"There is hope of agreements between the Customs Union and MERCOSUR about a free trade area (FTA) this year," Henry Machuca, a coordinator of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the project "Diplomacy of peoples" said in a live broadcast of Pravda.Ru. Strong Latin America is an obstacle for the U.S. and EU, but it needs Russia, so why there is no close collaboration?
In the beginning of the broadcast Machuca outlined the situation in Venezuela. "The political situation in the country has stabilized after the PSUV won the municipal elections in November. It was a serious blow for the opposition party. Its leader Henrique Capriles will not act "directly" now, but it is temporary. "This is a man who follows the liberal model and he will not build a new Venezuela similar to Chavez. We cannot expect serious answers from him," said Machuca. He called President Nicolas Maduro a "real people's president" and said that he continued the line of Hugo Chavez to build a welfare state. "Earlier, social allocations were very small - five to six percent of GDP, but now they make up 52 percent."Machuca also noted that the president began a campaign against drug trafficking from neighboring Colombia. A law allowing shooting down aircraft that violated the airspace of Venezuela was adopted.
Despite the successes, the Western media is constantly attacking the financial, monetary economic policies of Venezuela, "because neither the U.S. nor Europe needs strong Venezuela and Latin America." However, they do not have strong leverage. "We will continue our independent course and will not ask for the help of the International Monetary Fund that was paid all debts of Venezuela by Chavez," said the activist.
Speaking about Latin America, and continuing the theme of the fight against drug trafficking, Machuca said that the continent was fighting drug trafficking through very unconventional methods. For example, Uruguay adopted a law legalizing marijuana. "I believe that this experience may prove positive," said the activist. He explained that in Bolivia, coca leaf is consumed like tea in Russia.
Latin America consists of 33 countries and each has an independent policy, said the activist. They are united in CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), where the United States and Canada were not invited. Machuca mentioned that the northern partners did not appreciate it. Second regional structure - is MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela), and the third one is the newly created Pacific Alliance (PA - Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru). Here we see a confrontation of Bolivarianism and liberalism. "MERCOSUR countries are not only establishing trade relations, but also helping each other in the field of education and health care, while the Alliance is pragmatically engaged only in trade." The main idea of Bolivarianism is a strong integration. If this happens, 20 years from now MERCOSUR will be a third or fourth economy in the world, said Machuca. In this regard, after the victory of the left president in Chile (Michelle Bachelet) the problem of combining the two blocks may be solved, and it will make Latin America more competitive. Ecuador and Bolivia have begun the process of the entry into MERCOSUR, and "if we (MERCOSUR and PA) reach an agreement on free trade by the end of the year, it will be wonderful."
A special role in the region belongs to Brazil that is part of the BRICS. It is interesting that the "inventor" of the block, Jim O'Neill, is now promoting a new one, MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). The expert talks about Mexico as a new force in Latin America and is no longer talking about Brazil.
According to Machuca, "this is a picture created by the U.S. and its counterparts in order to reduce the influence of Brazil on our continent, whose role is growing not only in the region but also in the world." Speaking of Mexico, the party leader said that the country "three years ago officially decided to turn towards Latin America. The authorities realized that the FTA they created with the U.S. and Canada (NAFTA) was not that beneficial." For example, when Mexican tomato producers began crowding the American market, the U.S. came up with a new tax and inflated the price for Mexican goods. However, the president of Mexico is not very supportive of the rest of Latin America and "we'll just have to wait."
One of the most important partners of Venezuela that shares the ideas of Bolivar is Nicaragua. The country is included in ALBA block (Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and several Caribbean countries). Nicaragua starts construction of a canal next year. China will finance the construction, and the project cost will amount to $40 billion. According to Machuca, Panama will not suffer from the competition "because trade is growing at a pace that would make both canals operate at full capacity." Among other integration projects the activist noted the work of Cuban doctors in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. "In Cuba, a vaccine against cancer was recently created. Cuban medicine was built with Soviet assistance, many speak Russian there," said Machuca.
One of the serious problems in the relations between Russia and the countries of Latin America is the lack of full information about each other, the activist said. There is a lot of potential. Russia's image in Latin America is "quite positive," it could be better, and the converse statement is also true. "We're trying, for example, to develop relations with Russia, but there is not enough information," Machuca said. "I do not understand why Russia does not sell cars to Venezuela when we have a shortage of cars. I think that Russian businessmen are not aware of our problems," he added. Even in terms of VAZ vehicles, Venezuela could buy 10,000 cars a year, and Brazil that 15 years ago bought 30,000 VAZ units could return to this type of cooperation. Venezuela is the second largest buyer of Russian arms. The turnover between Russia and Brazil increased tenfold over the past ten years, from 1.4 billion in 1992 to 16 billion in 2013.
"Can you imagine the change in our relationship if customs duties are abolished? There is hope that agreements on a free trade area (FTA) may be reached this year," Machuca told Pravda.Ru.