Stepping off the red carpet at the Venice film festival, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez heads for Belarus on Tuesday on his counter-current world tour to rally countries into forming a new natural gas cartel.
The flamboyant Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez humorously joked that his current 11-day world tour would take him to “axis of evil” countries. And indeed the countries on Chavez's itinerary include Libya, Iran, Syria and Russia, hardly US favourites.
Chavez, however, added some glitter to his tour when he stopped off in Venice on Monday for the screening of famed director Oliver Stone’s documentary on Venezuela’s “peaceful revolution”.
On Tuesday, Chavez is to visit Minsk with a focus on energy as Belarus, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, hopes to diversify its energy imports.
But while Chavez will be visiting neither Paris nor London, nor any other well-known Western capital, his tour has not gone unnoticed.
According to Philippe Moreau Defarges, senior fellow at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Chavez is hoping to rally energy-producing countries such as Turkmenistan, Iran, and Russia against the United States.
“The OPEC is in a bad way, so a new cartel around gas, which is considered to be a clean energy, is a good way to recreate an anti-Western front,” Moreau Defarges said in an interview with FRANCE 24 on Tuesday.
On Monday, Chavez called on Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to join a gas forum of natural gas exporters.
"We are creating something similar to OPEC but with gas and, knowing about the large reserves of gas in Turkmenistan, we invite you to join this organization," Chavez said during a visit to the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.
Deals with Iran
In Iran, Chavez struck a deal on 6 September worth 800 million dollars to supply petrol to the fuel-starved Islamic republic at a time when Western states are mulling sanctions against the country. In exchange, Chavez told reporters the funds would be deposited in a fund to purchase machinery and technology from Iran.
While Iran holds large oil reserves, it lacks the refining capacities to exploit its resources.
A regular visitor to Iran, Chavez held talks with Ahmadinejad in Tehran and vowed to back revolutionary countries and form anti-imperialist fronts.
“By boosting cooperation between them, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Venezuela can consolidate the newly-formed independence front,” the office of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
A star-studded revolution
Taking an incongruous break from politics, Chavez was heartily applauded on Monday at the screening of Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border” in Venice.
The firebrand Chavez is the central figure of Stone’s film that seeks to show that Chavez is not the devil that US media outlets such as Fox News seek to depict.
“We saw sweeping change in the region, which is an important historical phenomenon that is not talked about,” said Stone, adding that poverty in Venezuela had been cut in half.
Spending some twenty minutes signing autographs and bestowing kisses on the red carpet before the screening at the Palazzo del Cinema’s Sala Grande, Chavez said the film represented “part of the Latin American renaissance.”
Chavez’s hobnobbing with stars and directors is not totally unrelated to politics, says Moreau Defarges. “It is important for Chavez to be a good showman because the economy is deteriorating in Venezuela,” he said, adding that Chavez faced difficulties on the domestic front.
Venezuelan journalists and civil rights activists accuse Chavez of clamping down on criticism ahead of elections next year. On Tuesday, Venezuela's state-owned media watchdog Conatel moved to shut down 29 radio stations, causing a huge outcry.
Date created : 2009-09-08