Bolivia and Venezuela initiate an unprecedented stage in their bilateral relationship

Miguel Lozano, Caracas, January 15,

Prensa Latina & Agencia Boliviana de Informacion

With 26 signed bilateral agreements, Venezuela and Bolivia have initiated an unprecedented stage in their relationship, which for diplomatic sources goes beyond the usual bonds of trade and point towards a strategic alliance.

Jorge Alvarado, charge d’afairs in the Bolivian embassy in Caracas and, ex-president of Yacimientos Petrliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB, Bolivian state-owned petroleum company), believed that they are dealing with a new model, far removed from traditional concepts.

Having recently arriving at this new post at the beginning of 2007, Alvarado spoke with Prensa Latina about the perspectives of some of the links that the president of his country, Evo Morales, believes to be steps toward definitely burying the neoliberal economic model.

Like a good energy expert, and given the predominance of this sector in the future of his nation, the diplomat decides to begin the conversation with the perspectives for cooperation in the area of hydrocarbons, which covers 5 agreements already signed.

In respect to this, Alvarado recalled that Bolivian hydrocarbons use to be in the hands of transnational companies through illegally obtained contracts, that handed over to them property of the gas fields that had already been discovered by the Bolivian state.

Now – he adds – new contracts have been signed with the rules of the game set by Bolivians, and with the path being opened towards the industrialisation of gas, an economic base for the future.

Through this process, Bolivia receives important aid from Venezuela, above all in relation to the recuperation of liquid gas, which is 10% of the total volume.

Apart from what methane represents for the production of plastics, it would also allow the erection of a fertiliser plant, which in an eminently agricultural country would guarantee the necessary fertiliser and exports.

Alvarado explained that this area of industrialisation would be very important for the development of Bolivia, and with the help of Venezuela, two plants would be installed, one in the south and one in the eastern central region.

Equally so, Venezuela is willing to enter into important investments to discover new reserves where the transnationals did not want to look, and once new deposits are discovered, could participate in the production.

The diplomat explained that in the Cochabamba Summit, president Evo Morales proposed advancing towards energy security for the countries of South America, as the basis for the construction of unity.

In the opinion of Alvarado, Bolivia, the first producer of gas in Latin America, and Venezuela, one of the biggest producers of petroleum, have to play a preponderant role in energy security and unity of the Latin American countries.

In the area of commerce, he explained that his country already exports soya and black beans to Venezuela, and is thinking of expanding the sale of chicken meat, whilst it imports some 250 thousand barrels of diesel daily, under favourable conditions.

Regarding education and healthcare, he added, they are already using 250 to 300 of the 5000 scholarships for the formation of professionals and specialists, fundamentally in the area of hydrocarbons.

With healthcare, Venezuela helps with equipment for hospitals, and has the perspective of constructing some, and with Venezuelan and Cuban support, illiteracy will be eradicated in three years, which at the moment affects 10% to 15% of the population.

Alvarado notes that, unfortunately, the borders of Bolivia have been seriously abandoned in the past and Venezuela is helping in the construction of some military sites in these zones for defence.

This – he points out – is not to say that Venezuela is sending military personnel like the US is accustomed to, rather it goes towards helping guarantee the presence of Bolivian troops in the borders.

In regards to infrastructure, he indicated that Bolivia received a very significant donation of two million dollars worth of asphalt that allowed it to attend to zones where it was impossible to walk during times of rain.

At the same time, he expressed that there are other projects like the opening of a Venezuelan bank to give credits to small and medium industries, the principal sources of employment in Bolivia.

He also emphasised the donation of tractors to mechanise agriculture, which would allow for production at a lower cost than that with the current archaic conditions left over from colonial times.

As an immediate priority, the diplomat considered that it was necessary to work towards make effective as soon as possible all the signed conventions, with the purpose of guaranteeing the rapid execution of the agreements.

That is my primary objective, but I am also looking for markets for our products and seeing which Venezuelan exports we could take to Bolivia, he underlined.

In strategic terms, Alvarado thinks that it is about relations between brother countries within the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), a treaty initiated by Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia, with the perspective of integrating Nicaragua and Ecuador.

It is a treaty that equally favours all the member countries and pushes forward mutual aid, which is different to the free trade agreements directed at opening markets for the United States so that they can bring in their subsidised products.

Translated from Prensa Latina

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