-Michal Hertlík 

 

At the end of the 90's and concurrently at the turn of the centuries begins a period of cooling of relations between Venezuela and the other member states of the Andean Community of Nations, and even in some moments of a development of the relations we can observe their complete freeze. This distancing of Venezuela was not as visible in the internal economic aspects as in the strategic process and ideological changes that have been gradually born in the government leaders of individual member states of the Andean Community of Nations. The cooling of relations was mainly due to the arrival of the new Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías into power in 1999. Venezuelan foreign policy coordinated by the Venezuelan government, thus the ruling socialist party PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) led by Hugo Chávez, is gradually reviewing its attitude towards their colleagues in the region and visibly is changing some of their decisions, particularly in a relation to the Andean integration. It is not just about a policy change introduced by the government of the former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, such as the intention to get closer to Brazil, but primarily it is about a hostility and negative relationship of Hugo Chávez to the USA, specifically with the then President George W. Bush. His personal negative attitudes and antipathy towards the Northern American empire had spilled over into his foreign policy, negatively affecting the operations of the Andean Community of Nations, when Venezuela forcefully made it clear to the member states, especially to Colombia and Peru, that friendly relations and cooperative agreements with the USA on the South American continent will not be tolerated.

On the other hand we also see the positive. Colombia and the USA are the two closest and biggest partners of the Venezuelan economy, a myriad of goods and services take place between these three countries. In a case of mentioned cooling of relations with Colombia because of the USA, but mainly with the USA, Venezuela had to develop its own efforts to be able to cover the resulting interruption of contacts with the two respective countries.           

From these unequivocal attitudes of Hugo Chávez is clear and evident his thought and desire he would like to accomplish in the upcoming months and years of his government. He rejects unipolarism and bipolarism and thus he crashes into the dominant position of the United States in a world foreign policy. Chávez at any price wanted to see the USA ruling the world either completely alone or even with the Chinese or Russians. Chávez's advent to power in 1999 was the ideal moment for the so-called raising of a flag of the multipolar world. The basis for this concept was the economic diversification with the aim to minimize Venezuela's dependence on the USA. Venezuelan chancellor declared that „to contribute to the promotion of the multipolar world is a primary objective of the foreign policy of the new, revolutionary and Bolivarian Venezuela“. Chávez wanted to stymie the expansionist American policy by the joint force with the countries of the Andean Community of Nations while at that time Venezuela was a member, but already then he was looking through the other door to the south – to Brazil and Argentina and his potential membership in MERCOSUR. The second option later proved to be victorious, when as a result of the disputes with Colombia and Peru Venezuela seceded from the Andean group and passed to the south.     

Although it is important to underline that Venezuela also voted in favor of the bilateral way not only with MERCOSUR, but also with the USA, even tough without its participation on the negotiations iniciated by Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Venezuela in relation to the USA has offered to sign with Washington in 1952 the agreement on supplying the USA with its oil. Venezuela's involvement in trade negotiations has contributed to promoting the creation of the South American integration. The weakening of the Andean Community of Nations, as a result of disputes between Venezuela and its other members, did not mean the strenghtening of the Bolivarian integration nor the strenghtening of Venezuela within regional community. However, it meant the new challenges for both players: for the Andean Community of Nations a challenge to go ahead even without Venezuela and for Venezuela a challenge to integrate into MERCOSUR and to make a positive impression on its member states.      

With the advent of Chávez to power in 1999, the Venezuelan foreign policy thoroughly distinguished the differencies between Latin America and the United States. Chávez had a closer dialogue with the southern countries on the continent and he built a kind of hostility between Venezuela and its allies on the one hand and the USA and their allies on the other hand. At the time of his election as a President, Venezuela had been a member state of the Andean Community of Nations together with four other states: Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru. Hugo Chávez divided geopolitical region of Latin America into two opposing axes: first, „the land controlled by the Pentagon“ or „Axis of the Pentagon“, where belong Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile; the second axis respresent Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and later joined also Uruguay. This second left-oriented axis serves as a counterweight to the US influence in the region with the aim to disrupt the first hostile axis and to unite South America. This division of the countries has also appealed to Mexico and smaller countries in Central America to help destroy the US imperialism through their alternative movements. As a result of this Chávez's imaginary division of the Latin American world to the allies of Venezuela and the USA would any approach of these four mentioned countries in the Venezuelan geopolitical region result in the Bolivarian contradictory interests and the respective country would appear in the open regional conflict with Chávez and Venezuela. Later this unwanted scenario became the reality.        

Venezuela was a unique country in the Andean Community of Nations. All the member states and their governments have gradually, since the new millenium, tried to tie their relationships even outside South America, mainly we are talking about the United States. The only exception was again the Venezuelan case. Despite a fact that the USA is with Colombia the largest partner in terms of trade, respectively export oil resources, Chávez and his government have never been and most likely will not be in good relationship with this great power. Mainly it is caused by the expansion of the USA, their effort to create unipolar or bipolar world, effort to create powerful empire which will not have any relevant counterweight in the future. These ideas of the US policy and the then President Bush were not with Chávez's inclination and during all his political career he had been trying to defeat the US imperialism and its interference in the affairs of the foreign nationstates. Not once he tried to persuade his colleagues and political leaders in the South American continent to put their forces together to fight against the USA. Some left-oriented countries were convinced, but still they were not enough to revolt and combat the northern power.     

However, Chávez during his administration had iniciated two major projects within the geopolitical region of Latin America. The first Chávez's project started with the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement between Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro signed on December 14, 2004 to which in a period 2006-2014 were assigned the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean until the creation of the joint project called ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para la América / Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), which is considered as a personal initiative of Hugo Chávez directed against the weakening of the US influence. The second project is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), which was agreed and signed on February 23, 2010 in the joint summit of the integration groups CARICOM and Rio Group in Mexico's Playa del Carmen. This includes all sovereign states of the American continent except the USA and Canada. Both projects (but especially CELAC) were directed explicitly against the USA, their imperialist policy towards the Latin American countries and were formed as a counterweight to the OAS (Organzation of American States), which was the American project to deepen the integration of the Americas, to subjugate the weaker states on the continent and getting their policies and economies on their side.       

Colombia and Peru were wearing a reversible coat. On the one side they have formed with Venezuela the Andean Community of Nations and thus they have cooperated with Venezuela in all aspects, on the other side they were closer to the USA and they did not like Chávez's policy directed right against the USA. When we said that any closer approximation to the USA by any member state of the Andean Community of Nations may lead to a small war between these countries, this scenario has fulfilled. Colombia and Peru had started the negotiations with the USA on free trade between these three countries. Colombia had initiated the first when the first round of negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement held on May 18, 2004 in the Colombian city Cartagena de Indias – the city where was signed also the Cartagena Treaty establishing the Andean Pact. Since this date had been almost 22 months, 15 rounds of negotiations and more than 100 meetings between negotiating countries when it all came to the so-called „D-Day“ and at five o'clock in the morning, on February 27, 2006 was finally signed in Washington the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the USA. Yet a few months earlier, on December 7, 2005 the USA and Peru announced they also signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, by which the two countries let hear themselves and they monitor a cooperative policy with the USA. Many months and years this problem had been quite escalated, however after February 27, 2006 Chávez's patience came to its final end. Despite the previous concluded agreements such as the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) from December 20, 1991, Chávez considered this act from a side of his neighbours and partners Colombia and Peru as a blow below his belt, as something negative and counterproductive that his partner countries are getting increasingly closer to the USA and by their signatures of both Free Trade Agreements their approach had gained significant character and as something by which all the efforts exerted within the Andean Community of Nations had definitely canceled. Commenting the signing of the Free Trade Agreements, Hugo Chávez at the official UN meeting held in 2006 spoke out with the following words: „The greatest threat looming on our planet is the increasing hegemony of the American imperialism which threatens the very survival of manking.“ Chávez realized that the then President George Bush was at the meeting one day before, but he only mentioned him as a „devil“, „demon“ or „the greatest terrorist in the world“. Another scandalous statement of Chávez to address the US President: „The only destabilizator here is George W. Bush, he is the greatest destabilizator in the world, he is a threat.“ The then head of the US diplomacy Condoleeza Rice called Chávez „a threat for democracy“ and „negative force in the region“.   

  

Chávez's statement at the UN Summit in 2006 was followed by his idea to separate Venezuela from the Andean Community of Nations and to integrate it into MERCOSUR, which got for the first time the real meaning yet when Chávez had accelerated through Argentina the signing of a petition on his integration as a full member of MERCOSUR. This act held on December 8, 2005 and meant that Venezuela was one foot in a new integration group. The day before, Peru signed the mentioned Free Trade Agreement with the USA and Colombia joined after more than two months. Venezuela's tense regional relations with the neighboring countries reached its peak because Chávez could not watch how his business partners and own neighbours conclude bilateral agreements with his greatest political and continental enemy. Therefore he decided to take his final decision towards the question whether Venezuela will continue to form part of the Andean Community of Nations or will go to another integration block. Longtime effort of Hugo Chávez to integrate into MERCOSUR got in the beginning of 2006 the right pretex – Chávez accused Colombia and Peru of the unauthorized signing of bilateral agreements with the USA which, according to his statements, the Cartagena Treaty does not contain nor allows. Therefore he decided to solve this problem diplomatically, which led to the meeting of the Presidents in Paraguay's Asunción, where on April 19, 2006 he is definitely announcing the official statement of Venezuela to leave the Andean Community of Nations, mainly due to the signing of the Free Trade Agreements of his partner countries with the USA. This act is three days later, on April 22, 2006, followed by the official letter of Venezuela addressed to the representatives of the Andean Community of Nations, the delivery of which was provided by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez Araque. After several ups and downs that accompanied its operations within the integration block, Venezuela is knocking on the door of the Southern Common Market in an effort to become a part of one of the most powerful integration mechanisms in the region and with a possiblity to establish bilateral and friendly-oriented relations with the two largest economies in the southern hemisphere – with Argentina and Brazil. Only two months after these events took place the summit on June 4, 2006 held in the Venezuelan capital Caracas where was officially signed the Protocol on the Adhesion of Venezuela (Protocolo de Adhesión de Venezuela) – a legal document which gives stability of Venezuela's formal request to integrate into the integration group MERCOSUR. Venezuela thus by this Protocol became the first country which was successfully integrated into MERCOSUR since its inception in 1991. We can observe on this Venezuelan example how quickly the country is able to separate from one integration block and within less than two months is already signing the association agreement on its integration into the second block. The urgency of this case is a real indication of really bad relations between Venezuela and its neighboring partners in the region.          

If we had to choose the most typical features of the Venezuelan diplomacy after its entry into MERCOSUR, would be the following: efforts to engage within the integration group; efforts to build friendly relations and bilateral cooperation with the other member states; development of trade within the community; providing its oil supplies and the other raw materials in exchange for raw materials missing in Venezuela; efforts to succeed and to be sufficiently competitive to Argetina and Brazil as the main community states; spread of anti-American sentiments trying to gain allies to form a block of states directed against the USA; fight against imperialism, capitalism, globalization, hegemony, unipolarism, bipolarism and neoliberal economic model; efforts to promote and spread the ideas and thoughts of Simon Bolívar and thus the implementation of fundamentals and principles of the Bolivarian revolution and Chavistic diplomacy; reorganization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; creation of the military alliance Fuerza Armada; support the participative democracy; cooperation with the ideological and political partners of Cuba, Iran, Syria, Belarus, Russia, Vietnam, Benin, Angola (all so-called „alternative uncommon countries“) and the OPEC countries (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries); cooperation with the economic partners of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Spain, Portugal and the Great Britain. The important point is a design of the international geopolitical project seeking to the continental movement with the aim of joining forces of the radical left in the ideological struggle against the USA. The project is aimed at creating „new force fields“ in an attempt to damage the hegemony of the Northern American imperialism. For Venezuela as one of the few countries in the world is significant the expulsion of ambassadors from their country, especially the US ones, followed by the suspension of diplomatic relations with the USA.   

Chapter entitled Venezuela and the United States is in international relations (not only within the American continent, but also in the rest of the world) the profound and serious problem which is in a process of solving yet for decades and the word 'peace' has not been inflected neither from the mouth of the American leaders nor from the Venezuelan ones. We can notice a curious paradox in terms of the US-Venezuelan relations. On the one hand, Venezuela would like to see the US hegemony in flames or at least in a difficult economic problems, also develops its foreign policy based on a confrontation with the USA, defines the USA as an empire and enemy sum defeat according to the rhetoric of the former President Hugo Chávez; in the other words, Venezuela wishes to defeat for good the US imperialism and would try to establish a multipolar world based on minimum differencies between the particular countries. On the other hand, the USA is a principal market for Venezuela for its oil exports and the other export commodities. Similarly, the USA is the main origin of imports of goods and technology exported to Venezuela. At first glance it might appear that somehow has to function a huge commercial bridge over the Caribbean between these two rivals, through which they work together and help each other in terms of trade policy. But appearance can sometimes be deceiving, therefore we are mentioning this paradox – the desire for mutual destruction versus the maximum cooperation in trade policy. If Venezuela took the first part of this paradox, first of all would gradually need to reduce its economic and technological dependence on the USA. This challenge for the Venezuelan socialist government appears so far as impossible, however it could bring some surprises in the future. The adhesion of Venezuela into MERCOSUR and later its operations within the block as a full member state can quietly follow even this aim – obtaining allies in the south of the continent to fight against the USA while the member states of MERCOSUR (with which both rival parties are doing their business, thus Venezuela and also the USA) could in the future replace the USA in a field of import and export of all the Venezuelan commodities.      

The presence of Venezuela in MERCOSUR will increase its effectiveness and activities within geoeconomic and geostrategic axis of the world's countries as the integration group with a high development and high autonomy. Also it will transform into the operational center called „the progressive axis of South America“. Chávez would like to interrupt and undermine the original goals and objectives of the block and start to implement the Bolivarian ideas and carry out his own plans. The leaders of all four signatory countries should be aware of this emerging threat thus they should prevent Chávez from applying his ideas, to not build from MERCOSUR his own project which he would use in the future to fight against the USA, like he did with ALBA or CELAC.  

Michal Hertlík

Faculty of Political Science

and International Relations

Matej Bel University

Slovakia

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