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Hugo Chavez’s Foreign Policies and International Relations

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hugo chavez funeral
Photo Courtesy: Mentioned on the Photo

Influence of Hugo Chavez was felt throughout the region around Venezuela; from small Caribbean islands to Nicaragua in Central America, emerging energy economies such as Ecuador and Bolivia. He even found support from the left leaning governments of the South American giants such as Brazil and Argentina.

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with Latin America

hugo chavez cuba fidel castro
Hugo Chavez with Cuban President Fidel Castro, on 29th June, 1999 in Rio de Janeiro. Photo taken by Globovision
Chavez helped Argentina when it was struggling to recover from a massive debt default by buying billions of dollars of bonds to bail it out of economic crisis.
“When the crisis of 2001 put at risk 150 years of political construction, he was one of the few who gave us a hand,” Anibal Fernandez, a former Cabinet chief in Argentina’s Government, said on Twitter.
According to a Nicaragua’s Central Bank report, Venezuela provided $2.4 billion in financial assistance to Nicaragua between 2008 and the first quarter of 2012. This amounts to a huge money for a country like Nicaragua whose total economy was worth only $7.3 billion in 2011.Venezuela provides oil on highly preferential terms to 17 countries under his Petrocaribe initiative, and it joined in projects to produce and refine oil in nations such as Ecuador and Bolivia.
17 countries around Venezuela gained privileged benefits under Hugo Chavez’s Petrocaribe program, which includes Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Haiti. In this program Venezuela gave 10% of its crude oil production to these member states in generous terms. In this program, member states were allowed to purchase of oil on market value for 5%-50% up front with a grace period of one to two years; the remaining amount could be paid through a 17-25 year financing agreement with 1% of interest if oil prices are above US$40 per barrel.
Venezuela’s one of the biggest ally, Cuba gets two-thirds of its oil from Venezuela, which accounts to nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day in exchange for the services of 44,000 Cuban professionals, most of them medical personnel. Providing crude oil and some investment, Hugo Chavez helped Cuba emerge from the biggest set back which it got after the collapse of Soviet Union, its top ally, in 1991. 
Chavez was completely against any foreign intervention in any of the country in the region. Chavez criticized the way western markets were dominating the markets. Chavez believed in the potential of the countries in South America, and visualized that they can progress and stand confidently if worked together. For this reason he accelerated the creation of international unions aimed at regional integration and reducing US influence.
ALBA, The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) is the leftist bloc consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba,Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela as permanent members. Suriname and Saint Lucia became the guest member of the Union at the February 2012 summit. ALBA nations introduced a new virtual regional currency, SUCRE intended to replace US dollar as the trading currency between the member states.On July 6, 2010, Venezuela and Ecuador conducted the first bilateral trade deal using the new currency. The plan is to make it a hard currency soon.
Celas, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, is the group consisting of all of the Americas except the United States, Canada and the European territories in the Americas. The community was formed to deepen the integration within Latin America and reduce the influence of U.S. on economics and politics of Latin America.

Venezuela’s International Relations (BRIC)

Venezuela has cold relations with U.S and U.S allies, which includes almost all of the western world. Chavez adopted the policy of being friends with the enemies of the U.S and hence enjoys sweet relations with Iran. Apart from this, Venezuela finds interest in those countries which have tendency to become a regional or global super power, which can take the world forward to a multi polar world. This is why Venezuela finds interest in the recent group of emerging economic and political giants BRIC. Venezuela has favourable relations with all the countries in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China)

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with Brazil

Brazil has a different ideology and a model of its economy. One of the biggest economy of the region which is welcomed and accepted by all the nations including U.S. Brazil has the capability of leading the region after the death of Hugo Chavez, however Brazil cannot lead the countries on his line. However Brazil is in the perfect position to connect Latin America with the Western world as a responsible nation. 
Despite the countries like Peru, Mexico and Uruguay instead of supporting Chavez model are opting for the the Brazilian model of support for the private sector, fiscal discipline, and social inclusion, Venezuela and Brazil share close and helping relationship.
The cooperation between the two countries has been in the form of mutual development and economic help. In 2001, the two countries opened a high-voltage power line between them. Venezuela supplied electricity to the energy starved northern region of Brazil. Brazil gets cheap hydro-electricity power through this line and Venezuela receives tens of millions of dollars every year. 
Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA owns 40% of refinery built together in Brazil. Brazil’s national oil firm Petrobras holds the rest of the stakes.

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with Russia

hugo chavez putin russia
Vladimir Putin with Hugo Chavez in Moscow in 2010, Photo Credits: AFP
Venezuela shares good relations with Russia from the Soviet times, the relations grown even better when Venezuela became the third nation to official recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 
In September 2009, Russia approved a loan of $2 billion to Venezuela for arms and in In October, 2010, Russia and Venezuela signed a deal in Russia to build Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant. Russia and Venezuela also conducted naval exercise in the Caribbean, which was seen by US as the response for its support to Georgia in the Russo – Georgia war in 2008 according to some analysts.

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with India

Venezuela reached out to India knowing its potentiality to become a future super power. India became one of the alternative market for Venezuelan oil, whose largely buyer is U.S.
Outgoing Ambassador to Venezuela, Deepak Bhojwani said, “we are among the few countries that can process Venezuelan crude oil. This gives us a strategic advantage.” Venezuelan crude is of an inferior quality to Middle East crude. It is heavier and contains more sulphur, requiring special processing.
India’s state run crude exploration company ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) also helped certify heavy oil reserves in the Orinoco river belt, which expected to contain 235 billion barrels of heavy crude. In the year 2010, A consortium led by Indian state-owned oil companies also won a global bid to claim 40% stake in an important oil block in Venezuela, giving India the capability of producing 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day in its peak time.
India’s pharmaceutical sector also has a large presence in Venezuela. Cipla has 120 medications approved to market in Venezuela, and made nearly $15 million in revenue the year 2006. In the same year half of all HIV patients in Venezuela received at least one Cipla drug.

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with China

hugo chavez china
Hugo Chavez with the delegation from China, Photo by Hugo Chavez
Venezuela’s is China’s biggest investment destination in the Latin America and China was the receiver of 6% of total Venezuelan crude output in 2010. The trade between the two countries was mere $500 million per year in 1999, which increased to $7.5 billion in the year of 2009. China helped Venezuela set up its first cell phone factory. Also in 2009, China and Venezuela teamed up in partnership to launch a railway company in Venezuela, 40% controlled by the China Railways Engineering Corporation and the remainder by Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez’s Relations with United States

hugo chavez hilary clinton america
Hugo Chavez with Hilary Clinton in Brazil on 1 Jan, 2011 Photo taken by Globevision
Venezuela and the United States have been difficult and even hostile since Chavez assumed the office in and began to implement the “21st – century” socialism in 1999.
Chavez even blamed United States of attempting a failed coup against him in 2002, he nationalized U.S. companies in Venezuela and openly supported the countries which were hostile to United States and its interest like Iran and Syria.
Speaking strong words against America in Radio and Television made him popular as he took the world’s superpower very bravely. Even after hating America so much, he kept the important business with America intact. Throughout the time when Chavez controlled the office in Venezuela, United Sates remained an important trading partner. Venezuela is also the fourth largest supplier of oil to the U.S.
United States’ crude oil import is more from Venezuela and Mexico when compared to the entire Persian Gulf which is one of the biggest oil market in the world. “We do three times more business with Latin America than with China and twice as much business with Colombia [as] with Russia,” an Obama official told Julia Sweig of the US Council on Foreign Relations as quoted by the Guardian.
Between 1998 and 2009 a massive trade growth by 82% between the US and Latin America was recorded. Alone in 2011 the exports and imports rose steeply by 20% in both the directions. Analyzing a favourable trade condition between Venezuela and the US, there are good chances for both the countries to improve their relations and collectively grow along with other countries of Latin America. If Obama can lift the travel restrictions and trade embargo on Cuba, the move will be applauded.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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World

What Can Other Countries Learn from Kuwait’s Welfare System?

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As an oil-rich nation in one of the most oil-rich areas of the world, Kuwait has always been a nation capable of generating a huge amount of money relative to its size. As a result of the money the central government makes from oil sales, it has instituted one of the most comprehensive and generous welfare systems in the world.

The country’s welfare system is built upon the principle that the nation’s wealth should be shared among the people. In addition to oil, there are a few other valuable natural resources that Kuwait profits from. The money that the state generates from all of these commodities more or less guarantees that every citizen is able to live a comfortable life.

What Makes Kuwait Special?

The government of Kuwait subsidises basic services such as telephone lines, water, electricity, etc. Meanwhile, local cooperatives are able to provide food to other citizens at a greatly reduced price. Medical care and education are both free. Kuwait is also one of the few countries that consider a job and a home to be a basic constitutional right.

Middle Class

Because of this generous welfare system, as many as 90% of Kuwaitis are considered to be middle class. The country’s constitution, democratic institutions, and its relatively small population, all allow its citizens to profit from the nation’s oil reserves. As Fahad Al Rajaan, the director general of the Public Institution for Social Security puts it, “if you look at these… elements, it is evident that we are in a much better position than many countries in the world.”

Pensions

Kuwait’s social pension system features three unique characteristics, which set it apart from most. First of all, there is the way that it is financed. Contributors and employers contribute 60% to the total, while the government covers the remaining 40%. Many analysts, including Al-Rajaan, consider this to be the primary reason why the Kuwaiti pension scheme is one of the best in the world.

The second important feature of the Kuwaiti pension scheme is that it is fully funded. This means that the scheme is kept sustainable and solvent. In many other countries, state pension funds are paying out money as fast as they can get it in, creating uncertainty for the future.

Finally, there is the fact that the Kuwaiti pension fund pays out very generously. Once citizens reach the age of 30, the coverage increases to 95% of salary. This is much higher than the rates available in many other countries. Kuwait also has a generous retirement age of 50.

The Kuwaiti welfare system is a prime example of the potential power of redistribution of wealth. The Kuwaiti welfare system is based on a simple principle, that the fruits and assets of a nation should be shared equally among its citizens.

Many people argue against more generous welfare systems on the basis that they represent a drain on resources, to benefit the few at the cost of the many. The Kuwaiti system stands as evidence that it is possible to institute a very generous welfare program, while still encouraging economic growth and prosperity.

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Environment

Day Zero: A Desperate Warning from Cape Town to the World

Manak Suri

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The unpreparedness of the human race has slowly but steadily come to the surface over the previous decade when it comes to ensuring our own survival and more importantly, that of the following generations. Before we even attempt to realize the impacts of climate change that are thrown into the faces of some community who then serve as the unfortunate examples of what’s going to happen, another repercussion pops up into the frame at the cost of another unsuspecting community, a country, or even a city. The city of Cape Town in South Africa serves as the most recent of those examples, and the crisis in the city bodes an ultimatum like never before to other thriving cities on the planet: mend your ways or follow suit.

“Day Zero”: as dire as it sounds

The event currently underway in Cape Town could be aptly described as probably its worst drought in nearly a century, one that has seen its people and authorities struggle to obtain water in the wake of depleting natural sources in order to sustain even their daily hygiene rituals. The city is quickly closing in on what has been dubbed as “Day Zero“: the day when the city will run out of its water. When that happens, it would be the first occurrence of such an event for a major global city. “Day Zero”, originally estimated to occur on April 22, was more recently moved up to April 12 with Cape Town’s 4 million strong population finding it difficult to adjust to the demands of reduced consumption.

A point of no return, is it?

The authorities, including city mayor Patricia de Lille have urged citizens to restrict their usage to 50 litres per person a day with effect from February 1 to accommodate the shortage and help prevent the situation take a turn for the worse. However, most citizens have been ignorant of these warnings in the past month and have irresponsibly consumed more than 87 litres per day, the restricted amount in place till the end of January. “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero” she said, adding, “We have reached a point of no return.”

Despite the comments of the mayor, it can be safely mentioned that many people of the city are realizing the weight of the crisis, and have begun to get creative with the different ways in which they can collect and reuse water in order to restrict their consumption to the stipulated limit and escape hefty fines. Long queues to purchase bottled water for household consumption in supermarkets has also become a common sight over the weeks.

Former mayor Helen Zille, who will also direct the disaster management response on the arrival of Day Zero has sounded hopeful, going so far as to say that Day Zero can be avoided should everyone realize the implications and make a concerted effort towards conserving water. “That is not difficult if we all put our minds to it in our homes and in our workplaces,” she said of the situation. Ms. Zille, along with other officials have provided tips to the people for saving water and getting the maximum use out of the water that they use: turning off the taps of toilet cisterns and using the grey water from washing in the toilets instead and showering less often. “No one should be showering more than twice a week at this stage. You need to save water as if your life depends on it because it does” were her words.

Not a crisis out of thin air

The crisis that the people in Cape Town are facing is not sudden by any standards. In fact, first warnings against the occurring were given out in the 1990s which were largely ignored. One main factor identified behind the crisis and its scale is the city’s population of about 4 million individuals, which has seen a high rate of growth over the years and is still growing strongly. Coupled with the drought that the population is currently facing, the strain on the resources for water has increased. South Africa hasn’t received sufficient rainfall for three years now. The drought in turn arises from climate change and the El Nino effect. There are six dams that supply water to the city and are currently 25.8 per cent full. The figure stood at 85% in 2014 and 38.4% a year ago.

What the dawn of Day Zero would mean for the people of Cape Town

On the dawn of Day Zero, Capetonians would be allowed just 25 litres of water per person a day, or roughly 7 gallons. To put that into perspective, you can take the average amount of water that Americans use: 80 to 100 gallons. A single flush of a toilet amounts to 2 gallons, and a 90 second shower could use up 4 gallons. To keep the restrictions in check,  most taps in the city would be switched off and residents will have to get their daily share of water from any one of 200 allocated points in the city. Plans are also being made to store emergency water in military installations. The sooner the city head towards Day Zero, the sooner Capetonians will need to prepare for a new lifestyle, one that is significantly astray from that of entitlement that we all are living in right now. The crisis in Cape Town is a crystal clear warning to us, and one that will likely be not be given the consideration it is due.

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Opinion

How Mafia-States Get Away with Criminality

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In theory, all 195 states adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and therefore pledge “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. In other words, to play the game and adhere to basic governmental principles. That’s in theory: in practice, a handful of states in the world behave like mafias, and get away with it.

President George W. Bush first used the terms “failed states” or “rogue states”, during his office. Rogue states seem more adapted because, if they are failed states in the sense that they do not carry out their mission, they are not failed for everyone. Afghanistan is, still today, one of the most prominent examples of how to get personally rich by pretending to represent people. In the wake of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan, billions of dollars were poured into the country in reconstruction efforts, based on the belief that if the population was schooled and busy at work, they would be less likely to join rebel ranks. The idea was good, but most of the massive funds were sidetracked to line officials’ pockets and Afghanistan is pretty much in the same shape as it was before the program, if not worse. Business Insider covered the subject (1): “All districts receive central government budget to cover salaries of front-line forces,” reporter Jessica Purkiss wrote for the Bureau. “In many areas in Afghanistan, some of this budget disappears and the actual number of officers tasked with holding back the Taliban is much lower than the number actually allotted.”

And such rogue states also exist close to the Western sphere of Europe and the US. Almost every single State in Central and South America is at the warning level on the Fragile State Index (2) (the term was brushed up to sound less definitively damning than President Bush’s wording). Hungary was bashed this year, along with the rest of EU low-performers, for dropping sharply in the EU’s good governance ranking, as reported by Nicolaj Nielsen, for the EU observer (3): “Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49). Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance. Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year. In one case, Hungary’s government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán learned from the report (4) that “Hungary loses 200 billion forints every year due to the corruption that exists in public procurement cases.”

Not to forget that States are not all mutually recognized and accepted, some of them are self-proclaimed. While some do indeed strive to carry out their stated mission and serve the people they claim to represent, some other are merely mafia groups with a political cover, which deal in various traffics and racketeering. Bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, where a group named the Polisario Front announced to the world that it was the shield of the Sahrawi people, who originate from the arid strip of land, with the stated intent of creating a sovereign state. But that must be put into perspective with the endless list of allegations and accusations carried against it, regarding the Polisario’s management of refugee camps in Algeria for example. The self-proclaimed government of the Sahrawi – namely the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) – is known for keeping the refugees captive in the camps, or keeping family members as hostage to guarantee men’s returns, maintaining a general state of violence and lawlessness within the compound. In addition, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has serious doubts (5) as to what becomes of the humanitarian aid it sends. It suspects not only the food to be sidetracked and sold on the black market, but also to be requested in excessive numbers – the Polisario front claims it holds up to 200 000 refugees but has systematically refused census, leading humanitarian donors to believe the figures are doubtful.

Can this be avoided? Hardly, at the general level. Pablo Escobar coined the phrase which underlies the entire system : Plata o plomo (silver or lead). Officials could be paid off to keep silent and play along, or be shot. Therefore, it is in the nature of corruption systems to maintain themselves because, should a “pure” official arise, he will be removed and replaced by a more complacent one.

Mafia states use the cover of darkness or, better still, a politically activist stance. The Colombian FARCs – Polisario’s allies, incidentally… – and the Medellin Cartel, run by Pablo Escobar, had an intense PR activity with many “social and humanitarian” poses, to help improve their public image and stymie political push-backs. The Polisario Front has moved much of its assaults to the judicial level, in a new form of “civilized” piracy, including with the surprise attempt to seize a Moroccan shipload earlier this year in South Africa. “The conclusion of this case will actually tell us whether it is now conceivable, on the judiciary level, that international shipping industry – which carries 90% of global trade – become hostage to some form of unprecedented and increasingly vicious political piracy,” wrote Philippe Delebecque (6), a French judge specializing in maritime affairs.

Mafia states are here to stay, because the mafia creates the state, and not the other way around. Once the mafia has developed its tentacles and political power enough, it will make kings and topple uncooperative administrators. Other states in the world are fully aware of this fact, and that if they bust a mafia-state, another will replace it within weeks. So, in the best cases, neighboring countries let it be; in the worst cases, they get involved in the graft.

1) http://uk.businessinsider.com/afghan-national-security-forces-us-assistance-70-billion-2017-9
2) http://fundforpeace.org/fsi/
3) https://euobserver.com/political/136664
4) http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/01/26/hungary-has-been-steadily-becoming-more-corrupt/
5) http://www.eubulletin.com/4018-exclusive-olaf-report-reveals-diversions-of-eu-aids-to-western-sahara.html
6)https://seapiracy.einnews.com/article/406654813/_j2VsuC3itgcmo3C?lcf=YCp5Ip9ztVBQmLVnDO55vXzEICMe6RFJuBE3DVQzur8%3D

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