[Marxism] Apropos Chávez's and Lula's tours of Latin America

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 16 09:00:26 MDT 2007

August 16, 2007


August 16 – 22, 2007
Latin America: A quest for independence or dependence? 	

Apropos Chávez's and Lula's tours of Latin America

By Eduardo Dimas

Read Spanish Version

President Hugo Chávez (whom I deeply respect) says that the
differences between himself and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva (whom I also respect) are not over the
leadership of Latin America, to which Chávez does not aspire, but
over several points of view regarding the region's energy
development. Chávez views it in terms of Venezuela's oil resources;
Lula, in terms of biofuels.

I am not sure that is so. It is very possible that Chávez (Bolivarian
as he is) reluctantly had to assume the leadership of Latin American
integration, whose starting point is energy. No other political
leader has the charisma and resources he has to carry out that task,
which is most necessary for the independence and sovereignty of Latin

In Lula's case, I have my doubts, because the Brazilian oligarchy
(given its economic power) always has aspired to control the rest of
the region, to play the role of regional subimperialism (as Argentine
sociologist Atilio Borón puts it), dependent on the government of the
United States. And Lula has followed the line of the oligarchy and
bourgeoisie of São Paulo, the most powerful of all.

The fact is that, during the tours of several Latin American
countries by Lula and Chávez, the differences between their
objectives were more than just evident. For that reason, Uruguayan
journalist and politologist Raúl Zibechi called Lula's trip "the
second ethanol tour" -- an allusion to President George W. Bush's
tour in March of this year -- while he described Chávez's trip as a
tour to promote "accords that promote integration."

Lula visited Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica for the
purpose of promoting biofuels, especially those made from sugar cane
and corn, and to establish accords to permit Brazilian companies to
distill the alcohol thus produced. In Mexico, he signed major accords
on oil prospecting and exploitation with President Felipe Calderón.

The transnational Petrobras will drill in the deep waters of the Gulf
of Mexico in exchange for part of the hydrocarbons that may be

The Mexican opposition, particularly the segment that opposes the
privatization of PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos), denounced --
rightfully, I think -- that this is just another step to deliver
Mexican oil into the hands of transnational oil corporations. "Others
will come" behind Petrobras (Petróleos Brasileiros), warned Andrés
Manuel López Obrador, leader of the Revolutionary Democratic Party,
or PRD.

As Raúl Zibechi points out in his article "Two tours, two roads,"
Lula said that he has Mexico's support "in the campaign to establish
a world market of clean, cheap and renewable fuels." Lula also told
the Mexican president that "together we can form a world economic
power." This may best express the thinking of the Brazilian
president. And what about the rest of the countries?

Apparently, Lula does not take into account the increase in the
prices of corn, wheat, soy and other grains as a consequence of their
use in the production of biofuels. That means fewer possibilities for
feeding the poorest people on the planet, about 3 billion
individuals. It's no coincidence that, in his second term in office,
Lula forgot to restate his promise to guarantee three meals a day to
all Brazilians.

Lula also disregarded the answer by Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega when Lula offered him support to turn Nicaragua into the
pioneer of biofuels in Central America. Ortega replied: "Producing
ethanol from corn is completely inadmissible and a crime." In effect,
it is true genocide, because it can cause the death by malnutrition
of millions of people.

In Jamaica, Lula inaugurated a plant to dehydrate ethanol (absolute
alcohol) built with Jamaican and Brazilian capital. In Honduras and
Panama, he signed accords to produce ethanol from sugar cane.

In his article, Zibechi points out that Brazil's motive to expand
ethanol production in the region "is to use Central America as a
platform for the exportation of ethanol to the United States. Those
countries have free-trade accords with the Americans and place no
limitations on the exportation of ethanol."

Brazil is limited in its exportation of ethanol to the United States,
which is the main producer, and has to pay a tariff of 50 cents of a
dollar for each gallon. Will the Brazilian government sign a
free-trade accord with the United States after being limited for such
a long time? They way things are moving, it's possible.

The ethanol "carrot" worked, despite all the warnings about the
consequences that may befall the Brazilian people.

As Borón and Zibechi point out, Chávez's tour was different. He
reached accords for the supply of natural gas with Argentina,
Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, and signed protocols for the
construction of regassification plants. One will be in Bahía Blanca,
Argentina; another in Uruguay, which will double the current refining

Chávez also signed a Treaty of Energy Security with Uruguay, creating
a joint project to extract crude oil from the Orinoco strip. Thus,
Uruguay is assured of an energy supply for a long time.

In Argentina, Chávez signed an accord for the purchase of $500
million in bonds and promised to buy a like amount in a few months.
As is known, Argentina has had no access to international credits
since the 2001 crisis.

In his visit to Ecuador, Chávez signed an accord with President
Rafael Correa to invest $5 billion in a refinery in Manabí Province
that will be able to process 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

A measure of the underdevelopment there is that Ecuador, a country
that produces crude oil, does not have refineries capable of handling
the domestic demand for gasoline, so it has to export the crude oil
and import gasoline.

In Bolivia, Chávez and Evo Morales signed an accord to create a joint
oil company called PetroAndina. Its first project is to invest $600
million in the exploration and exploitation in the northern sector of
the department of La Paz, and in the department of Tarija.

Later, Chávez, Morales and Argentine President Néstor Kirchner met in
Tarija to further propel the process of integration.

One of the accords was to improve the plant that separates gas
liquids, which is now being built in Tarija with a $450 million
credit from Argentina. According to Kirchner, that plant will be
decisive for the construction of Argentina's northeast pipeline.

That conduit will be vital for the future Southern Gas Pipeline,
built with the participation of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay,
Kirchner said. He invited all governments of the region, including
Mexico, to joint that project and others, like the Bank of the South,
which -- after an early push -- have become tied up in the
bureaucratic red tape laid out by people who don't want the idea to

For his part, Chávez insisted on the need to create in today's and
future generations a consciousness of belonging to a single nation
formed by many republics, as Simón Bolívar described it.

"Only after we have built that great Motherland, can we say that we
are truly free and independent, within the world's multipolar
vision," Chávez stressed.

Finally, on Aug. 10-11, at the PetroCaribe Summit in Caracas,
attended by 14 Caribbean nations and new members Nicaragua and Haiti,
Chávez proposed a Treaty for the Energy Sovereignty of the Caribbean.
The proposal was accepted and signed. Chávez gave his word that those
poor nations will not lack energy for the next 100 years.

The enormous difference between the two tours -- Lula's and Chávez's
-- is obvious and presages many problems for the process of Latin
American integration.

Chávez talks about integration, complementation, mutual aid, the
creation of the Grand Motherland. Lula talks about trade and ethanol,
knowing that biofuels will create more dependence, misery and
underdevelopment, even though they represent big business for the
Brazilian oligarchy and its U.S. allies, among them Jeb Bush, the
president's brother.

During the Sixth Social Summit, held in Caracas, Chávez conceded that
the construction of the Gas Pipeline of the South was in limbo, due
to the bureaucratic red tape in Brazil and the media's warnings that
Brazil would become too dependent on Venezuelan natural gas.

The same happens with the Bank of the South and for the same reasons.
The bank, which would facilitate credits for the development of
member countries, should have opened in August. Now, its launching
has been rescheduled for November. According to Kirchner, November is
the final deadline and, as he invited all governments to participate,
said the bank will begin operations no matter what.

Atilio Borón, in an article titled "Chávez: Yes but no," recalls the
words of Simón Bolívar -- "I have plowed the seas" -- to point out
that Chávez may have a similar experience.

In effect, what we are witnessing is the manifestation of two
political currents in Latin America. One aspires to true and
definitive economic and political independence in the region; the
other attempts to remain under the neoliberal wing and protection of
the United States.

"Chávez plowing the seas?" asked the prestigious sociologist. "Maybe
yes, if his reference points are the governments in the region. But
not if one takes into account the growing projection of his example,
his initiatives and projects among the social movements and popular
forces in the region. And, sooner rather than later, those movements
and forces will have the final word."

I hope Borón is right (as he has often been in the past) because the
worst that could happen to the people of the region is that this
opportunity for liberation is lost due to laziness, accomodation and
the force of the dependent oligarchies and bourgeoisies in Latin
America. And that the chance to forge a fair and equitable Grand
Motherland is also lost. Time will tell. Meanwhile, we must fight to
keep Chávez from "plowing the seas."

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