Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Presidents of Venezuela and Iran, have strengthened their ties as an "axis of unity" against imperialism in the past years. They embarked on a number of initiatives together in the fields of agriculture, energy, housing, industry and trade.
Venezuela and Iran: axis of unity
by Olivia Kroth
Sources: Blog Hugo Chávez, Correo del Orinoco, Patria Grande, Pravda, Press TV, Telesur, Venezuelanalysis, Voltaire Network
President Chávez visited Iran for the first time in 2001, declaring that he wanted "to prepare the road for peace, justice, stability and progress in the 21st century". He has returned to Tehran several times since then.
Undeniably, Iran and Venezuela share common interests. Their cooperation began more than 50 years ago, in Baghdad, Iraq. In 1960, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia founded OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Countries) to ensure good sales terms for themselves from foreign oil companies.
Thus, the good relationship between Iran and Venezuela is more than half a century old and still making progress. "We are with you and with Iran forever," Hugo Chávez said when he was awarded Iran's highest honor by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he calls his "brother." Both leaders feel close to each other, if not as blood brothers, then at least as brothers in spirit and mind. Iran and Venezuela are freedom and justice seeking nations, resisting all attempts of imperialist, neo-colonialist domination.
In 2006, Iran and Venezuela set up bi-national technical and educational committees for academic research in the areas of science and technology. Iranian delegations visited the Venezuelan Foundation for Seismological Research, the Caracas Central University, the Simón Bolívar University and the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research. Venezuela and Iran also work together in creating new university programs at the tuition-free Bolivarian University with a focus on "21st century Socialism."
In agriculture, corn and milk processing plants have been built together in Venezuela. Another joint project between Venezuela and Iran is the company Veniran Tractor C.A., founded in Ciudad Bolívar, state of Bolívar, in March 2005. It produces tractors and other agricultural equipment such as plows. Currently, the company's line comprises seven different tractor models, which are not only for national use, but also exported to Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay.
In housing, Iran is assisting Venezuela with materials and technology. This spring in Ciudad Fabricio Ojeda, state of Zulia, with Iranian help, 380 new homes were just finished. In 2011, Venezuela's socialist Great Housing Mission (Gran Misión Vivienda) built 147.000 new homes, a historic record. President Chávez wants to reach the number 200.000 in 2012.
During his visit to Caracas, at the end of June this year, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed his satisfaction about the short time span in which the Venezuelan Government built new homes of good quality for the population, calling it a "revolution in urbanism." The Iranian President voiced his opinion that "the house is the base for a family, giving safety and well-being. Having a decent home, a decent living space is the base for all human self-respect." He added that he was glad that Iran was able to contribute to the happiness of Venezuelan citizens.
Of course, oil production has remained a mutual concern of Iran and Venezuela ever since the foundation of OPEC. In January 2007, both countries signed a 211 million euro deal to build four oil tankers in Iran which will be delivered to Venezuela by May 2013. The oil tankers have a capacity of 113.000 tons, each tanker is worth 52 million euros, built by Iran's Sadra Shipbuilding Company. Iran has also assisted in building oil platforms in Venezuela.
In May 2012, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) signed a new 2 billion US dollar contract to develop the Dobokubi oil field in Venezuela's Orinoco Oil Belt together. Iran's Petropars Ltd. will finance 26 percent of the project on behalf of NIOC, PDVSA will be responsible for the other 74 percent. The Dobokubi oil field's capacity will increase from 14.000 barrels to 40.000 barrels a day in the first phase of development.
Iranian-Venezuelan industry and trade have been further developed with a cement factory and a car plant on Venezuelan territory. The Iranian-Venezuelan car company, Venirauto, is located in Maracay, west of Caracas. It has been producing vehicles since the summer of 2007, using Iranian technology, with an average output of 25.000 cars per year.
Venirauto, which is 51 percent Iranian and 49 percent Venezuelan, offers two different models, the "Turpial" and the "Centauro". The "Turpial" is named after Venezuela's national bird, while the "Centauro" owes its name to a mythical being, half man, half horse, known from ancient Greek mythology. Both models are exempt from Venezuela's sales tax IVA (value-added tax), due to a government program to subsidize cars that include Venezuelan production. The cars are completely compatible with the lubricants and fuels used in Venezuela.
In June 2010, President Chávez visited the car factory and watched the assembly of 50 vehicles. He was accompanied by Venezuela's Minister of Science, Technology and Industry, Ricardo Menéndez, and the Iranian Ambassador, Abdolreza Mesry. The factory's director, Manuel Mora, showed them around, explaining the technological process and answering questions.
Venirauto is a very popular trade mark in Venezuela, producing good, stable cars at affordable prices for the population. The government officials and staff mostly drive Venirauto models because they can buy them at discount prices.
In November 2011, Venirauto presented its cars at two national trade exhibitions: the "Expo Agroindustrial" at the Recreational Center Carlos Raúl Villanueva in Maracay, state of Aragua, from the 2nd to the 6th of November; the "Primera Feria Revolucionaria Productiva" at the Teresa Carreno Theater in Caracas, on the 11th and 12th of November.
Now Venezuela also has its own "Harpy," a winged spirit, according to ancient Greek mythology, the mother of Zephyrus, the west wind, and the sister of Iris, the rainbow. Soon Venezuelans will be able to sit on their terrace, sipping a fruit punch and beer, while watching their own national winged spirit being carried away by soft west winds towards a lovely rainbow in the sky.
Arpia-001 (Harpy-001) is the name of Venezuela's first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), manufactured by CAVIM (Compania Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares) in cooperation with Iranian experts. The drone has both civilian and military applications, with a range of 100 kilometers (60 miles). It can fly solo for 90 minutes and reach an altitude of 3.000 meters (9.000 feet). Venezuela has already manufactured three of the aerial vehicles and will start exporting their winged spirits to other Latin American countries which expressed interest in buying the Venezuelan Harpy.
The commercial flights between Caracas and Tehran via Damascus in Syria, undertaken by Venezuela's Conviasa and by Iranair, had to be suspended due to the unsafe situation in Syria. Hopefully, they will be able to continue soon, connecting the Asian continent to South America.
Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad has returned home to Iran, but not without promising to keep fortifying the Iranian-Venezuelan ties. "The geographical distance will never hinder the solidarity, cooperation and unified action between Iran and Venezuela in a joint front. The Iranian nation feels proud of its friendship with the people of this country," the Iranian President emphasized.
President Chávez described the Islamic Republic of Iran as "an influential and significant country in the international scene."
This axis of unity, spanning two continents wide apart, promises the hope of peace and justice for the future, not only for Iran and Venezuela, but for all freedom-loving peoples of the world.
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