President Nicolas Maduro promised his Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica a “permanent” supply of petroleum from oil-rich Venezuela during the first leg of his visit to Mercosur member countries. Maduro also announced the signing of a strategic alliance in the energy sector with Uruguay.
The Venezuelan leader arrived in Montevideo on Tuesday in his first overseas trip since winning Venezuela's April 14 special election to choose a successor to Hugo Chavez, who died March 5 after a long battle with cancer.
Besides the accord on oil, Mujica and Maduro attended the signing of other agreements to do with food exports to Venezuela and on transport, calling for the Urutransfor company to help with the modernization of the Caracas subway. Urutransfor is an electric hardware supplier which had gone bust was recovered with Venezuelan funds from the sale of oil to Uruguay.
In a joint press conference following a morning meeting, Maduro confirmed the standing supply of oil and fuels to Uruguay and announced he would be back in Montevideo at the end of June when Venezuela will be taking the rotating chair of Mercosur, currently held by Uruguay.
“This is an strategic energy project, for Venezuela, for Uruguay, for Mercosur, because we have the largest oil and gas reserves, and this makes Mercosur a really ‘heavy’ and respected negotiator in any world forum. We have oil for over a hundred years” said Maduro.
“Given the asymmetries and difficulties we face daily in Mercosur, the presence of Venezuela is essential to have more stable and more symmetric relations”, said Mujica underlining the commitment of Uruguay to regional integration.
“My visit ratifies the close links with Uruguay, with Mercosur, with the construction of a strategic integral map with us united in trade, agriculture, energy, culture, human relations, a deep sincere anti-imperialist union”, said Maduro.
He then went on to explain that the XIX century was the ‘century of division and when we conquered the first chapters of our independence’; this was followed by the XXth century of imperial dominance, of dictatorships of the looting of the resources of Latam countries, but the XXIst is the century of liberation and unity, that is why we are here”.
Maduro dressed in a typical Caribbean ‘guayabera’ shirt and a scarf with the Venezuelan colors because of Uruguay’s colder weather, on several occasions mentioned his mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez and said that “the fresh tracks of Chavez can be felt across Latinamerica”.
“He came to build a new Latinamerica, he left us a large fatherland, which we must preserve, widen and multiply” insisted Maduro.
Besides holding private talks with Mujica, a joint session of ministers and advisors from both countries, visiting the recovered factory and receiving the keys of Montevideo at Town hall, Maduro ended the day at Uruguay’s organized labor headquarters, PIT-CNT where he participated of a debate on the ‘liberation’ struggle but also on the unions’ responsibility when the country in under the leadership of a Socialist pro-workers government.
The Venezuelan president was supposed to leave late in the evening for Buenos Aires, the second stop of his Mercosur tour, but decided to spend the night in Montevideo. On Thursday Maduro travels to Brazil to meet with President Dilma Rousseff.
During his day in Montevideo, Maduro a former public transport union leader did most to the driving with Mujica in the front seat next to him.
In the several encounters with the press, Maduro did not avoid questions and underlined the transparency of the Venezuelan contested presidential election: “former President Jimmy Carter who has monitored elections in over ninety countries has stated that the Venezuelan system electoral is the best, the one that gives voters most guarantees. I imagine you won’t think that Mr Carter is a Communist or a Chavista”.
Wherever Maduro went he had supporters with banners, flags and drums with the exception of the square in front of the hotel where he is staying. Venezuelans living in Uruguay protested, banged saucepans and claimed the elections had been a big fraud and the real winner, opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
Precisely a modest group of Venezuela’s opposition is ‘shadowing’ Maduro’s Mercosur countries visit, and in Uruguay they were received in Parliament by members of the opposition. In a press conference they claimed that the Venezuelan regime is becoming increasingly authoritarian, persecutes members of the opposition, muzzles the media and organized a fraud in the last election which declared Maduro president.
Maduro and his 200-strong delegation are traveling in five aircraft with impressive security measures which includes over a hundred armed bodyguards, his own chef and supply of drinking water. The delegation occupied three full floors of one of Montevideo’s main hotels.