Next month, a representative of the foreign ministry of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will visit Australia to address the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum in Melbourne on October 11-14.'s, Green Left Weekly's Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter conducted an interview in Caracas last November with Venezuelan vice-minister for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, Vladimir Villegas. Villegas talked about the Venezuelan government's revolutionary approach to international relations.
One of the defining features of Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution — so-called because it bases its principles on the struggle led by Simon Bolivar in the 19th Century to unite Latin America and liberate it from Spanish colonialism — is its profound internationalism. The government of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez has spearheaded campaigns against US-pushed "free trade policies", and established — with Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua — the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), based on mutual collaboration in trade rather than competition.
Venezuela also has a range of international programs with various countries in the region and around the world aiming to assist the poor and reverse the impact of neoliberal policies such as privatisation. An August 28 Associated Press article, entitled "Venezuela offers billions to countries in Latin America", reported: "Laid-off Brazilian factory workers have their jobs back, Nicaraguan farmers are getting low-interest loans and Bolivian mayors can afford new health clinics, all thanks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez."
AP reported that "Chavez's government is now offering more direct state funding to Latin America and the Caribbean than the United States", over US$8.8 billion in aid, financing and energy funding so far this year.
Venezuela has sought to promote policies internationally that challenge the domination of the US and other First World countries, including strident opposition to the US-led occupation of Iraq and, last year, withdrawing its ambassador from Israel during the latter's brutal war on Lebanon — an act that made Chavez a hero across the Arab world.
Villegas told GLW: "Venezuela is always pushing for a multipolar world. This implies diverse relationships with all the countries of the world."
Villegas explained that "we are going to push for a very positive policy with Asia and the Pacific. We are making links to increase our cooperation and taking concrete steps to help fight against many effects of global warming, especially in the Pacific islands.
"We are thinking of promoting economic agreements to support the very small countries. We want to send them specialists in the area of health services, etc."
The August 3 edition of GLW reported that Venezuela's charge d'affaires to Australia, Nelson Davila, explained to a meeting in Perth on July 28 about a recent trip to Nauru to attend a Donors Roundtable meeting, during which Venezuela offered food and medicine to the tiny island. Davila described the impact of capitalist development on the island, which had been stripped of its sole natural resource — phosphate — by Australian mining companies, as well as the discomfort of US and Australian diplomats to Venezuela's solidarity offerings. At the roundtable, the US had offered to send troops and weapons.
Villegas explained the importance of Venezuela's oil as "a political instrument in promoting our policies of cooperation". "We are sending petrol to benefit the poorest Brazilians and weakened social sectors in other countries. Also, we are planning to build refineries in other countries [to help them achieve oil sufficiency]."
He explained that as well as trading raw materials, Venezuela's approach to trade includes sharing technology. Venezuela's aim, Villegas said, is to "establish collaboration as part our Bolivarian outlook".
"We are pushing for a change in the rules of international relations", Villegas said, such as eliminating the right of veto enjoyed by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China. This mechanism grants these countries the right to override any decision made by the 15-member council. The remaining 10 members are elected by regional blocs of countries and are rotated every two years.
"While they have the right of veto, the great powers have impunity", Villegas argued. "With the impunity of the great powers and the impunity of their allies, who are protected by them, it's impossible to protect those countries with little power."
Villegas argues that we must "face up to the great powers. We have to look for a scheme that is more democratic for the UN and a method of work that allows security for all countries. With such changes, the relations between countries must become much more democratic."
Confronting the undemocratic functioning of the UN, said Villegas, is part of fighting for a more secure life for all people. Instead of the current UN structure, "we have to look for an instrument that really gives value to its decisions, with the capacity to impose sanctions, not only on the small countries but also the big powers", he said. "Look at the Middle East. It's an example of what the consequences are of the action of a powerful country, and they can't resolve this historical problem."
While working to strengthen collaboration between peoples around the world, Venezuela also needs to "improve our internal Bolivarian revolutionary changes", Villegas said. "There are failures in many areas, it is not a secret. But on the other hand, there are also many advances and still much more to do.
"The deepening of the participation of all citizens" in the work of government is one task, Villegas said, along with reforming the constitution, in particular where it relates to social responsibility. "It is not only the state that is responsible for the development of policies, but also the citizens, who must play an important role."
"One day we will have the satisfaction of being a reference point in the world, like Cuba in its own way, and as Nicaragua was with the triumph of its revolution [in the 1980s]."
Villegas commented: "We want to get closer to the people of Australia. We want Australians to know about our revolution. We want to have a better integration of our two societies and a mutual knowledge about each other.
"And for sure, we thank you for all the solidarity that you have carried out, and thank you for support in the difficult moments. We thank the solidarity movement very much."
The international solidarity forum will also be addressed by representatives of anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal movements and organisations in 22 other countries. For more information about the forum, to register, visit <http://www.solidarityforum2007.org>, email <email@example.com>, or write to LAAPISF, PO Box 813, North Melbourne 3051.