 14 other agreements in the areas of finance, housing, and agriculture.
Peaceful nuclear energy
Chavez and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Venezuela and to begin the process of acquiring the necessary technology. Russian engineers will help construct the first such plant in Venezuela.
“Yes, we’re going to develop nuclear energy in Venezuela, with Russian support. The world needs to know this, and nothing is going to stop us. We’re free, we’re sovereign, we’re independent,” Chavez said yesterday in a press conference.
The agreement was formally negotiated when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to Caracas last April. At that time, Chavez stressed the nuclear energy plan was to help solve Venezuela’s energy shortage.
Also, just before Medvedev visited Venezuela in November 2008, Chavez said Venezuela wanted to build a nuclear reactor in Zulia state “to produce energy for peaceful purposes”.
“Brazil has several nuclear reactors, as does Argentina. We will also have our own reactor,” Chavez said.
Prensa Latina reported that today the United States recognised Venezuela’s right to move forward on its program for nuclear energy. Phillip Crowley, spokesperson for the State Department, qualified the recognition, saying that such a right comes with responsibilities and warned, “This is something that we will observe very very closely”.
Bi-national bank, housing
Today the two heads of state also signed documents forming the Bi-national Venezuela-Russia Bank, which will finance investment projects in both countries.
So far, an amount of money for the bank has not been set, and Chavez explained that a “technical team” was working on a number and said, “We want the bank to be very strong, it will start out on modest numbers”. Chavez agreed with Medvedev that the size of the bank wasn’t important, but rather its assets were what mattered.
The two countries also signed an agreement so that Russia would finance the construction of 7,000 houses in Venezuela, in what will become the “Socialist City of Tiuna”.
Chavez announced recently that decent and affordable housing will be one of the top priorities for the government. There is a housing shortage of 3 million in Venezuela and many others live in risky, self built houses on the edge of mountain slopes.
Chavez explained that Venezuela found it hard to build over 100,000 houses a year because “the construction industry has never been developed, it was monopolised by the private sector”.
Among the other agreements and discussions were joint agricultural companies that Russia and Venezuela are working on, in the production of cacao, coffee, flowers, yucca, bananas, as well as a Moscow-Havana-Caracas flight route, to help with integration and tourism.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also told the press that Russia would supply Venezuela with a further 35 tanks.
The agreements form the basis of an action plan of cooperation spanning from this year until 2024.
From Russia, Chavez will also visit Belarus, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Portugal, among other countries.
In response to some media headlines that the tour is “ideological”, Chavez explained that actually he would be visiting a range of diverse countries with different ideological and political governments, and that rather his tour was “geopolitical”.
He said that since Venezuela signed military agreements with Russia the international media began a “demonising campaign”, “saying that Russia was arming Venezuela to train terrorists – all a lie”.
In November 2008 Venezuela’s navy carried out joint exercises with a Russian naval fleet. In the accord signed that month, Russia would assist with the training of the Venezuelan navy, as well as with repairs and upgrades. Venezuela has also spent over $4 billion since 2005 on Russian weapons and military equipment.