Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced after his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing that China had expressed support for Venezuela’s bid to join the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. is seeking to block Venezuela’s bid for a seat and is backing Guatemala instead. [includes rush transcript]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he is planning to increase oil exports to China over the next decade to one million barrels per day.
Chavez made the announcement after holding talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. Venezuela is the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter and the move is seen as an important step to reduce its dependence on oil exports to the United States.
But the alliance between China and Venezuela goes beyond just energy. Chavez told reporters after his meeting that President Hu Jintao had expressed support for Venezuela’s bid to join the United Nations Security Council.
Five of the ten rotating seats on the Council open up in October, one of them is traditionally reserved for a Latin American country. The United States is seeking to block Venezuela’s bid for a seat and is backing Guatemala instead. The race between the two countries is to be decided by the General Assembly in a secret ballot in October.
China is the second of the council’s five permanent, veto-wielding members to back Venezuela. Chavez won Russia’s support last month. Chavez said China’s backing for the seat was "very important from the political and moral point of view."
- Mark Weisbrot, co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.
- Read Mark’s article: Latin America: The End of an Era
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined once again by Mark Weisbrot, He is co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., was at the United Nations yesterday speaking to people about this issue of the possibility of Venezuela becoming a member of the UN Security Council, something the U.S. is fiercely opposed to. Mark Weisbrot, what have you learned?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think it’s — everyone seems to think it will be a close vote, but the striking thing is that so many countries have actually come out in favor of Venezuela publicly. The Mercosur countries, which is Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, have publicly — the organization has actually endorsed Venezuela’s bid, Bolivia also, now China and Russia, countries throughout the world. So it’s — and it’s quite striking, because this is something that the Bush administration has made very clear they don’t want Venezuela on the Security Council. They’ve put a lot of pressure on countries, and here is Latin America saying — most of Latin America already saying, "No, we’re going to support Venezuela." So this is a tremendous slap in the face to the Bush administration, because it’s a very high priority for them.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Why would membership in the Security Council, especially since it’s not one of the permanent members, be that important to the United States?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, they’ve got a lot going on there right now. I mean, they’ve got military threats against Iran, for example, and Venezuela is going to be very outspoken on that, and that could actually make a difference. I think that’s one of the reasons why Chavez wants to be on there. And then there’s North Korea. There’s all these things, you know, everything that — you know, a lot of things that you guys talk about on this show, very important priorities to the United States, and they don’t want an outspoken representative there who is going to say the things that maybe a lot of other countries would be afraid to say.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of the China trip, both in terms of the UN and in terms of oil?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, the oil — I mean, Venezuela is planning to triple its oil exports to China within the next few years, but it’s still — you know, it’s maybe half a million barrels a day. It’s significant, but they’re still going to export probably 1.5 million to the United States, as they do. So that relationship is not going to change all that much. But they are trying to diversify, and I think that’s probably a very good idea from their point of view, especially with the enormous hostility they’ve been facing from the Bush administration.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You made the point in a tremendous article recently about Latin America and the changes in Latin America, that Venezuela has begun to play an extremely important role in terms of financial backing, even of bonds and debt, for other Latin American countries, and that this really signals the defeat of the International Monetary Fund, a sort of monopoly of international debt, especially in Latin America. Could you talk a little more about that?
MARK WEISBROT: Yeah. These are huge, really epic-making changes that have taken place in the last seven years or so in Latin America. I would — you know, if you adopt a Cold War terminology that policy analysts in Washington use, you could say it’s kind of like the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and this is — these are the newly independent states.
And I think what’s going on is that in the past, for the past 30 years at least, the major instrument that Washington has used to control policy and politics as much as they could in Latin America has been a monopoly over credit, and that was headed by the IMF, so if you didn’t meet the conditions that the IMF set down, the policy conditions, macroeconomic conditions, privatization, things like that, you didn’t — it wasn’t that you just didn’t get loans from the IMF, you didn’t get loans very often from the World Bank, from the Inter-American Development Bank, from the G7 countries, and sometimes even the private sector, so you could be really cut off, and that was the enormous pressure and the clout that they had, more than the military, more than the CIA, anything else in most cases. And that has totally collapsed in just the last few years.
And this is, as I said, an epic-making change. It’s really changed the relationship between the United States and Latin America, and Venezuela has played a role in this. Argentina played a major role when they defaulted on their debt and said no to the IMF conditions and actually did very well. The economy’s been growing over 9% in the last three years.
But Venezuela has also entered the equation, because they have provided an alternative source of credit without the kinds of — without any conditions, really, so they have $34 billion in reserves. Now, that’s huge. I mean, if you look at all of IMF loans to Latin America right now, it’s only about $3 billion. And so, Argentina, for example, when they wanted to say goodbye to the IMF, they borrowed $2.5 billion from Venezuela. Bolivia is borrowing hundreds of millions from Venezuela. Ecuador is borrowing from Venezuela. And they’ve proposed to formalize this actually with a bank of the south. And there’s a chance that this may come to be in the next few years, but in the meantime Venezuela is kind of the de facto bank of the south, providing this alternative credit, allowing governments like Bolivia, for example, which a few years ago would have had a very short life expectancy, because it could have been economically strangled by the United States to pursue independent policies and do what they were elected to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, what about the relationship of President Chavez and President Bush, as we move into this election here in the United States?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think the United States is usually a little more careful right preceding elections with Venezuela than they are otherwise, so I think as we get closer, they’re less likely to provoke a tremendous confrontation, because Chavez has said, if you try to actually overthrow the government of Venezuela, he would cut off oil, and they wouldn’t, I think, want that before this November election, which is pretty close. And the same was true in the 2004 referendum in August, 2004 in Venezuela. The United States kind of was a little reluctant to intervene there, and I think —- but there’s still -—
You know, I think our government has really committed itself to regime change in Venezuela, and that’s — you know, they supported the coup, for example, in April of 2002, and they haven’t really changed their policy since then. Most people don’t know, but the United States was really involved in that coup. That’s documented. We have documents from the State Department and from the CIA that show that our government actually had advanced knowledge of the coup and not only didn’t try to stop it, but actually tried to support it, by telling the world that it wasn’t a coup, when they knew exactly what was going on, and trying to make the coup government stick and trying to persuade other countries even to support it. So this is the kind of relationship that they have. And it really has not changed, and I think that’s one of the other reasons why you see Chavez out there trying to support what he calls a multi-polar world and trying to build support from other countries.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And let me ask you, what does it mean for the United States to be basically in a hostile relationship right now with two of the world’s largest exporters of oil, Iran and Venezuela, in terms of what are the limitations of what the United States can do in that situation?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I’m not sure it limits them as much as most people think. You know, these countries always sell oil. You know, Iraq, for example, when we had sanctions on Iraq and were trying to get rid of that government, they were the second largest supplier of oil to the United States from the Middle East, and I think that’s one of those myths really that people believe that our foreign policy is driven by our need for oil, but I don’t think it would change very much, even if the United States were to become self-sufficient in energy, which would be a great thing. I’m not sure it would change our foreign policy all that much, because it’s not the oil, per se, that they’re fighting for, but it’s control over oil as a source of power. And here’s one case where you can really see it. They lost control over Venezuela, one oil-producing state, and as a result, they’ve really lost enormous influence in Latin America, because there is your alternative source of credit.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, I want to thank you very much for being with us, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.