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Opinions & Interviews

4 Feb 2021

Minsk and Caracas: Plans for joint oil production, direct flights

Minsk and Caracas: Plans for joint oil production, direct flights
An archive photo

Belarus and Venezuela plan to resume oil projects involving joint development and production, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Venezuela to Belarus Franklin Ramirez Araque said in an interview to BelTA on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the establishment of Belarusian-Venezuelan diplomatic relations, which is marked on 4 February. The diplomat talked about the progress in the development of bilateral cooperation, the situation in his country in the wake of the sanctions, the plans for the Minsk-Caracas flights and the Belarusian housing construction projects in Venezuela.

Ambassador Franklin Ramirez Araque recalled that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Belarus signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations at the UN headquarters on 4 February 1997. Venezuela officially recognized the independence of Belarus earlier, on 11 January 1992.

"In accordance with this agreement, our  countries – one from Latin America and the other from Europe - mark the 24th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, strengthen the ties of brotherhood and the high level of cooperation, which intensified between 2006 and 2007 with the opening of the embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Minsk and the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Caracas," the ambassador said.

Since then, Hugo Chavez and Aleksandr Lukashenko turned the bilateral relations into strategic partnership and established cooperation in various sectors, for example, oil refining and construction of social housing.

As a result, Belarusian-Venezuelan joint ventures to assemble trucks (MAZVEN) and tractors (VeneMinsk Traktores) were set up by MAZ and MTZ respectively. Other joint ventures included Venbelcom (trade), which was founded by Suvinca, Belresursy and Trustbank, and a joint venture to produce, refine and sell oil, which was established by PDVSA and Belorusneft.

The ambassador noted that as part of the government program Great Mission Housing Venezuela, the Venezuelan Ministry of People's Power for Housing and Habitat together with the Belarusian company Belzarubezhstroy continues running a large-scale housing project; 7,760 apartments have already been commissioned, and 4,248 apartments are under construction.

According to Franklin Ramirez Araque, despite the huge distance the two countries keep working to strengthen the bilateral relations, looking for projects of interest in various fields, including political, economic, cultural and humanitarian fields.

“At present, Belarus and Venezuela are looking for ways to effectively mitigate the aftermath of the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela,” he said.

“Let’s not forget that after the death of Comandante Chavez in 2013, the destructive campaign against the Venezuelan people intensified, which led to the seizure of state assets in the international financial market and provoked a decrease in foreign exchange earnings, as one of the biggest unilateral restrictive measures against Venezuela was ‘the introduction of sanctions against the Venezuelan oil sector.’ In fact, it was done to deprive the country of any opportunity to get income as oil is a crucial source of revenue for Venezuela and accounts for about 90% of export revenues,” the diplomat continued.

He said that in these circumstances alternative legal instruments such as the recently adopted constitutional law on measures against sanctions for the sake of national development and observation of human rights and the establishment of the International Investment Center, a state-run institution, can be used to counteract unilateral constraint measures. Their goal is to restore the economy affected by the appropriation of the country’s assets abroad and constraint measures, to stimulate business activity on the domestic market, to form international production alliances for the promotion of national development, to restore the state infrastructure and the national production potential.

The legal document is also meant to ensure stability of production and financial systems, to attract big foreign investors and to promote selective import substitution for the sake of raising national revenues, for example, by the simplification of the mechanism of the state’s participation in joint ventures as a stockholder. “In addition we will make progress in improving living standards, especially in the most vulnerable communities,” the head of the diplomatic mission said.

The ambassador added that following the recent elections the National Assembly of Venezuela will become a platform for dialogue on political and lawmaking topics. It will help enhance existing cooperation avenues and explore new horizons in relations with strategic partners of Venezuela. “The Republic of Belarus is one of such partners. We closely cooperate in economy, trade and large-scale industrial projects,” Ambassador Franklin Ramirez Araque stressed.

According to him, it is important that during the 24 years of diplomatic relations, Venezuela and Belarus have adhered to the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, and joint development, built up political trust, advanced cooperation, which contributed to gradual development of their bilateral relations. “Thanks to this, starting from 2020, we have witnessed progress in other important areas, for example, bilateral trade, in line with the new strategic concept that is aimed at adjusting the cooperation concept taking into account the principle of mutual benefit and the current situation in the two countries and at providing flexible cooperation mechanisms,” the ambassador said.

“With these initiatives in mind, the Venezuelan state company PDVSA and Belorusneft are drawing up a plan to restore the operation of the Belarusian-Venezuelan oil and gas production enterprise Petrolera BeloVenezolana and are discussing ways to implement it,” Franklin Ramirez Araque said.

Another important aspect of cooperation is a draft agreement on air communication between the Aviation Department of the Belarusian Transport and Communications and the National Institute of Civil Aviation of Venezuela. The parties intend to launch Minsk-Caracas flights. The ambassador believes that this will help improve access to international air communication, increase attractiveness of the two capitals for tourists, and facilitate the bilateral trade cooperation.

According to him, the two countries are taking necessary steps to intensify cooperation in higher education and to sign an agreement on mutual recognition and equivalence of documents, diplomas and certificates of education. The Education Ministry of Belarus also envisages 15 grants for Venezuelan citizens in 2021.

“It should be noted that the Venezuelan Embassy of Belarus announced a program of cultural events planned to be held by the Simon Bolivar Latin American Cultural Center in 2021 to mark the 24th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of the two countries. The inauguration of the hall named after Americo Diaz Nunez, the first Venezuelan Ambassador to the Republic of Belarus, is part of the program. The hall is located in the embassy building and houses a library with various publications on Latin American topics. The library will be open to all Belarusians interested in practicing the Spanish language,” the ambassador said.

Ambassador Franklin Ramirez Araque added: “Belarus and Venezuela are united by a common vision of the main problems facing the international community, which helps them firmly defend the ideas of a multipolar world and non-interference in the internal affairs of their states.”

Alina Grishkevich, BelTA

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