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Forum LockedShift of power in Ltin American politics

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    Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 04:54
By SIMON ROMERO and ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO
Published: July 7, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil clasped hands here at a summit meeting late last month, as employees of Venezuela’s state oil company raised their fists and shouted Cuban-inspired socialist slogans before the cameras.

It was an image of solidarity that might once have alarmed Washington, which has seen the United States’ standing steadily eroded by a shift toward left-leaning, populist leaders across the region in the last decade.

But the carefully orchestrated event disguised a more recent turn in Latin America that presents new opportunities for the United States: Mr. da Silva has steadily peeled himself away from Venezuela’s leader and quietly supplanted him as he nurtures Brazil into a regional powerhouse.

Today the two leaders, often partners but sometimes rivals, offer starkly different paths toward development, and it is Brazil’s milder and more pragmatic approach that appears ascendant. Amid the decline of American influence in the region, the Brazilian president is discreetly outflanking Mr. Chávez at almost every turn in the struggle for leadership in South America.

Mr. Chávez has been nationalizing foreign companies and trying to assemble an anti-American bloc of nations. His regional credentials suffered last week, though, when his ideological rival, President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, organized a dramatic rescue of 15 hostages held in the jungle by Colombian rebels.

Mr. da Silva has diversified Brazil’s already strong industrial base and created an ample political coalition with almost a dozen neighbors. Huge recent oil discoveries in Brazilian waters have allowed him to blunt Venezuela’s efforts to use its oil largess to win influence. Venezuela’s economy has shown signs of stumbling, while its dependence on trade with Brazil has intensified.

The key to Brazil’s success has been a lucky confluence of global economic trends, like rising demand for commodities like soybeans and sugar-based ethanol, but also the quiet stewardship of Mr. da Silva, a former auto plant worker. He has raised Brazil’s profile across the region in part by adopting a less confrontational approach to Mr. Chávez than that of the United States.

Instead of publicly squaring off with Mr. Chávez, even when he has threatened Brazilian interests, Mr. da Silva taps into the kinship of the left and lavishes praise on him. Mr. da Silva went so far as to describe Mr. Chávez recently in the German magazine Der Spiegel as Venezuela’s “best president in a century.”

“The pragmatic side of Lula, the union leader who was always a negotiator, has paid off,” said Kenneth Maxwell, a historian at Harvard University and a columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

“While Chávez grabs the headlines, the debate over whether Brazil is becoming a regional power is moot,” he said. “Brazil has actually made it to that level, but in a very nonbombastic way.”

While high oil prices have bolstered the theatricality of Mr. Chávez’s maverick policies, Venezuela’s most pervasive influence remains limited to a handful of the region’s poorest nations — Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica and Nicaragua — members of ALBA, a trade alliance championed by Mr. Chávez. Another Chávez ally, Ecuador, is not a member. Meanwhile, Mr. da Silva’s unexpected embrace of the market-friendly ideas begun by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has emphasized how heterogeneous political thinking has become in Latin America, even on the left.

Publicly, the Brazilian president has been quick to defend Mr. Chávez, even as privately he has sought to temper the Venezuelan president’s sometimes inflammatory remarks.

In an interview in September, Mr. da Silva said that the rhetoric “worked with the reality of Venezuelan politics” and that Mr. Chávez’s anti-Americanism was rooted in the Venezuelan leader’s unshakable belief that the Bush administration was behind a 2002 coup attempt. “He has his reasons,” Mr. da Silva said.

But while Mr. Chávez turned harder to the left after his brief ouster in 2002, Mr. da Silva shifted to the center once in power, surprising many skeptics. His lighter touch has greased the way for Brazil in countries as varied as Cuba, the Socialist bastion to which Venezuela provides a lifeline of subsidized oil, and Colombia, a top United States military ally whose relations with Venezuela have been frosty in recent months.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 06:14
Originally posted by Kevin Kevin wrote:

....
But the carefully orchestrated event disguised a more recent turn in Latin America that presents new opportunities for the United States: Mr. da Silva has steadily peeled himself away from Venezuela’s leader and quietly supplanted him as he nurtures Brazil into a regional powerhouse.
...
 
In Latin America not many follow Chavez at all. But that that fact means there are opportunities for the United States in the region is far from clear.
 
The fact is Latin America has become a very capitalistic region without the help of the U.S. Mexico with NAFTA and some Central American countries depend heavily on the U.S. investments and good will. That's not the case of most South America. In countries like Argentina, Brazil and Chile, the relations with other parts of the world, in places like Japan, China, Corea, India, Australia and Europe, are a lot more important to local economies than the United States, both in imports and exports. Times are gone when the U.S. controlled single handed our economies. Today it has to compite with other foreign investors just to have a piece of the pie.
 
Even more, in certain fields, it is local tech which have the lead and not American, particularly in the ethanol industry in Brazil.
 
Why that happened? Very simple, the U.S. keep looking for Business and wars in the Middle East and Asia and forgot Latin America. Meanwhile, Latin America discovered it doesn't need the permission or the resources of the U.S. to progress.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 17:34
Brazil will be the most important geopolitical factor in South America.  Going forward, Petrobras is likely to overpower both PEMEX and Chavez's socialized oil resources (that are refined mostly in the US).  Given Brazil's resources and population, I cannot see anyone else in the role. 
 
Geopolitically, that is not much of a threat to the US in the Western Hemisphere, as Brazil's geopolitical logic is more directed toward the Southern Hemisphere.  Once one gets away from the Caribbean and the territories of the Caribbean littoral, US interests are, and for the most part have been in the past, less important.  Not unimportant; less important.
 
Relations between the US and Brazil have usually been favorable.  Brazil has problems, but also huge resources, a large and diverse population and considerable industrial and business skills.  As the US will remain focused on Asia as long as we are all alive, Brazil could be a southern-oriented partner economically and geopolitically to the benefit of the vital interests of both.  As Brazil's interests develop and become more complex, her approach to them probably will incorporate not only economic muscle, but the inevitable accompaniment of developing military capability as well. 
 
As an example, Brazil needs far more naval capability than she has in the past.  Her contiguous borders with so many other states will need substantial forward deployed military forces for various reasons (not just drug traffic and banditry), and clandestine security operations will also become more important to her interests.
 
As Pinguin says, gone are the days of Yankee influence above all else, but South America is not as economically vital to the US as it was 100 years ago either.  As Brazil becomes the big dog, how long will it be before the rest of South America starts bitching about all those Portuguese speaking chourico eaters?  Smile
 
The "shift of power" down there may not be what many people expect.
 
  


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 07-Jul-2008 at 17:51
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 17:57
Hey, Brazil is a good fellow with the rest of Latin America. We are not afraid of it. More afraid we are of the U.S. military bases planned for Paraguay, Peru or Colombia. "Yankee go home" is still the lemma here, although today is more something like "fellow gringo, go home and don't fool around, pleeease!"
 
We can't understand, though, why Brazilians hate the U.S. that much as they do. A lot more than Hispanics who are actually who have suffered the most the U.S. gunboat policy.


Edited by pinguin - 07-Jul-2008 at 17:59
"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 19:08
The good fellow of today can be the "Goodfella" of tomorrow.  No guarantees of Best Friends Forever.   
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 20:17

It is likely as well that in a not too far away future, South America become a single political entity. That's something every country desires in here, but we haven't figure it out as yet how to do it (just see how long has taken to the EU). If that happens, it is very likely we won't need to worry more about some friendly "amigos" and throublemakers from up north



Edited by pinguin - 07-Jul-2008 at 20:24
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 22:36
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

It is likely as well that in a not too far away future, South America become a single political entity. That's something every country desires in here, but we haven't figure it out as yet how to do it (just see how long has taken to the EU). If that happens, it is very likely we won't need to worry more about some friendly "amigos" and throublemakers from up north



Wow that seems very very ambitious.

For one thing, unlike much of Europe in the 1990s and 2000s, there are many Latino states which have ongoing serious troubles with eachother. We saw this in the Ecuador-Colombia-Venezuela conflict earlier this year. There are also longer term rivalries and conflicts such as that between Argentina and Chile - though I am not sure how much that would affect future plans for unity. And then there are historical conflicts - has Bolivia and Peru ever truly forgiven Chile for their losses in the War of the Pacific.

South American unity seems nice enough on paper, with a common geography and at most only two major languages to negotiate. But we have to ask ourselves how ready these states are to put old conflicts behind them, and whether some wealthy states like Argentina are really ready to give material help and sponsorship to poorer ones like Bolivia. Then there are the problems caused by the usual domestic worries, such as Bolivia nationalising the Brazilian owned gas resources in their country.
It is not the challenges a people face which define who they are, but rather the way in which they respond to those challenges.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 01:51
States like Bolivia nationalizing energy resources (or any business interests) that affect Brazil is not likely to have been taken well by Brazil.  It is not nice to piss off the potential regional hegemon.
 
Just because there is not widespread knowledge or understanding of the historical issues and problems that have plagued South America, since independence from Spain, certainly does not mean they are not still important.
 
There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking about South American common interests that don't exist.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 02:08
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


Wow that seems very very ambitious.
 
Actually, I was thinking in just an expanded Mercosur

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


For one thing, unlike much of Europe in the 1990s and 2000s, there are many Latino states which have ongoing serious troubles with eachother. We saw this in the Ecuador-Colombia-Venezuela conflict earlier this year. There are also longer term rivalries and conflicts such as that between Argentina and Chile - though I am not sure how much that would affect future plans for unity. And then there are historical conflicts - has Bolivia and Peru ever truly forgiven Chile for their losses in the War of the Pacific.
 
Just an example. Chile has invested billions in Argentina, Peru and also in Brazil. If we didn't think there is hope of better relation we wouldn't have done that. Small conflicts and hot headed politicians makes the news here, but business goes as usual. A lot better these times than in the past.

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


South American unity seems nice enough on paper, with a common geography and at most only two major languages to negotiate. But we have to ask ourselves how ready these states are to put old conflicts behind them, and whether some wealthy states like Argentina are really ready to give material help and sponsorship to poorer ones like Bolivia.
 
Actually, that is happening. Countries like Argentina or Chile have helped friends all over Latin America. Helping buiding a better education and health in Central America and now in Haiti. There are millions of immigrants across our borders. Our police department colaborate to capture criminals. Our companies cross the frontiers. And things between us are not as bad at all.
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Then there are the problems caused by the usual domestic worries, such as Bolivia nationalising the Brazilian owned gas resources in their country.
 
That's is a bad idea, but I bet they will figure it out how to fix it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 02:13
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

States like Bolivia nationalizing energy resources (or any business interests) that affect Brazil is not likely to have been taken well by Brazil.  It is not nice to piss off the potential regional hegemon.
 
Brazil is not a brutal superpower, though. I don't expect Brazil invading Bolivia if that happens.
 
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Just because there is not widespread knowledge or understanding of the historical issues and problems that have plagued South America, since independence from Spain, certainly does not mean they are not still important.
 
 
That doesn't mean we have curse to continue in throuble forever. In the same way that Europe is at last a peaceful place, after centuries of carnage, Latin America could very well start to be a less chaotic place to live. In fact, this generation has enjoyed a quite different living than my own.
 
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

 There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking about South American common interests that don't exist.
 
Without wishing you don't get anything. But there are also facts. For instance, some of our countries have been erased from the list of poor countries! If that is not something to celebrate, what is?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 13:11
Pinguin:
 
Although it belongs in some other thread, Europe is at peace today because much more powerful forces from outside imposed peace upon them.
 
It was in their interests to do so, not in the interests of the Euros. 
 
I did not say Brazil would, and do not look for her to invade anyone.  That is not their history, and their military capacity is a long way from that ability.  However, there are other ways and means to exert influence; Brazil will act in her own interests, and neighboring countries may not like it.  If conflict arises, things might change.


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 08-Jul-2008 at 13:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 16:27
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Pinguin:
 ....
I did not say Brazil would, and do not look for her to invade anyone.  That is not their history, and their military capacity is a long way from that ability.  However, there are other ways and means to exert influence; Brazil will act in her own interests, and neighboring countries may not like it.  If conflict arises, things might change.
 
Today, between South American countries, relations are relatively friendly. During the 19th century, though, Brazil allied with Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay. The later was destroyed by the three countries in a war that killed half Paraguayan population: The war of the Triple Alliance. That war was so socking that still echoes in today's South Americans and remorse is high between the winers. Since then, conflicts here scaled down to today when, in comparison, we live in a peaceful continent. I don't expect violent wars reapers here just because of small economical conflicts.
 
Militarism is hated by South Americans very much, and we preffer waste our money in industries and schools rather than in bombs and destruction.
 
With respect to military capacity, if those countries wanted they would have already developed long range missiles and nukes (Brazil launch satelites, for instance). The fact they haven't is a proof we don't want more wars, and we don't perceive overseas enemies comming to attack us.
 
 


Edited by pinguin - 08-Jul-2008 at 16:31
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 16:42
What about the Chaco War?  What were the geopolitics involved there, and what issues were, or remain to be, resolved?
 
What are the issues remaining between Chile and Argentina?  How about Chile and Bolivia?
 
How about the Antarctic?
 
Geopolitics does not stop because old wars ended.  New issues are always encountered, and resource dependence is going to impact South America as well as everyone else. 
 
Conflict is always in the wings.  Sometimes it becomes nastier when you don't see that it is possible.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jul-2008 at 20:36
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

What about the Chaco War?  What were the geopolitics involved there, and what issues were, or remain to be, resolved?
 
What are the issues remaining between Chile and Argentina?  How about Chile and Bolivia?
 
How about the Antarctic?
 
No doubt there are still issues pending, but so far they don't seem enough to fire a war. The only issue that worries me is the Antarctic, because of British ambitions, a country that is not from the neighbourhood, anyways.
 
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Geopolitics does not stop because old wars ended.  New issues are always encountered, and resource dependence is going to impact South America as well as everyone else. 
 
Conflict is always in the wings.  Sometimes it becomes nastier when you don't see that it is possible.
 
It is also possible that conflicts don't happen. That's what we expect. We don't need to waste our youth in a war, and our money in buying guns that will only benefit the merchants of death of the so called advanced countries.
 
We better stay together and progress in peace.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 01:02
I certainly think a unity of Latin American states comparable to the EU is feasible in theory, but it would take a lot of patient hard work and long term vision on the part of member states. Governments in these states are likely to abandon Latin American Unity policies that are unpopular domestically in their own nation if that is what stops them being voted out of office. Even the EU has a difficult challenge at times, as the recent referendum in Ireland shows.
 
Geopolitically, the EU makes sense. Here is a group of nations where the last three generations have either been united in remaining outside communist rule, or have only in the last generation broken free of it. Since WWII, only the Balkans has seen any real domestic war (with the exception of fighting domestic communist governments or Russia's). Old rivalries and territorial squabbling such as France-Germany and Germany-Poland have long since died. The potential gains to be made from going to war with one's neighbours in Europe is too small to justify the awful costs. Can we say the same about Latin America?
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Europeans have been and still continue to squabble on petty issues.  That did not stop them from unifying.  To this day Spain still demands that Britain give up its possession in Gibraltar.  There's plenty of other similar issues, but that did not stop Europe.  Petty nationalistic pride still pops up quite often in European politics, and yet still they manage to move forward.
Quote States like Bolivia nationalizing energy resources (or any business interests) that affect Brazil is not likely to have been taken well by Brazil.  It is not nice to piss off the potential regional hegemon.
To this day many European countries, even the larger more advanced ones, still feel the pull of nationalistic pride.  When companies from another EU country takes over a major company of another EU country it has to always be careful because it can sometimes cause controversy when "foreign" companies take over a major domestic one.  Even when that "foreign" company is one from a fellow EU country.  This still happens in the European Union.
 
Latin America has just as much potential, if not more than, Europe to unify. 
 
It is only people who have not followed closely the development in the European Union that imagines it is some big happy family with no large amounts of squabbles to overcome, and to this day they continue to overcome.


Edited by Ozone - 09-Jul-2008 at 02:12
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 02:39
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

I certainly think a unity of Latin American states comparable to the EU is feasible in theory, but it would take a lot of patient hard work and long term vision on the part of member states. Governments in these states are likely to abandon Latin American Unity policies that are unpopular domestically in their own nation if that is what stops them being voted out of office. Even the EU has a difficult challenge at times, as the recent referendum in Ireland shows.
 
Yes. It is a hard task to put heterogenious states to work together. It still is going to take a long time for the EU, and for South America it is just a two centuries old dream... so far.
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Geopolitically, the EU makes sense. Here is a group of nations where the last three generations have either been united in remaining outside communist rule, or have only in the last generation broken free of it. Since WWII, only the Balkans has seen any real domestic war (with the exception of fighting domestic communist governments or Russia's). Old rivalries and territorial squabbling such as France-Germany and Germany-Poland have long since died. The potential gains to be made from going to war with one's neighbours in Europe is too small to justify the awful costs. Can we say the same about Latin America?
 
For Latin America war has been more the exception than the rule. Our coutries are huge with respect to our populations so we don't really have much problem of "vital space" either. However, being alone make us weak in economical and military terms with respect to superpowers. We need to work together to have more streght at global scale. Simple.
 
 
 


Edited by pinguin - 09-Jul-2008 at 02:42
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 02:51
Originally posted by Ozone Ozone wrote:

Europeans have been and still continue to squabble on petty issues.  That did not stop them from unifying.  To this day Spain still demands that Britain give up its possession in Gibraltar.  There's plenty of other similar issues, but that did not stop Europe.  Petty nationalistic pride still pops up quite often in European politics, and yet still they manage to move forward.
....
 
That's interesting, indeed. Europe has a sense of nationality that is focused in the province.
Take, for instance, Spain, where you have Galicians, Basques, Castillians, Andalucians, etc., each one a country on its own, and sometimes even with its own language. The same happens in Britain with English, Irish, Scots and Welsh nationals. It is hard to find an European country that has really a unify identity as Latin Americans do. Now, if Europeans are so divisive, no wonder the EU has taken so long to be build
 
Latin America is different. People is very nationalistic, and countries have usually single identities (the exception is Bolivia, perhaps). Now, there is also a less strong, but not less important, common Latin American identy. So, the rough materials for unification are there. 
What has stopped us is simple: the chaotic political situations of the past, fueled mainly because poverty and ignorance, haven't allow us to do better. Perhaps a future, more mature and prosperous Latin America will finally fullfill its dream of unity.
 
By the way, if given the case, the US want to join, it will be welcome... in equality of conditions, of course.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ozone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 15:27
I was not so much referring to the sense of separate identities within certain European countries, but I was addressing the point made earlier by several others that South American countries still have their differences and squabbles.  I was pointing out that European countries do, too.  That fact did not stop them from working towards unification, so why would such minor differences be brought up as a major obstacle towards South American unification?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bankotsu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jul-2008 at 15:24

Venezuela to buy more weaponry from Russia

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080724/114840335.html

International Media Distorts Venezuelan Military Deals with Russia, says Chavez

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3668

Political implications of Russian-Venezuelan oil agreements

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080723/114772902.html

Venezuela Strengthens Alliance with Russia to Promote “Polycentrism”

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3666

The Hard Battle for Socialism in Venezuela

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3661

Ten Years On, Bolivarian Revolution at Crossroads

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3660

The Spectre of Socialism for the 21st Century Haunts Latin America

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3637

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