Chavez promotes creation of Petro-America energy enterprise

Mar 14, 2002 01:00 AM

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed the creation of "Petro-America", a multinational energy enterprise between oil- producing Venezuela and Colombia and the natural gas-rich nations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
He said he hoped a regional currency -- the sucre -- would be introduced by 2012. He added: "In order to achieve our integration, Latin Americans need to return to (Liberator Simon) Bolivar's idea of implementing a great political integration agreement," rather than one based on economics alone.

The following is the text of report on "exclusive" interview granted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 10:

Question: Why do you claim to be Bolivarian and to promote [Liberator Simon] Bolivar's ideology 175 years later?

Answer: What we propose is to recapture the original idea, under which our republic was founded -- Simon Bolivar's idea of a multipolar international system. We do not need to copy models from other latitudes to achieve our integration given that Bolivarproposed Great Colombia, the integration of what is presently Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Panama into one great republic. Bolivar had a multipolar vision of the world. We do not want a unipolar or bipolar world.
The 20th century was bipolar, and look what we have now. A unipolar world would be worse than a bipolar world. Bolivar wanted a single bloc or political body to negotiate under equal conditions with the other three parts of the world. Bolivar said that the best government system is the one that provides its people with the best social security, political stability and, most importantly, as much happiness as possible.

Question: You say that you are partly left-wing and partly right-wing.

Answer: I have been asked whether I am left-wing or right-wing and I consider this to be a merely geometric notion. For example, there are countries in which people who were on the left and are now on the right, this left or the right issue is very relative. That is why I prefer to call myself a revolutionary and Bolivarian, a fighter for a fairer world.

Question: What were the conclusions reached by the Andean presidents?

Answer: We have defined a principle of our integration model, which is that we must respect our asymmetries, the weaker countries. It is not the same to lower tariffs on agricultural products in Venezuela, given its oil resources, and lowering them in Peru or Ecuador. We are designing an integration mechanism that will respect each country's particularities.

Question: At the Andean Community presidential summit you proposed putting politics above economics to ensure the bloc will move forward. Why?

Answer: Because I believe that we need to bring back the great political concept and to inject an increased content of theory and practice into the integration mechanism. One of the most serious mistakes facing us is that we inherited an integration mechanism.
For example, the CAN [Andean Community of Nations] was developed on the basis of an ideology that emphasizes the economic aspect and then embraced neo-liberalism, according to which the states and heads of state must depart from politics and let the invisible hand of a market fix it all. That is an extremely serious mistake.

Question: What must be done?

Answer: In order to achieve our integration, Latin Americans need to return to Bolivar's idea of implementing a great political integration agreement. Politics shall be at the vanguard and not economics. Economics is a necessary element, but it is not enough.
This is not about an agreement without a soul -- a trade agreement needs to be an agreement with a soul, in which the millions of Indians, children, young men and women, workers and intellectuals can participate, in which we all participate with a social framework.

Question: This sounds good, but do you not think that this is a political discourse?

Answer: I do not think so. I believe that this is achievable.
That is why we agreed to meet in Caracas on 4 May to discuss our future political course. One of the things I am proposing is the development of a strategic plan. That is not going to be achieved in four years or during a presidential term. We must develop a plan from this year to 2022, a 20 year-plan.
Europeans have been integrating themselves for 40 years and already have a single currency, despite speaking different languages and having been at war for centuries. We have only one language, the same religion, a common history and great oil wealth, we have everything to accomplish this. I propose creating a Petro-America, a great multinational enterprise.
We have petroleum, gas, everything we need to build a powerful and large bloc, all we need is the will to do it. A great agreement among Venezuela -- an oil-producing country, Colombia -- an oil-producing country -- and Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, which have large quantities of natural gas, a great multinational energy enterprise.

Question: Do you think that the Andean countries will have a common currency, like the euro in Europe?

Answer: I think that it will take 10 years. This will require us to meet the heads of state, but consulting the people would be a another thing. No serious integration mechanism can be developed within a group of five or 20 persons behind closed doors. No, we will consult the millions of people affected by misery, poverty and hunger. We will enlist the students and the universities and have them help us. We can establish 2012 as the target date for Latin America, or at least the Andean Community, to have a common currency.

Question: What would be the name of this currency?

Answer: I propose to call it the sucre, in honour of that great man who was murdered by the oligarchs who betrayed Bolivar. The dream of Bolivar, Sucre and many others, was to unite our peoples into a great country. Our history would have been a different one. But I believe that in 10 or 15 years a common currency and a common Central Bank, as the Europeans have, would be possible.
Right now, we are proposing a shorter term to turn the Andean Development Corporation [CAF] into a great South American Bank, a multinational bank to support, with increased strength, our countries' social and economic development. We propose strengthening the Latin American Reserve Fund and turning it into a Latin American Monetary Fund to allow us to have instruments to protect ourselves from other global agreements that at times fail to understand our realities, tragedies and needs.

Question: What do you think about the conclusions of the Santa Cruz Declaration? Was there any progress?

Answer: Of course. A meeting had been scheduled -- an Andean Presidential Council in July 2000, and a meeting was held in Lima. I proposed a special meeting in Caracas to discuss only politics but this meeting was sabotaged.
A hairy, invisible and manipulating hand managed to sabotage the meeting. It was in 2000 when rumours had begun to circulate claiming that I was supporting the Colombian guerrillas, supporting indigenous insurgent movementsin Bolivia, that I was sending them weapons, that I was organizing movements to stage a coup in Ecuador and that I was hiding [former Peruvian presidential spy chief] (Vladimiro) Montesinos. Last night I said that the is a lack of political definition. Now, at midday, [Colombian President] Andres Pastrana suddenly said that we need to talk about politics and everyone agreed.

Question: Has the Venezuelan opposition grown in recent months?

Answer: I would not say that it has grown. We won the 1998 elections by garnering twice as many votes as our adversaries who joined efforts. They garnered nearly 2 mm votes, but in recent weeks they have made more noise. These are the same sectors that joined efforts to fight against the constitution that was supported and approved by the people in the referendum, they voted against it.

Source: BBC
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