Mérida, October 26th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez returned to Caracas on Sunday after an 11-day diplomatic tour that included stops in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Libya and Portugal. “Everything has been done with the interests of the Venezuelan homeland at heart,” stated Chávez in reference to the 69 bi-lateral agreements signed in the fields of energy, agriculture, trade, transport, science, industry, technology and housing.
“The world has changed. It’s no longer what it was ten years ago. And in this new, multipolar world, the Venezuelan homeland and Bolivarian Revolution have begun to play a fundamental role now recognized in all four cardinal points of the planet,” Chávez said upon arrival at Maiquetía International Airport.
Portugal and Libya agreements
On the final leg of his seven-nation tour, Chávez signed agreements with Portugal worth a total of US$ 1.4 billion. Deals include plans for Portugal to build and sell 12,500 prefabricated homes, two ships for the transportation of asphalt as well as smaller passenger vessels to Venezuela. Also, Venezuela and Portugal are to develop joint renewable energy projects with the support of Portuguese wind and solar energy expertise and technologies.
During his stop in Portugal on the weekend, President Chávez also signed an agreement consolidating Venezuela’s Canaima Program which distributes mass-produced laptop computers to elementary school children.
On site at one of Portugal’s JP Sa Couto laptop computer factories, Chávez announced the purchase of an additional 1.5 million laptops as well as plans to install a Canaima production plant in Venezuela.
“Over there [in Venezuela] we need something similar, because we have several million elementary school kids and beyond them, we have the entire Latin American market,” said Chávez in reference to the computer factory. To date, over 875,000 laptop computers have been distributed to Venezuelan kids through this program.
Venezuela and the North African nation of Libya signed ten bi-lateral agreements, including the establishment of the Venezuela-Libya Investment Fund that will manage US$ 1 billion for agricultural and industrial investments.
“Each one of us will put 500 million dollars for investments here [Libya], there [Venezuela], as well as for investments in other third party nations, such as the ALBA countries, others of Latin America, Africa and elsewhere in the world”, said Chávez in reference to the investment fund.
Tour Makes Headlines
While abroad, a number of the agreements signed by Chávez and his counterparts made international headlines, including plans with Russia to build Venezuela’s first nuclear-powered energy plant, a framework for Venezuela to provide oil supplies to Belarus through Ukranian pipelines without interruption “for the next 200 years”, and initial details regarding Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA investing US$ 780 million in Iranian natural gas fields.
U.S. President Barack Obama commented on Venezuela’s development of a peaceful nuclear energy program, stating that the U.S. had no problem with such a program so long as Venezuela acted responsibly towards its neighbors. In response, Chávez asserted that his U.S. counterpart was “sowing doubts” as to Venezuela’s peaceful intentions.
Following up on Obama’s statements, U.S. State Department spokesperson Phillip Crowley told reporters that Venezuela’s plans to develop nuclear energy, “is something [the United States] will observe very very closely.”
Regarding Venezuela-Iran energy cooperation, Crowley stated that the U.S., “will watch to see if any of these deals amount to anything and if they do, whether they constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions against Iran.”
“It is hard for me to see how Chávez’s current travels can be seen as constructive,” Crowley concluded.
Back in Venezuela
On his return to Venezuela on Sunday, Chávez made public statements highlighting a number of important agreements to improve housing and trade in Venezuela.
With respect to housing, Chávez mentioned Russian financing for the construction of 7,000 homes in the proposed Socialist City of Tiuna, while Belarus is expected to build over 4,000 apartments in the Venezuelan state of Aragua and Iran has committed to helping build over 10,000 housing units.
Further, as cited above, Venezuela will also purchase from Portugal a total of 12,500 prefabricated homes. According to government figures, Venezuela has a housing shortage of 2 million.
In trade, Chávez emphasized deals made to diversify the Venezuelan economy. The president discussed a 100 million dollar initiative between Venezuela and Syria in which “socio-productive” projects in both countries are to be funded, as well as the one billion dollar collaboration with Libya to stimulate agro-industrial development.
He also spoke of agreements reached for exporting cacao, coffee and other agricultural crops to markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. These agreements, said Chávez, serve, “to break the perverse model that has been imposed on us for over 100 years, the model of petroleum monoproduction.”
“Each year the impacts will be greater and more relevant…We have been working on this for years, developing an entire network, a new financial system. We are not the International Monetary Fund, not the World Bank, but little by little we’re moving forward,” he said during a live televised address to the nation on Monday night..
Bolivarian Foreign Policy
In written reflections published on Sunday, Chávez said that while each agreement signed was intended to, “dignify the lives of all Venezuelans” he insisted that they also amount to, “the birth of a new model in which we [the South] understand and support each other in the international arena.”
Chávez’s written remarks referred to what he considers an ever-changing, multi-polar world in which Venezuela’s role continues to grow. Referring to changes in Venezuela’s foreign policy under his administration, Chávez wrote:
“This international tour was another illuminating confirmation that Venezuela exists. Today we are not at the point of just establishing relations to survive: Venezuela is now on the offensive, establishing relationships so as to accelerate the fall of imperialism’s hegemony and to guarantee the bright coming of a world in peace and equilibrium…”
“For this reason, the more they attack me, the more I’ll go to Tehran, the more I’ll go to Minsk, the more I’ll go to Damascus, to ratify that we are and will continue to be free.”