[Marxism] Arab-Latin American summit

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Thu May 12 22:49:24 MDT 2005

Walter Lippmann wrote:

>In today's world where there is one dominant superpower, Washington,
> efforts to build up alterntives to Washington's takes numerous
> forms. The Iraqi resistance is one form, and the development
> of new and alternative alliances on a world scale are another.
> Efforts to revive the Non-Aligned Movement is another one.
> The Arab-Latin American summit in Brasilia is still another:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/38043
(Another report below on the Brasilia conference from the underrated Asia 
Times. Iraq president Talabani's presence, together with Hugo Chavez and 
others, might seem bizarre at a conference declaring the universal right to 
"resist foreign occupation" and opposition to US policies against Syria, but 
it can be read as a measure of the deep anti-occupation sentiment within 
Iraq which exists independently of the mainly Sunni insurgency, notably 
among the Sadrist Shias and extending even into the pro-Iranian 
Hakim/Sistani alliance at the heart of the governing coalition. It didn't 
detract from the focus of the conference to develop Arab-Latin American 
trade relations and a common trading front of the poorer nations against the 
US and the other OECD countries, particularly around oil and agricultural 

>From Baghdad to Brasilia
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times
May 12 2005

There could hardly be a more graphic instance of an emerging new world order 
than Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and 
the premiers of both Syria and Lebanon all flying for a get-together in 
Brasilia in Brazil, designed from scratch in the 1950s by modernist icon 
Oscar Niemeyer as the futuristic capital of the new world.

They were among the heads of state and ministers from 33 South American and 
Arab League states gathered in the Brazilian capital for the first-ever 
Arab-South American summit. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim has 
described the summit as an "alliance of civilizations" - a reference to 150 
years of Syrian-Lebanese immigration to South America. More than 10 million 
people of Arab descent live in South America, most of them in Brazil, which 
holds the largest Arab diaspora in the world.

The "Declaration of Brasilia" to be endorsed this Wednesday calls for close 
political and economic ties between South America and the Arab world; 
demands that Israel disband its settlements in the West Bank, including 
"those in East Jerusalem", and retreat to its borders before 1967; 
criticizes US "unilateral economic sanctions against Syria", which violates 
principles of international law; and forcefully condemns terrorism. Israel 
is also implicitly criticized for holding an undeclared nuclear arsenal. The 
declaration also calls for a global conference to define the meaning of 
terrorism, and defends peoples' rights to "resist foreign occupation in 
accordance with the principle of international legality and in compliance 
with international humanitarian law".

It's unlikely that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US Secretary of 
State Condoleezza Rice will lose any sleep over what happened in Brasilia - 
despite all the inevitable hardline Israeli-American rumblings. Arab League 
secretary general Amr Moussa said, "It's their [Israel's] problem if they 
are concerned. If they don't want to be concerned anymore, they should 
change their policy in the occupied territories."

Washington was so concerned about the summit turning into a forum against 
President George W Bush's Greater Middle East and against Israel that it 
pressured the pliable, dependent leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Morocco not to 
attend. As much as Brazil counts on Arab support in its pledge for a 
permanent United Nations Security Council seat, the Arab League counts on 
South America to support an Egyptian bid.

South America is avidly cultivating much stronger ties with China, Russia 
and the Arab world - and there's little Washington can do about it. The US 
officially requested to be an observer at the summit. The Brazilians 
politely declined: "It's a public meeting, you can watch it on TV."

Not surprisingly, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Abbas were welcomed 
in Brasilia as heroes. Brazilian President Luis Ignacio "Lula" da Silva 
diplomatically praised the Palestinians for their "patience" during the 
Middle East peace process. Al-Jazeera went live with the opening remarks by 
the co-hosts, Lula and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also the 
current president of the Arab League. Lula insisted once again that "poor 
countries [must] receive the benefits of globalization". The Algerians are 
excitedly talking about "a coalition on cultural, political and economic 
terms". Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a leading Arab paper, stressed how the summit 
could influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The London Arabic-language 
daily al-Hayat published a half-page photo of Talabani arriving in Brasilia.

The key point of all this is economic. Bilateral trade between South America 
and the Arab world stands only at US$10 billion a year, but growth 
possibilities are endless. The main success of the summit is the PetroSul 
agreement, which creates a continental oil major composed by Brazil, 
Argentina and Venezuela.

Arabs are delighted to find good products and competitive prices in South 
America and a business climate much more relaxed than in Europe, and 
especially post-September 11 US. For instance, Brazil will export even more 
sugar, beef and chicken to the Middle East. According to the Arab-Brazilian 
Chamber of Commerce, exports may double within five years.

According to Georgetown University's Tarik Youssef, "From the Arabs' 
perspective, Latin America is probably the best case to benchmark the pace 
of progress in the Arab world," meaning in both the political and economic 
spheres. Arabs may learn one or two practical things in South America in 
terms of privatization and fiscal and political reforms. Brazil is 
forcefully engaged in a campaign for the elimination of rich countries' 
agricultural subsidies - a popular theme also in the Arab world. The summit 
is the first step toward a future free trade agreement between the Mercosur 
and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

No wonder Washington hawks are uneasy. There's an emerging geopolitical axis 
on the map - Arab-South American. It's non-aligned. And it's swimming in 
oil. Between them, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, 
Algeria, Egypt, Qatar, Libya, Oman, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Ecuador, 
Argentina and Brazil pump about 27.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 
32.5% of global production.

One of the key reasons for Talabani's presence at the summit is that Brazil 
will inevitably be back to oil-field development in Iraq. Brazil had very 
close commercial relations - in the oil service industry and in the military 
sector - with Iraq during Saddam Hussein's time. Brazilian technical 
expertise helped in the discovery of some of the largest Iraqi oilfields. 
Both Venezuela and Brazil hope to win plenty of service contracts in the 
Arab world. Venezuela, instead of just supplying about 13% of the daily US 
oil consumption, is avidly diversifying - striking new deals with Spain and 
China. The last thing Hugo Chavez wants is to be dependent on the US market.

The writing on the (global) wall is now inevitable: region-to-region 
economic deals, more exports, and increased distancing from the weak dollar. 
In this renewed South-South cooperation, trade and commerce prevail over 
invasion and regime change; respect to UN resolutions regarding military 
occupations prevail over alienated terrorism rhetoric. There's an 
alternative global agenda in town.

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