Venezuela Sews “Threads of Steel” with Syria and Iran during Presidential Visit

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Iran on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Syria on Thursday, where he furthered agreements for housing in Venezuela.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (left) and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (AFP)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (left) and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (AFP)

Merida, October 21st, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Iran on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Syria on Thursday, where he furthered agreements for housing in Venezuela, signed Syria on as an observer of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and prepared for the construction of a Venezuelan refinery in Syria.

Iran to help Venezuela with housing problem

In Iran, the two countries signed eleven documents and discussed a range of issues, including technology transfer, industry, agriculture, commerce, housing, and mining.

The Iranian Minister for housing and urban development, Ali Nikzad announced that a commission of experts will travel to Venezuela within a month to help construct 50,000 houses. The deal follows another deal with Russia last week to finance 7,000 houses in Venezuela.

Chavez visited a housing complex, or a “commuter town” called New Parand to familiarise himself with the Iranian housing experience and commented that it seemed like a “new form of popular construction”. The town has around 90,000 houses and a population of 700,000 as well as colleges, hospitals and other services for the community.

Chavez said he hoped the Iranians could help Venezuela “solve its housing problem just like they have solved the housing problem in Iran”.

Iran has already assisted Venezuela with housing, helping to build the urban complex Ezequiel Zamora in Cojedes state that benefited 2,000 families and a total of 10,000 houses so far, according to Chavez.

Another agreement involves the creation of a “Maritime Society” to strengthen the exportation and transportation of crude oil, as well as a pact for a joint oil shipping company, joint construction of petrochemical plants, as well as Venezuelan participation in the exploitation of Iran's South Pars gas field.

Over the last five years Venezuela and Iran have signed a range of agreements on oil and gas cooperation as the Iranian industry is being hit by the Western firms withdrawing in the face of UN and US sanctions.

The visit to Iran was Chavez’s ninth overall and the third in the last year and a half. According to Radio Mundial, the two countries have signed over 200 agreements and the amount of commercial exchange has increased by over $5 billion.

Venezuela-Syria business cooperation

The meeting between Chavez and the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad was the third one, and involved following up on agreements, creating a council of Syrian-Venezuelan businesses, as well as agricultural agreements.

The business council will be made up of business people who are going to invest in both Syria and Venezuela, finance productive areas and areas that contribute to better standards of living, and create join companies.

Towards this purpose, Chavez met with a group of Syrian and Venezuelan business people to hear their proposals for commercial exchange. Energy minister Rafael Ramirez will be the Venezuelan to head up the council.

The two countries’ leaders also discussed the execution of the project of an oil refinery in Syria, constructed between Venezuela and Syria and with participation from Iran and Malaysia. To date a feasibility study has been conducted as well as an economic viability study. The Refinery will process over 140,000 barrels daily.

Ramirez said the refinery was very important because, “Syria is an OPEC observing country, it has a production of 450,000 barrels, but it doesn’t cover their internal supply needs.” They hope to inaugurate the plant in 2012, and Venezuela will also send diesel to Syria; up to a million tonnes per year, according to Chavez.

The two presidents agreed to create a joint venture to process and distribute olive oil, “the best in the world,” Chavez said. Venezuela will also plant 6,000 hectares of cotton and primary material for olive in Cojedes state.

They also signed an agreement to establish a maritime route between Venezuela and Syria, specifically between the port La Guaira and the Port of Latakia, which will help facilitate commercial exchange and the implementation of other agreements.

Finally, they signed an act of integration so that Syria could become an observing nation of ALBA. Full members of the integration organisation are Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua, Dominica, and Venezuela. Uruguay and Paraguay are observing countries.

Al-Assad said the move would help strengthen Syria’s relations with South America. For a long time, he said, relations between the Middle East and South America were very limited but in the last few years there have been important steps to consolidate links, and Syria’s relationship with Venezuela would help with its links to other Latin American countries.

Chavez argued that Venezuela and Syria are “two strong poles” of the new multi-polar world that is being born; Chavez’s term for a world not dominated by one power, specifically the United States.

“We’re obliged to sew networks between Damascus and Caracas with threads of steel; new economic, geo-political, social, cultural, technological, energy, food relations, so that we can face the biggest challenges together,” Chavez said.

Nelson Merentes, president of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), commented yesterday that over the last ten years Venezuela has had a policy of becoming closer to “brother nations” such as Brazil, China, Russia, Belarus, Iran, and more recently, the Ukraine, to help consolidate a “new economic model” or “financial architecture”.

As an example, he cited Venezuela’s ability to use new electronic methods of transactions as well as the continental wide effort to end dependence on the U.S dollar. Merentes said the BCV was facilitating the technology platform as well as the chamber of compensation and the new trading currency among members of ALBA known as the Sucre.

Speaking in Iran, Chavez said the singing of a new set of agreements was part of the “immense network [of agreements] that we have woven over the years.”

His ten-day international tour began last Thursday, and he has yet to visit Libya, Algeria, Portugal.

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