India’s third largest supplier of crude oil is a country which has the largest reserves of crude oil in the world. Handing out a picture of Simon Bolivar to THE BLUE MON Editor Amit Mittal before an interview, Ambassador of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Mr. Augusto Montiel further informed about the installation of a bust of “The Liberator” Simon Bolivar on a street in New Delhi with similar name as a mark of respect to the Latin American leader. There will soon be a Square after his name and arrangements for students to visit the place to know more about him. Excerpts of the interview for our readers :
Bilateral trade (non-oil) has receded from $310.18 million in 2011 to $279.2 million in 2014 though balance of trade is still in favour of India; at the same time crude oil imports from Venezuela to India have gone up from $6.6 billion to $11.9 billion during the same period. why?
Fifteen years ago Venezuela never sold crude oil to India, but today we are not only the third largest supplier to India, but also have the largest reserves of crude oil in Venezuela. As you yourself mentioned about trade being largely weighed in favour of oil imports by India, we need to diversify to have balances in all spheres, not just crude. Are you aware of mango coming from India to Venezuela in the 19th century. Travellers must have brought the fruit that time to Venezuela which we relish to date. I assure you that India can always count on Venezuela for its supply of crude oil.
Venezuela today firmly believes in four principles – respect for sovereignty, sharing /true cooperation, complimentarity and solidarity.
There will be more prosperity in the world if we learn to share. Diplomacy and international community rules have enough and sufficient grey matter to understand that there has to be balance between the developed and developing nations. Venezuela has respect for human values, human rights and dignity.
What do you say on steep fall in crude price round the globe and the reasons for such a fall as Venezuela is a founder-member of OPEC?
Earlier we were selling crude to the western hemisphere. What you see as a steep fall in oil prices is a “massive and induced plunge in the prices of crude oil. Countries buying crude oil might think that this fall in prices is good, but they will realize that everybody is going to be affected by oil price drop. Coming back to India for whom we are the third largest supplier of crude, We consider India as a close intricate partner. We will soon be forming new sources of complimentarity with India, a power in this part of the world. Venezuela welcomes fruit processing technology and food producing technology from India. We like to have these technologies employed in Venezuela. It will work on the sharing principle of more oil – more technology.
It must not be overlooked that unilateral and inexplicable sanctions are also hitting some countries in the developed world.
Holding a copy of the Constitution of Venezuela, the Ambassador said the Constitution was approved after public debates in 1999 and a referendum got approval of 94% of the population. The Constitution guarantees social, economic and political rights of the population. There are two very important points in the Constitution in chapter on economic rights Article 112 pertaining to cartelization and problems induced from outside.
On crude oil supplies to India, I can give an assurance that Venezuela will supply oil for India’s domestic needs. No doubt, we are number one in Latin America for oil
trade. Although back home we have 70% of power generated from hydro-electric sources, we are sure that oil usage will continue.
We are keen to have investments from India. Though we have heavy investments from China, we also want India to invest. Food processing could be a major area of investments. I can guarantee Indian companies that their profits will be safe in Venezuela. We have 100 % literacy and over two million students in higher education. Even though the western media may highlight only shortcomings of Venezuela, but there are many plus points which are ignored. We have 50% reservation for women in National and Provincial Parliaments. A population of 30 million has achieved a lot in the past few years which you can see for yourself from the chart of development.
In 2000, the Bolivarian government of Venezuela embraced the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to achieve a better standard of living for the entire population. Venezuela’s remarkably rapid achievement of most of the MDGs compared to every other country in the world is a result of the Chavez government’s implementation of economic and social policies based on the principles underlying 21st century socialism, which give priority to social investment for collective welfare and development. Since the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998, social investment in Venezuela has grown from just 8.4% of GDP to 18.8% of GDP in 2008. In contrast, social spending in all the advanced capitalist countries has declined in real terms.
Under the Millennium Development Goals, Venezuela’s achieved the first goal of cutting down the proportion of people whose income was less than $1 a day to half
between 1990 and 2015. Similarly the proportion of people who suffer from hunger was also brought down to half between 1990 and 2015.
The 29.8% of people living in extreme poverty in 2003 was drastically reduced to 9.4% in the first half of 2007, and then to 6.8% in 2011, while the overall poverty index fell from 49% in 1998 to 24.2% by the end of 2009.
Through the Mercal network, 6,048 new facilities serving nutritionally balanced food to the most needy were established in 2008. Nationally, the government-subsidised Mercal network now includes 16,529 food distribution establishments, which benefit more than half the population, who buy their food at lower cost.
Between 1998 and 2010, Venezuela’s food production increased by 44%, the result of new policies that have progressively eliminated large estates and recovered more than 3 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture; recognised the importance of food security and sovereignty; granted supplies to small farmers to cultivate the land and financed and provided technical training to food producers.
The second Goal was to Ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
Venezuela achieved increase in primary education between 1991 and 2008 up to 91.9%.
Between 2008 and 2009, enrolment in primary education grew further to 92.33%.
There has been a significant growth in overall participation in the education system, from a 31.25% increase between 1990 and 1998, to a 47.56% increase between 1999 and 2006.
In 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Venezuela free of illiteracy, and recently put it among the top five countries in terms of access to university education.
The third Goal was to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and to all levels of education by no later than 2015.
school participation ratio of girls to boys is very low, reflecting no gender discrimination in access to education.
In university education, women’s participation increased by 1.46% in 2009 and there are now more women enrolled in university than men.
The fourth Goal was to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate between 1990 and 2015.
The infant mortality rate of 19 per 1,000 live births in 1999 has been significantly reduced, to 13.7 per 1000 live births in 2007.
Through the work of Mision Barrio Adentro, Venezuela is on track to reduce that rate to 8.6 per 1,000 live births by 2015.
The fifth Goal was to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015
The maternal mortality rate decreased to 56.8 per 100,000 live children in 2007. As this is still too high, comprehensive care for pregnant women has been made a priority by the government, which is implementing the following programs:
o Proyecto Madre (Mother Project)
o Improvement of the country’s health care network (Barrio Adentro I, II and III)
o Mission Nino Jesus
o The National Sexual and Reproductive Health Program.
In 2003, the Bolivarian government launched the HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan (Penvih).
The number of people receiving free antiretroviral therapy increased from 1,059 in 1999 to 25,657 in 2008.
Since 2000, seven new vaccines have been incorporated into the national strategy for disease prevention. In 2008 alone, more than 32 million doses were administered and, through Mision Barrio Adentro, 8,656,988 doses have been produced, more than ever before in Venezuela’s history.
Between 2005 and 2009 there was a reduction in malaria cases.
Between 2007 and 2010, the number of dengue cases reduced by 18%.
In 1998 there were only 1,628 primary health care physicians in Venezuela. Through the establishment of Barrio Adentro in 2003 to provide free health care to the population, the number of doctors has increased dramatically, to more than 19,500 in 2009.
The seventh Goal was to integrate the principles of sustainable development into the country’s policies and programs, and reverse the loss of environmental resources. Also to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015.
Under Mission Arbol, established in 2006, more than 2,000 conservation committees involving more than 50,000 members have planted 22,000 acres of trees in Venezuela.
In 2005, a program for the elimination of tetraethyl lead in gasoline was enforced, resulting in the lowest levels of this polluting agent.
Herbicide and pesticide use has progressively reduced in recent years.
The Ministry of People’s Power for the Environment will receive $675 million from the 2012 national budget to develop policies, strategies, plans and actions aimed at boosting environmental conservation and education. Current projects include a national plan to apply the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and extending environmental education and community participation in environmental preservation.
Between 1990 and 2007 there was an increase from 68% to 92% in the proportion of people with sustainable access to safe drinking water, which has benefited more than 24 million people throughout Venezuela.
As per Goal 8, the State was to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
The Bolivarian government has started an aerospace program and put into orbit the first Venezuelan satellite called Simon Bolivar.
Venezuela’s National Technological Literacy Plan provides training to regular and specialised users in the use and management of information and communication technologies.
By late 2009, 620,574 people had been trained in the use of computers and related tools around the country, and more than 1 million Venezuelans had become technologically literate. A new network of 782 Infocentres make information and communication technologies available to the general population at little or no cost.
In 2009, under the Canaima Project, educational use of ICTs was launched to provide every primary school student with a free Linux-based laptop and involve families, schools and communities in the learning process.
In 2011, the UNESCO awarded the Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize to Venezuela’s Infocentro Foundation for its project “Technological Literacy for Older Adults.”
In 2011, Venezuela opened the second Infocenter for the visually impaired, part the National Technological Literacy Plan to include all visually impaired people. Twenty-two states in Venezuela now have the equipment to enable visually impaired people to access technological literacy.
In 2010, President of the UN General Assembly, Ali Abdessalam Treki, heaped praise on Venezuela for the progress it has made in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Treki said, “What Venezuela has achieved with regards to the Millennium Development Goals should serve as a model for all other countries.”
The report from the institute states that Venezuela has already achieved a great majority of the goals with five years to spare.
Treki added, “We appreciate very much the leading role Venezuela has played” in “promoting the Millennium Development goals.”
Venezuela signed up to the Millennium Development Goals at a UN summit in 2002 along with 188 other countries, according to which each nation would do all it could to reach eight social goals by 2015.
Venezuela’s health and education programmes, known as “missions,” which the Chavez government began to introduce in 2003, have virtually wiped out illiteracy and improved health indicators across the board and this has made the government untroubled by the challenge of reaching the development goals.
Back in 2005, then Venezuelan vice-president Vicente Rangel said the country would reach the targets three years early, that is, in 2012.
Treki also praised Venezuela for its progress in fighting the illegal narcotics industry and for its efforts to build relationships between Latin America and Africa.
Treki also met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez where they discussed the democratisation of the United Nations, an issue central to the Venezuelan president’s objective of a fairer and more multilateral international system.
Treki said that they had worked on the “necessity to introduce democratic change in the international organization and in the Security Council.”
“We both agree that the UN General Assembly has to be given an important role in order to change the world.”
“We will continue with our efforts and dialogue to try and achieve a just and free world without misery and need,” he said.
In a speech to the United Nations in September 2006, Chavez criticized the UN system and called for its “re-establishment.”
He said that the General Assembly was a mere “deliberative organ” where the leaders of nations came once a year to listen to each others’ speeches, but that it had no power because the real power is in the Security Council and the vetoes of its five permanent members.