Hugo Chavez’ international diplomatic offensive got underway at last weekend’s heads of OPEC meeting in Saudi Arabia. As well as pushing for the organisation to be given a more geo-political role, Chavez re-iterated his own anti-imperialist views.
He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as he delivered a warning to their common enemy, George W. Bush.
“If the United States is crazy enough to invade Iran or attack Venezuela once again, then the price of oil will not stay at 100 dollars a barrel, but may rise to 200 dollars,” he declared.
As the head of the world’s sixth largest exporter of crude, Venezuela’s President knows he holds all the cards regarding relations with the West. The price of petrol may be at a record high, but Chavez says it reflects market value.
“The price of oil? Its part of Venezuela’s power strategy. Now that the price of oil has risen to a fair price of 90 to 100 dollars a barrel, we establish it at a round price and that’s not an exaggerated price,” he said.
But even though he espouses a policy of “oil for all”, where part of the petrol industry’s profits are used to fund social schemes, the erratic management of resources in Venezuela is beginning to affect Chavez’ public support.
A referendum on his plans for constitutional reform will be held on December 2 – and the issue is proving to be increasingly divisive.
“We have to say NO to the reform and we have to be free in Venezuela,” said one protestor.
The reforms would give Chavez the right to be President for life – and have been poorly received even among his own supporters. Will Chavez manage to stay the course in the face of waning popularity? Playing the victim after being told to “shut up” by Spain’s King Juan Carlos at a recent summit prompted a show of support from Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
“Saturday, November the 10th, 2007, will go down in the history of our America as the day of truth. The ideological Waterloo took place when the King of Spain asked Chavez why he didn’t just shut up,” said Chavez, quoting a missive from Castro.
Chavez would like to become the new Castro of Latin America. But the question is, while he may have the means, does he have the capability?