Friday, November 28, 2008

Latin America News Update: Medvedev, Chavez Visit Russian Warships; Nuclear Deal Signed; Meeting With Raul Castro; Bolivia Condemns US

Medvedev, Chavez visit Russian warships at Venezuela port

Friday, November 28
LA GUAIRA, Venezuela

(AFP)--Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday visited Russian warships in a Venezuelan port with President Hugo Chavez, giving a symbolic kickstart to joint maneuvers in the US backyard.

Medvedev arrived in Caracas late Wednesday and was due to travel to communist Cuba later Thursday, the last stop in a four-nation trip.

The Russian leader's tour sought to boost Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries and was seen as a rebuff to US moves in formally Communist-ruled parts of Europe, such as planned missile defense facilities.

Hundreds of white-clad navy forces welcomed the two leaders in the blazing Venezuelan sunshine in the northern port of La Guiara for the symbolic start of exercises with Russian warships not seen in the region since the Cold War.

Medvedev and strong US-critic Chavez toured destroyer "Admiral Chabanenko," as Chavez joked to reporters from the deck: "We're going to Cuba!"

They also signed a pre-accord for the sale of two Russian passenger planes.

The two leaders vowed closer cooperation to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world after signing a string of deals the previous night, including on a project to build a joint nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes.

Officials also signed a deal on cooperation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in Venezuela by companies such as Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The fiercely anti-liberal Chavez also denounced what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" after announcing efforts to move away from dollar transactions in trade with Russia.

Chavez and a handful of leftist Latin American leaders agreed Wednesday to create a joint monetary zone to confront the international financial crisis and reduce dollar dependency.

Although Russia and Venezuela signed no new arms deals, Medvedev defended Russia's growing arms sales to Venezuela -- criticized by the United States and neighbor Colombia as potentially destabilizing -- and said military cooperation with firebrand leftist Chavez would continue.

The two countries have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikovs.

Russian military cooperation with Venezuela "is not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership," Medvedev said.

The warship maneuvers, dubbed "VenRus 2008" and including some 1,600 Russian forces and 700 Venezuelans, are due to take place between December 1 and 3.

"This is against no one, we're practicing our right. And we'll keep working with Russia on strategic defense," Chavez said ahead of the exercises.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the arrival of Russian ships could hardly reflect a change in the regional power balance.

"A few Russian ships is not going to change the balance of power," she said.

Some analysts also detected an element of bluff in the Russian moves, saying that the economic crisis was likely to hinder Russian plans such as possible involvement in a South American gas pipeline.

Others have criticized the timing of Russia's show of defiance given a wave of international goodwill towards the United States after Barack Obama won the country's presidential election.

Thursday, November 27, 2008
17:39 Mecca time, 14:39 GMT

Medvedev and Chavez in nuclear deal

Chavez says US 'hegemony' was the source of global

Russia and Venezuela's leaders have signed a deal for Moscow to help the South American country to build a nuclear energy plant, during a visit to Caracas by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president.

Medvedev and Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, also vowed to work together to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world and agreed to continue arms deals between the two countries.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy corporation, said Venezuela had the right to peaceful nuclear energy and had given no cause for "questions" about its fitness for nuclear energy.

Officials said they had also signed an agreement on co-operation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in Venezuela by Russian energy companies such as Gazprom.

Military co-operation

Chavez greeted Medvedev at an elaborate event in the Venezuelan capital on Wednesday.

The welcoming ceremony featured scarlet-clad soldiers carrying spears, in a courtyard decorated with palm trees, fountains and statues of classical gods and dolphins.

Following talks between the two men, Medvedev said military co-operation between the two countries would continue.

Russia has been a major arms supplier to Venezuela, providing radars, fighter jets, helicopters and tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles.

Medvedev defended the arms sales, which have been criticised by the US and Colombia as potentially destabilising for the region.

The Russian president said military co-operation with Venezuela "is not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership... It should strengthen multi-polarity in the world including in South America and Latin America".

'Dollar dictatorship'

Meanwhile, Chavez said US "hegemony" was the source of global "catastrophes".

He denounced what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" and announced efforts to move away from dollar transactions in future trade deals with Russia.

"We should fight to make a world of catastrophes caused by hegemony and unilateralism a thing of the past," Chavez said.

Medvedev and Chavez went on to dine with leaders of several South and Central American countries, some of which have formed an economic group designed to counterbalance US influence in the region.

Medvedev is set to inspect Russian warships that arrived in Venezuela this week to carry out exercises in the Caribbean Sea close to US waters.

His visit is part of a tour aimed at revitalising Russia's Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries in Latin America and is seen as a counter to US moves in Eastern Europe where Washington is introducing a missile defence system.

Medvedev earlier visited Brazil, which announced it had agreed to buy 12 attack helicopters from Russia.

Source: Agencies

Raúl receives President Medvedev

PRESIDENT Raúl Castro received Dimitri A. Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation on Thursday afternoon at the Palace of the Revolution, shortly after his arrival in Cuba on a working visit.

In an initially private meeting, the two leaders discussed the progress of bilateral relations and shared opinions on various issues of general interest.

Both subsequently moved on head official talks that took place in an atmosphere of friendship, comprehension and mutual respect that characterizes relations between the two countries, reflecting the long and solid fraternity between the Cuban and Russian peoples.

Raúl and Medvedev agreed on the importance of continuing to develop links in different fields, the economic one in particular, on the basis of shared benefit, and exchanged views on the international situation; in particular, the current world economic crisis and its consequences.

The Cuban president expressed thanks for Russian aid after three hurricanes struck the island within a space of just two months.

For his part, Medvedev ratified the disposition of the Russian people, government and business sector to increase their participation in the development of the Cuban economy.

Also present at the meeting were José Ramón Machado Ventura, first vice president; Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, vice president of the Council of Ministers; Igor Sechin, vice president of the Russian Federation; and Serguey E. Prikhodko, President Medvedev’s advisor; and other senior Cuban and Russian officials.

Translated by Granma International

Evo Morales condemns Bush government decision against Bolivia

LA PAZ, November 27.— Bolivian President Evo Morales today described as "political revenge" the U.S. government’s decision to exclude his country from unilaterally conditioned tariff benefits related to combating drug trafficking.

"What we are seeing is an attempt to terrify the Bolivian people and trample on their dignity," stated the president during a press conference at the Government Palace, and described the arguments put forward by the White House to justify the measure as "false".

The previous day, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the indefinite exclusion of the Andean nation from the aforementioned commercial instrument - Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) – charging Bolivia of failing to combat drug trafficking.

During the last 11 months, Bolivia has already seized 27 tons of cocaine, three times more than the total retained in 2005, prior to Evo’s victory in the presidential elections.

These elements confirm the criterion of political revenge, Evo affirmed, also reiterating Bolivia’s commitment to the international community with respect to this blight.


Businesspeople from Bolivia and Venezuela initiated in this city the close of contracts signed this month during a trade forum, developed as an alternative to U.S. obstacles to exports from the Andean nation.

The state Suministros Venezolanos Industriales (SUVINCA) company and Bolivian producers are to organize the purchase and sale of Bolivian items such as clothing, textiles, timber and jewelry to a value of $47 million, agreed during the 1st Bilateral Round of Exchange and Integration, according to PL.

Translated by Granma International

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