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Friday, August 10, 2007

Chavez tries speading Venezuela's clout through largesse

“World history is the world's court.”
-Schiller

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

BULLETIN: Hugo Chavez traces the footsteps of Venezuela's hero and his personal avatar, Simon Bolivar. As Bolivar wanted to liberate and unify Latin America, Chaves, in offering South American nations deals based on Venezuela's oil wealth, is hoping to unify them in self sufficiency and free them from the IMF and from free trade with the United States,

IN THE NEWS TODAY. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez tours South America, offering economic deals with Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. If successful, the deals would help pull the region out of poverty and bring economic independence. He's offered to buy $500 million (US) in Argentinian bonds and to build a $400 million gas plant, having already helped to bail the country out of its 2002 financial crisis. Gas plants for Ecuador and similar development offers in Uruguay and Bolivia are on the agenda. Through such proposals, Chavez is presenting Venezuela as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund, hated by many poor countries for stipulating punitive loan conditions. However, critics in Latin America have said that in accepting help from Venezuela, Latin American countries are only exchanging one dangerous creditor for another. Chavez' plans for a Caribbean-South American gas pipeline, a Bank of the South (to rival the IMF) and his bid to join the Mercosur trading bloc have already run into trouble.

FROM PAST INTO PRESENT: It seems no accident that Hugo Chaves' 'Bolivarian' reform plan for Venezuela has preceded massive projected economic development deals with his South American neighbours. In both projects he is commemorating Simon Bolivar, the liberator and would-be unifier of Latin America. In Bolivar's case the enemy was imperial Spain. In Chavez' case it is the United States and the imbalance of Washington;s free trade deals with Latin America. Where Bolivar hoped for a unified 'Gran Colombia' free from the yoke of Spain, Chavez hopes that the largesse of his oil wealth and his offer of energy deals will unshackle South America from the International Monetary Fund and US-dominated free trade. Ever since US economic interests started to encroach on Latin America after the First World War, the region has attempted to form its own trading blocs and economic models. So far, internal rivalries, discord and the vicissitudes of the economic cycle have prevented success.

LOOKING BACK:

Dream of a United Latin America born in Venezuela

-Spain has four Viceroyalties- Mexico, Gran Colombia, Peru and La Plata. And northward- New Spain, from Costa Rica to Texas.

Monroe Doctrine- Washington declares the world of the Americas to be off bounds to Europe.

1811- Venezuela declares independence.

1819- Bolivar is elected dictator and president of the liberated areas. He campaigns into the Andes and defeats Spanish forces at Boyaca. He creates the state of Gran Colombia which includes Venezuela and all of northern South America.

1821- due to isolation in an enormous region, Latin American Revolutions fail to achieve anything more than a local consciousness of liberty and nation.

1821- Bolivar inaugurates the confederation of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador as Gran Columbia but Venezuela is an unwilling participant.

1826- In Panama, encouraged by the Monroe Doctrine, Simon Bolivar calls a congress to discuss the unity of the newly independent Spanish American nations but no commitment is reached. Only Mexico, Central America. Colombia and Peru attend. The Peruvian plan of confederation was opposed by Colombia.

-1820s- war between Argentina and Brazil until they agree with Britain to make Uruguay a buffer between them.

-an Andean Confederation of Peru, Columbia and Bolivia never reaches fruition.

Collapse of Bolivar's Dream

1829- the collapse of Gran Colombia.

-1830s- an attempted union of Peru and Bolivia is broken up by Chile.

-Bolivar’s own Gran Colombia disintegrates as Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela separate.

1840- the Central American region of New Spain has disintegrated into separate nations.

-19th century- disputes between nations grow over resources, land and waterways. North-south geographical lines and east-west man-made lines of communication by road and rail have exacerbated disunity.

1840-1870- territorial disputes and Uruguayan internal instability result in wars between Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.

-territorial dispute between Chile and Peru over territory rich in nitrates.

-1879 : Chile seizes Bolivia’s pacific coast.

-Argentina and Uruguay quarrel over the La Plata Estuary.

US Claims on the Western Hemisphere.

1898- alarmed by British incursions into Venezuela, US President Grover Cleveland invokes the Monroe Doctrine which declares American guardianship of the western hemisphere. Britain submits to arbitration but still wins territory for Guiana.

-1900- Latin America knows relative prosperity.

1918- After WW I, US investment in Latin America increases.

1929- US investment in Latin America represents 40 per cent of all foreign investment.

The Depression spurs Economic Nationalism

1930s- Latin America is hit by world-wide depression. Nationalism increases as well as rivalry with other Latin American states and rejection of foreign influence. Industries and banks are nationalized. All countries save Mexico experience military coups.

1932-1935 -the Chaco war between Bolivia and Paraguay over a river which would give Paraguay access to the sea.

1940-1960- Latin America undergoes an industrial revolution, with displacement of rural populations and exploitation of rural areas by industrial elites.

State control of Economies seen as Goal for Latin America

1948- the US founds the Economic Commission for Latin America in Santiago, Chile. However, under the guidance of Chilean economist Raul Prebisch, ECLA theorizes that that the world is divided into a manufacturing center and a periphery that provides commodities. The goal of ECLA is to bring about a strong statism in Latin American countries so that they can get structural control over the price of commodities, not leaving them to be set by the nations of the manufacturing center. Latin American governments find themselves caught between the statism of the ECLA and American pressure for a free market.

The US Counters with the Free Market.

1959-60- US forms Inter-American Development Bank and plans to raise the standard of living in Latin America. Many of these programs have an eye on preventing the growth of Communism.

-21-nation Organization of American States is formed.

-with populations growing so quickly, however, it’s nearly impossible for any amount of aid to keep up with increasing poverty.

Latin American Free Trade Association. Anti-US feeling Increases.

1961- recognizing that no nation in Latin America could import enough to support its population, leaders agreed that national industries would have to be set up and to do so inaugurated the Latin American Free Trade Association along the lines of the European Common market. LAFTA began by reducing tarrifs.

-American ‘good will’ is rejected everywhere. President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress to fund development in Latin America is, in the end, futile due to mismanagement.

1969- a meeting of Latin American governments where no US representative is invited. Anti-US sentiments are aired.

1970s-1980s- Deep problems are revealed within Latin American eocnomies. Some of it has to do with rapid population growth. Much has to do with the 1970s oil crisis. Mismanagement augments huge foreign debts. Dictatorsips are formed in response to revolutionary unrest.

-the effect of modern, technological change on old cultures and inequality causes increasing differences among Latin American nations.

Competing Visions of Hemispheric free trade and Latin American Economic Union.

1990- founding of Mercosur, a customs union of Argentina, Brazil and Peru. It aims for free trade among those countries by 1994.

1994- NAFTA forms an ecnomic union of Canada, the United States and Mexico. A Summit of the Americas in Miami discusses free trade between all North and South American nations

1989- In Venezuela President Perez re-elected. Rioting erupts in response to austerity measures enacted by Perez. Military officer Hugo Chavez leads demonstrations against Perez’ austerity measures.

-1998- Hugo Chavez campaigns to become president of Venezuela- He unveils his Bolvarian plan: a “party-dominated” “new republic” . He promises to overhaul the constitution and fight corruption and poverty.

1998- A second summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, reaches no conclusion on account of being blocked by internal disagreements in the US.

1999- February 2- Chavez wins Venezuelan presidency.

2001- US President George W. Bush floats the idea of a hemispheric trading zone to come into being by 2005.

2001-2002- financial collapse of Argentina.

2006 Dec 9- the Bolivia Summit concludes. Latin American leaders meet in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to discuss the formation of a Latin American community similar to the European Union. Venezuela’s Chavez and Peru’s Garcia resort to name-calling when Chavez accuses Garcia of being a puppet of Washingtron.

PREVIOUS ENTRIES ON VENEZUELA:
July 23 07- Hugo Chavez moves to extend presidential term limits.
May 27, 07- Venezuela's Chavez pulls TV station off the air.
May 6 07- Venezuela's Chavez may move to nationalize banks.

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