Chavez uses oil ties to woo "Mother Africa"
1 hour, 10 minutes ago
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered his country's oil expertise to Angola, sub-Saharan Africa's No. 2 crude producer, in a strategy to boost ties with what he calls "Mother Africa" and counter U.S. influence there.
In his first visit to Angola on Thursday, the Venezuelan leader witnessed the signing of a bilateral oil cooperation accord between his country, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, and one of Africa's fastest growing producers.
The agreement, signed by the respective oil ministers, foresees cooperation in all aspects of the oil and gas industry, including possible joint production and refining projects, according to a copy of the text sent to Reuters.
The text said the accord could be implemented through the respective state oil companies, Venezuela's PDVSA and Sonangol.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said the accord would allow PDVSA to work for the first time in Africa, where U.S. and European oil companies have dominated for years.
Chavez, a firebrand anti-American populist, said in a speech in Luanda the strengthening of ties with Angola was part of his strategy to boost South-South cooperation and counterbalance U.S. influence in the world.
"It's absolutely a lie that the destiny of the world has to be signed off by Washington. The world belongs to all of us, there isn't a policeman of the world who has to hold our hands," Chavez said, elaborating on one of his favorite themes.
He said Venezuela was opening an embassy in Angola. The Latin American oil producer had established diplomatic ties with 11 states in Africa in the last 15 months.
"We love Mother Africa," Chavez said, recalling that descendants of African slaves had helped in the fight to achieve Venezuela's independence from Spain.
Although Venezuela remains a major oil supplier to the U.S. market, Chavez has made a point of signing political and energy alliances across the world -- with Cuba, Iran, Russia and China -- to challenge what he denounces as U.S. "imperialism."
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos praised what he said were Chavez's efforts to use Venezuela's oil to promote social justice at home and a fairer world economic order.
Chavez, in particular, has been spearheading a resurgence in resource nationalism, in which crude producers, spurred on by high world oil prices, have been seeking to wrest better terms and more control from Big Oil multinational companies.
"I think that resource nationalism is something that strikes a chord in Angola as well," said Nicholas Shaxson, an Angola expert and Sub-Saharan oil analyst with Chatham House, a London think tank.
"I think the Angolans have politically been very keen to diversify their foreign partnerships," he added.
Shaxson said he believed OPEC price hawk Venezuela was also keen to persuade Angola to become a full member of the cartel.
Some observers have speculated that the Venezuelan leader's latest world tour, which has included stops in China and Syria, is also designed to boost Venezuela's bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The official Angolan news agency ANGOP confirmed the two leaders had discussed this issue, saying they agreed a reform of the Security Council was needed to make it more democratic and representative of today's world.
Chavez has accused Washington of trying to overthrow him, a charge denied by U.S. officials.
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