Venezuela, Bolivia commit to greater cooperation

Venezuela and Bolivia have agreed to raise cooperation to a “higher level” following Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Bolivia on May 25.

During bilateral meetings held in Cochabamba, Maduro and Bolivian President Evo Morales signed key accords in food production, industrial development and communications.

“It’s necessary to place the strategic map of bilateral cooperation at a higher level, including a more organised one,” said Maduro.

To achieve this task, he said the Venezuela-Bolivia Joint Integration Commission would re-start quarterly meetings, and that ministerial commissions had already identified “projects to be strengthened”.

A noted-upon agreement signed between Maduro and Morales was the establishment of a Gran-National Food Production Company with the aim of guaranteeing the food security of both countries.

The company will begin operations this year with the plantation of 500 hectares of rice in Venezuela and 500 hectares of soya in Bolivia.

Company transactions will take place using the Sucre, an electronic currency created by the left-wing anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alliance of the People's of Our America bloc of Latin American governments. It is intended to help avoid depending on the US dollar for commercial exchange. Both Venezuela and Bolivia are ALBA members.

The bi-national food production initiative comes as Venezuela struggles with food shortages in some basic products. As a more immediate form of assistance, Bolivia also agreed to send Venezuela 60,000 tons of sugar, 8000 tons of powdered milk and 900 tons of palm heart.

Maduro signed similar import deals when he visited Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil earlier in May.
Under another agreement, Venezuela’s National Centre of Chemical Technology will assist the Bolivian state to develop the industrial production of lithium, with the aim of eventually producing lithium batteries.

EFE reports that several transnational companies had previously approached the Bolivian government with offers to exploit Bolivia’s Uyuni lithium, but their offers fell short of the Morales government’s demands.

Several accords were also reached in the area of communications, such as cooperation in the research and application of satellite technology, and Venezuelan assistance in the expansion and improvement of Bolivia’s internet network.

The results of the meetings in Cochabamba cement the continuity of the close relationship developed between Venezuela and Bolivia under the presidency of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

“Bolivia will always accompany Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, [and] will always accompany our brother Maduro, who also accompanies us,” said Evo Morales, who has governed the Andean nation since 2006.

Morales also paid homage to the memory and legacy of Chavez, who was a close ally and friend. In the presence of Maduro and several Bolivian social movements on Saturday, the Bolivian president said that Chavez was a figure for whom his movement felt “profound respect and admiration”.

Both presidents committed to continuing along the path of “socialism of the 21stcentury” as a new model for Latin America. Morales contrasted this against the “neocolonialism” of the 1990s, when the region was dominated by neoliberal governments which followed free market policies associated with the “Washington consensus”.

Maduro meanwhile affirmed that the aim of bilateral cooperation was to benefit the peoples of Venezuela and Bolivia. “Our objectives are to strengthen democracy, beat poverty, and consolidate independence and processes of equality,” he said to press on May 26.

Venezuela and Bolivia continue their international schedules in Caracas this week, where both nations are participating in a Union of South American Nations conference about the use of natural resources for regional development.

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analaysis.]