[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] Brazil sends gasoline at Venezuelan's request]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Mon Jan 6 18:33:52 MST 2003
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New York Times December 27, 2002
Brazil sends gasoline at Venezuelan's request
By Larry Rohter
Rio de Janeiro In a show of support for Venezuela's embattled president,
Hugo Chávez, the Brazilian government has sent an emergency shipment of
520,000 barrels of gasoline to help relieve shortages caused by a nationwide
general strike now in its fourth week, government officials here said today.
Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil producer and a major exporter to
the United States. But executives and an estimated 30,000 workers of the
Venezuelan state oil company have adhered to the strike, causing oil
production to plunge and leading to growing shortages at gasoline stations.
A spokeswoman for the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobrás, confirmed that
the shipment, made at Mr. Chávez's request, was on its way to Venezuela. She
said it was expected to arrive on Friday or Saturday.
Commercial and political ties between the two countries have strengthened
considerably since Mr. Chávez took office in February 1999, proclaiming his
intent to lead a peaceful social revolution. President Fernando Henrique
Cardoso of Brazil approved the gasoline shipment, and there are indications
that his successor-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of the left-wing
Workers Party, was also involved in the decision.
Mr. da Silva takes office on Wednesday and has a longstanding personal and
ideological affinity with Mr. Chávez, who is also reported to have asked
Brazil to supply crews to operate Venezuelan oil tankers.
"He thinks like I do," Mr. da Silva said earlier this year, adding that
while the Venezuelan leader can be "excessively impetuous" at times, he is
"a killer ball-handler" who deserves praise for his daring.
Mr. Chávez in turn has said "Lula is a great man" whose rise to power he has
wished for "day and night." After Mr. da Silva won a landslide victory here
in October, Mr. Chávez said he hoped Brazil would join Venezuela and Cuba in
establishing an "axis of good" in the hemisphere.
Earlier this month, Mr. da Silva sent one of his chief foreign policy
advisers, Marco Aurelio García, to Caracas to assess the crisis. In
interviews with Brazilian newspapers after his return, Mr. García said the
new Brazilian government wanted to "contribute to Venezuelan stability" and
accused Mr. Chávez's opponents of seeking to provoke "a situation of
uncontrollable violence" that would cripple the world economy.
"Imagine the No. 5 oil producer with a civil war and Iraq with a war that is
not at all civil," Mr. García said in the Rio daily O Globo on Tuesday.
"That would bring disastrous consequences."
But the Brazilian action has been condemned by strike organizers, who range
from labor and business groups to opposition parties, as unacceptable
interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs. They maintain that Brazil is
violating a neutrality policy that Latin American nations have developed and
is illegally trying to break the strike.
"Brazil needs to understand that a political crisis exists in Venezuela and
that it must be resolved by Venezuelans," Antonio Ledezma, a former mayor of
Caracas, said in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper. One of the strike
leaders, Timoteo Zambrano, said in a television interview, "This is a
hostile attitude toward democratic society."
The move has also drawn some comment here, particularly in view of Mr. da
Silva's origins as a labor union leader who was jailed for leading walkouts.
"To see the Workers Party playing the role of strike-buster is like that
MasterCard commercial, priceless," Ancelmo Gois wrote today in O Globo.
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