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Chavez’s death puts under threat Russia’s position in Latin America

March 07, 2013, 12:18 UTC+3

Even in case of victory of Chavez’s successor Vice-President Nicolas Maduro either Venezuela or Russia’s position within the country will change

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The Russian newspapers publish broad comments on possible consequences of the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. According to some experts, Venezuela will have to begin the rapprochement with the United States and refuse from privileged relations with Russia.

Venezuela will elect a new president in a month, the Kommersant daily reported. But even in case of victory of Chavez’s successor Vice-President Nicolas Maduro either Venezuela or Russia’s position within the country will change. According to the estimates of the experts, Venezuela will have to begin rapprochement with the U.S. and refuse from privileged relations with Russia, which were mainly based on personal relations between Hugo Chavez and the Russian leadership. This factor may threaten sweeping Russian projects in Venezuela and multibillion investments.

Russia has something to lose in Venezuela, the newspaper noted. The experts estimate at no less than 30 billion dollars all the projects, which Russia launched with Hugo Chavez. Now their guarantor passed away.

Meanwhile, no matter who will win the elections, the Venezuelan policy, according to the estimates of the experts, will be changed drastically. “No new authorities will adhere to such an out and out anti-Americanism, which Chavez propagated. In case of victory of Maduro the relations between Venezuela and the United States will begin to improve gradually. If the opposition comes to power, the country will begin to reorient rapidly towards the U.S.,” Chairman of the Presidium of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov told the Kommersant daily.

However, the Kremlin voiced the hope that “a positive and constructive agenda of Russian-Venezuelan relations will remain unchanged.” Meanwhile, Lukyanov said with confidence, “The abnormal situation in the 2000s, when Venezuela became one of Russian main world partners, will hardly continue after Chavez’s death, because it was linked personally with his personality, his specific political views and ambitions.” The expert believes that “many agreements between Moscow and Caracas will remain on the paper after all, and other agreements will be revised.”

Deputy head of the Russian-Venezuelan Business Council Vladimir Semago has a more categorical view on the issue. “After Chavez’s death all the camouflage of the so-called friendship with Venezuela will fade away,” he stated. In his words, one of the most ambitious projects that is the establishment of the Russian National Oil Consortium to develop the Orinoco Oil Belt together with the Venezuelan state-run corporation PDVSA is “a big myth”. “The consortium does not produce and does not develop anything yet. From the Russian side only two companies – LUKOIL and Rosneft remained really in the consortium,” he explained.

The Vedomosti daily also predicts that the cooperation with Venezuela will change from that cooperation under Chavez. The newspaper noted that the struggle at the elections for the post of the Venezuelan president will be waged between Chavez’s official successor Maduro and opposition governor of the state Miranda Henrique Capriles.

Capriles was already competing at the presidential elections with Chavez and pledged some changes in the foreign policy. Capriles warned that he needs to discuss the stay of 40,000 Cuban workers in Venezuela with Cuban leader Raul Castro. Then Capriles warned the Russian ambassador that the country may terminate the purchases of Russian weapons, the newspaper recalled.

The experts believe that in any case Venezuela will try to ease up tensions with the United States, if the rightwing opposition wins, this process will go on quicker, if Chavez’s successor wins, this process will be slower. “Chavezism will exist for many years to come, but the policy of his supporters may change, and some of them will try to be more pragmatic,” Goldman Sachs chief economist for Latin America Alberto Ramos said.

For the years of his presidency Chavez visited Russia nine times, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily recalled. The main spheres of economic cooperation were determined, including the oil and gas industries, chemical and petrochemical industries, joint development of natural resources and military-technical cooperation. In these spheres the countries achieved tangible results that turned Venezuela in a privileged partner for Russia.

For instance, Venezuela became the second world largest purchaser of the produce of the Russian military and industrial complex after India. The Russian main arms exporting company Rosoboronexport estimates at 11-13 billion dollars the package of the weapon-related contracts signed with Caracas. As many as 100,000 Kalashnikov submachine guns AK-103 were delivered to Venezuela, two plants are being built in the country for the licensed assembling of submachine guns and the production of ammunition to them. The contract for the delivery of 24 multifunctional fighters Su-30MK2 and about 50 helicopters was fulfilled successfully. Caracas buys in Moscow the tanks T-72B1, mobile multiple launch fire systems Smerch 9K58, air defence systems Buk-M1-2 and S-300BM Antey-2500, infantry combat vehicles BMP-3M and armoured personnel carriers BTR-80A, self-propelled howitzers 2S19 Msta-S, 152-mm multiple launch fire systems BM-21 Grad, self-propelled mortars Nona-SBK, army trucks Ural-4320, Ural-3206 and other military hardware.

The RBC daily noted that the fuel and energy sector remains the top priority of Russian interests in Venezuela, particularly Rosneft, LUKOIL, TNK-BP and Gazprom Neft invested in the development of local projects. Last January Rosneft President Igor Sechin stated that the company will invest 10 billion dollars in the effective projects in Venezuela. “Maduro’s possible election as president remains ideal for Moscow, as the latter pledged to retain Chavez’s policy. If Capriles comes to power, a short-term program will be to keep the reached agreements in effect,” expert of the Centre for Political Conjuncture Dmitry Abzalov said. “In any case these deals cannot be cancelled so easily, because they are not only signed by Chavez, but also approved by the parliament. Meanwhile, Caracas expects a budget deficit this year, because the state authorities will hardly dare to annul the previous contracts and seek new partners for them urgently,” he said.

Chavez made angry many people in his homeland and other countries, the Novye Izvestia daily reported. Coming to power, he launched sweeping reforms, that is the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez nationalized the oil industry, then allocated a larger part of petrodollars to the social programs, thanks to which he gained sympathies of the millions of poor Venezuelans for many years.

He infuriated Washington with his anti-American rhetoric, friendship with all U.S. enemies from Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due to his ardent attempts to consolidate the Latin American countries, where the governments, which were formed from the leftwing forces, came to power one after another. His enemies were anticipating when finally this Communist populist politician (as a U.S. senator named him) will show his ‘true face’, wrapping up democracy and launching the policy of terror. Then, say, Chavez’s enemies will have free hands to take the same actions against Venezuela, as with other ‘villains’ from ‘the evil axis’: impose sanctions on the country and ‘democratize’ the country with the U.S. marines in any possible case. But this moment of truth did not come. Moreover, Chavez even did not leave the customary heritage of the dictators – multibillion bank accounts and luxurious palaces. The comandante lived on a moderate presidential salary of 485 dollars, which he set for himself.








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