Chavez goes on the road, aims for multipolar world

Addressing a rally in Caracas on Sept. 1, the day he returned from a trip to China, Malaysia, Syria and Angola, President Hugo Chavez, campaigning for re-election, posed Venezuela’s role in the world as crucial to his “strategic plan” for the nation. Points six and seven of a seven-point program cover a “multipolar world” and Venezuela as “a global energy power.”

Chavez’s visit to China Aug. 22-27 was his fourth since 1999. Oil ended up as the centerpiece of agreements reached between two countries long in search of oil-trading arrangements marked by flexibility and independence. Venezuela currently is obliged to send most of its oil to the United States. China derives half of its imported oil from the volatile Middle East.

Chavez and President Hu Jintao of China agreed that by 2009 China would increase its purchase of Venezuelan crude oil from 150,000 barrels a day to 500,000 barrels. Chavez predicted that by 2015 Venezuela would be shipping 1 million barrels a day to China, a figure not far removed from the 3.6 million barrel daily total that, according to experts, China will be needing from abroad by 2010.

Venezuela and Colombia have already agreed to the construction of cross-border oil and gas pipelines to Pacific Ocean ports.

China will be making 18 supertankers for Venezuela and will divide investments worth $5 billion between oil-extraction projects in Venezuela’s Orinoco Delta and a “petrochemical center” in the northwest. China will also design a fiber optic cable network for Venezuela, construct 20,000 homes over the next two years, put a telecommunications satellite into orbit by 2008, and build a $10 billion, 621-mile railroad across central Venezuela. Negotiators reached accords on tourism, education and agricultural development.

President Hu promised to continue high-level exchanges, expand strategic consensus, build bilateral cooperation, and pursue common foreign policy objectives.

Chavez’s visit to Malaysia was the second of his presidency. Agreements were announced on energy and oil cooperation and on taxes and tariffs. He praised Malaysia for its role “in the new world geopolitics that is confronting U.S. hegemony.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, accompanying the delegation, thanked the Malaysian government for supporting the upcoming conference of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations in Havana, Sept. 12-16. Malaysian leaders have “developed the concept of a multipolar world with great clarity.”

In Damascus, Chavez and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed a 12-point accord covering cooperative oil ventures in both countries, plus air transport, commercial integration, tourism and environmental protection. They jointly condemned Israeli aggression in Lebanon and reiterated old demands for Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and also voiced support for Palestinian statehood.

In Luanda, Angola, on Aug. 31, Chavez ratified the opening of a Venezuelan embassy, one of 18 planned for African nations by 2009. He and Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos discussed Angola’s entry into the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and prospects for unity among nations of the Global South.

Discussions and agreements emerging from the trip centered on the theme of independence from U.S. dictates. In addition, at every stop Chavez sought and received backing for Venezuela’s candidacy for a UN Security Council seat opening up in October.

In Beijing, Chavez praised China as a positive alternative to the views of “leaders, governments, and the Western economies who wanted to sell us the idea that capitalism was the only alternative, that the only road is neoliberalism.”

For Chavez, the alternative to a unipolar word has socialist characteristics. Reflecting on the 20th century, he told his Chinese hosts, “One of the principal events ... was the Chinese Revolution.” He is confident that “ in the coming decades, North American imperialism will no longer exist.”