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Africa as a Priority: An Interview with Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Africa

Brown Land

Yuri Pimentel Moura, Venezuela’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Africa, sat down with The Brown Land for an exclusive interview in which he detailed his country’s aspirations for Venezuelan-African relations, his country’s cooperation with Sudan, and the cultural ties between Africa and Venezuela.

On the 16th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sudan and Venezuela, what is the current balance and future opportunities.

We consider the balance extremely positive. Within the framework of a policy of twinning, recognition and integration with Mother Africa designed by Commander Hugo Chávez and today continued by President Nicolás Maduro, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of the Sudan established diplomatic relations on May 4, 2005.

Since then, both countries have signed 11 bilateral agreements on science and technology, communication, housing, labor matters, cooperation between diplomatic academies and energy.

So the balance is positive. The link has allowed our peoples to come closer, get to know each other and identify themselves. This has been possible through different cultural activities, among them we can highlight the formation of the Coral-ASA with Sudanese children, who learned to interpret various pieces of Venezuelan music in Spanish. It was a great experience that not only involved the children but also their parents and families.

We must also refer to the Venezuela Simon Bolivar – Hugo Chavez Hall is a multipurpose socio-cultural space dedicated to deepening and promoting the exchange of knowledge between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the University of Khartoum. And the Spanish course carried out by the Venezuelan Embassy in Sudan, with which Sudanese, in addition to learning our language, have the opportunity to learn about our history, culture, customs and daily life.

Not everything is done. With no a doubt, we must continue to advance and deepen the relationship, materializing many of the agreements signed. The opportunities for the future are diverse, starting from the coincidence of Venezuela and Sudan interest in developing the cooperation in diplomatic, energy (oil, mining, gas), agricultural and fisheries, education and the fight against poverty, among others.

In fact, we hope to be able to establish soon, amid the difficulties imposed by the pandemic generated by COVID-19, the mechanisms that will allow us to coordinate with the new Sudanese government the strategies to follow to advance in the deepening of our relations.

Yuri Pimentel Moura

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has an important presence in the African Continent. What are the foreign policy and cooperation lines for the region

As you well point out, Venezuela has an important presence in Africa, with a total of 17 embassies and the forecast to open a few more in the near future. After Cuba and Brazil, we are the Latin American country with the largest diplomatic presence on the continent.

As I indicated before, this is the product of a geopolitical vision promoted by President Hugo Chávez, according to which Africa should be a priority of our foreign policy. Apart from the historical ties that unite us, which are reflected in our entire culture and population, more than 50% of which is Afro-descendant, Africa, South America and the Caribbean are called to unity, to integration.

The vast majority of the planet’s natural wealth is concentrated among our regions and we are obliged to develop our own capacities for processing and generating added value, to end centuries of exploitation of our resources.

The great Kwame Nkrumah said, more than 60 years ago, that without the economic integration of Africa, political integration would be meaningless. Today, Africa is developing this integration in an important and accelerated way, with its Common Market. But we think that today it should be expanded even more: for us, the peoples of the south, we must unite to generate a pole of power that allows us to sit on equal terms with the developed countries of the North, or we will be eternally condemned to dependency.

Specifically, we are working on economic and commercial cooperation with various nations, anchored in some of our strengths, such as the energy and mining areas. In this sense, there is much that can be worked on with strengths and extensive experience on both sides.

Likewise, cooperation in educational matters is essential. Venezuela has developed for years a program of construction and support to schools in Africa, as well as the offer of study scholarships at the university level. Hundreds of young Africans have graduated from different professions in our country, especially medicine. Despite the criminal blockade to which we are subjected, this program has been maintained and we even want to strengthen and expand it.

Another essential aspect is that of culture. This May, we will celebrate Africa Week in Caracas and the VII Cultural Festival with the Peoples of Africa, which will feature dozens of musicians and artists from both continents. We are, as our Liberator Simón Bolívar said more than 200 years ago, the same people.

Venezuela, a founding member country of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and with the largest proven crude oil reserves. How you currently face the effect of sanctions on the sector and its consequences on the national economy.

The United States’ criminal unilateral coercive measures (MCU) against Venezuela have undoubtedly affected our oil industry. The state-owned company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has suffered serious injuries in recent years. They have subjected us to extreme situations causing a deterioration in the oil industry, which has been losing its productive capacity.

The blockade and the MCUs have prevented PDVSA from being able to import spare parts, additives, trade freely to generate wealth and reinvest them, and have denied access to all types of financing from the Venezuelan State. It is a direct attack on the oil industry, with the intention of breaking us down.

Likewise, PDVSA’s assets have been seized, such as the CITGO subsidiary, with several refineries and more than 15 thousand service stations, whose value is estimated at more than 30 billion dollars.

All this has had a strong impact on our economy, which since 2014 has lost 99% of the volume of income in dollars due to the “sanctions” that represent a total war against the Venezuelan people. In that period, the State went from receiving $ 56 billion to less than $ 400 million, with losses since 2015 of more than $30 billion annually.

Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation with the brother Islamic Republic of Iran, with whom we have energy cooperation agreements, we managed to get ships with fuel, spare parts, supplies and additives to strengthen the internal productive capacity.

It has also been working rapidly on the diversification of the economy and on the development of new commercial and investment sources, with the support of strategic partners such as China, Russia, Turkey and many others. Venezuela is not alone. The free world knows that what is at stake is the imperialist appetite for the exploitation of our resources, as they did for more than a hundred years, but the Venezuelan people are determined to be free and sovereign.

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