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Venezuela in Process of 'Learning' Which Interests are Prime

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In an exclusive interview with VHeadline, Sunday morning, Alcalay says it is a prime example of the "immaturity" of the Chavez administration.

He recalls an instance when, then as UN Ambassador, he had received an invitation for President Hugo Chavez Frias to attend a function at a New York University to which Tejera Paris had also been invited as a principal academician. "The then Foreign Minister threw a hissy-fit and sent a cable back to me in New York that either Tejera Paris should be excluded from the university function or President Chavez would not be willing to attend. It was so unreasonable that I immediately took up the phone and called the President personally to tell him that I would resign my post at the Uniteed Nations if he were to insult the university authorities in this way. It was a fait a complis ... there was NO way the university was going to take Tejera Paris off the invitation list simply because Chavez dislike his very presence at the function."

  • Alcalay says that, luckily, he was able to talk sense directly to the President who took his advice and actually greeted Dr. Tejera Paris warmly when they met!

"Of course, things are different now," Alcalay says. Ï very much doubt if there is anyone in the President's immediate entourage who would have the courage to tell Chavez that Enrique Tejera Paris does not pose any immediate danger to his presidency. There are deep-rooted suspicions remaining from April 2002 which combined with total paranoia in the Praetorian Guard surrounding Chavez will see 'devils under the bed'' where none exist!"

Seen nowadays as essentially on the democratic opposition side of the chasm that is Venezuela's political sectarian divide, Ambassador Alcalay says that he understands the necessity for foreign investors to realize that they must partner with the Venezuelan government to be inclusive of all sectors. He recognizes that the Chavez government wants so-called '50/50 socialist joint ventures' and to a certain degree he sees the sense in it all considering the fact that it would imply equal responsibilities by all sectors involved.

"It has been a problem that certain sectors ... local workers and indigenous groups ... have been substantially marginalized by the transnational mining groups (and indeed the Venezuelan government itself). What is needed is a multi-faceted DIALOGUE ... but there have been failures on all sides."

Ambassador Milos Alcalay (right) with Roy S. Carson

"A lot of the responsibility has been put on the transnationals to satisfy the demands of the local and indigenous workers and while the (the transnationals) are kept in the dark about what their future possibilities really are, there is an atmosphere of divisions and suspicions that is very easy to blame on the foreigners!"

Alcalay says that essential dialogue is missing and that the government of Hugo Chavez Frias needs to learn to listen to those who does not always agree implicitly with the president's central policies. At the same time there is an inherent problem in getting through to the President himself since there are several layers of communication to plow through before getting to Chavez' ears and then, even if he gives order to get things sorted out quickly there is a further problem of political and managerial incompetence in the machinery of government which only adds to deeply held suspicions that anyone who does not immediately agree with the administration is a traitor, a Quisling or worse.

So what is the solution for Crystallex, Gold Reserve, Rusoro ... whatever foreign company that wants to get involved in Venezuelan mining? Alcalay says that quite frankly he does NOT know! What he does know is that the government must be seen to work within clearly defined guidelines towards the future development of the country's resource industries.

"That requires clear game rules and a level playing field ... but most of all consistency! There is little point in making a public declaration in one direction or the other if there is NOT a central willingness to comply with what has already been agreed ... there needs to be greater transparency, greater accountability and the ministers need to clearly define what they do and their reasons for doing so -- it is the only way in a true democracy -- unfortunately the Chavez government is taking on more authoritarian attitudes as each day passes and that is NOT good!"

Essentially, he says, any move by the one company or the other to buy-out the other(s) is an external matter to Venezuela and must be resolved by the parties involved.

"It has nothing to do with Venezuela what they do other than how it may affect their obligations to the Venezuelan State! It is something that each foreign company and its shareholders must decide for themselves and then how to approach the Venezuelan government's declared preference for the socialist 50/50 joint venture model. Whichever way, they have to realize that the social/welfare requirements of the local workers and indigenous groups MUST be taken into account!"

Basically, Alcalay says that both the government and the transnationals, as well as local and indigenous workers must learn the advantages of dialogue towards a common solution to all the problems they encounter. As the seasoned international diplomat that he is, Alcalay says that Venezuela's future for foreign investors is very good if they are prepared to make the necessary concessions to local labor and social/welfare sensitivities.

"Given dialogue and consensus understanding of all these factors, Venezuela itself is in a process of 'learning' which foreign interests (now principally the Russians) are in prime position to provide towards harmonious development and not just a mad rush to grab Venezuelan gold!"

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Roy S. Carson is veteran foreign correspondent (45+ years in the business) currently editor & publisher of VHeadline Venezuela reporting on news & views from and about Venezuela in South America -- available for interviews -- call Houston (more...)
 

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