Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza is in South Africa to consolidate relations with African countries. Picture: Jacques Naude

Pretoria - Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza is on a five day visit to South Africa as part of his second African tour this year to consolidate relations with African countries. 

Arreaza just completed a highly successful visit to Mozambique where he met with President Filipe Nyusi, who pledged Mozambique’s full political support to Venezuela, and undertook to strengthen relations in all sectors. On Friday Arreaza will hold bilateral discussions with his counterpart Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in Pretoria, and other ministers. Meetings were already held with the ANC Secretary General and officials.

Venezuela’s objective is to create a pole of power between Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa which can translate into a free trade zone that will counter western trade and political hegemony. “We are very supportive of BRICS as a grouping and would like to forge closer relations, as we are already close allies with Russia, India, China, and South Africa,” Arreaza told Independent Media.

South African civil society has been energised by the visit of Arreaza, attending a solidarity meeting with Venezuela in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria on Thursday evening, marking Venezuela’s Independence Day. There are also plans to attend a public lecture by the Minister on the Bolivarian political and economic agenda at Lilliesleaf heritage site on Saturday. “Over 50 per cent of Venezuelans have dark skin with some link to Africa, and we want to bolster our solidarity as countries of the South,” Arreaza has said.

According to Venezuela’s Vice Minister for Africa Yuri Pimentel, who is also in the country, “There is a great deal of complimentarity between the two economies as South Africa needs oil, and there are aspects of South Africa’s industry that are more developed than that in Venezuela such as gold and diamond mining which South Africa is assisting us with.”

Despite the fact that Venezuela is under an almost total economic blockade by the United States which has imposed suffocating sanctions on the country, Venezuela has remained wedded to its social agenda and providing to the poorest of the poor.

“Despite the trouble in our economy, we haven’t sacrificed social investment and we are still providing hundreds of houses to the poor, complete with three rooms and two bathrooms. We continue to distribute regular food packages to homes, and provide free health care and education to our people,” Arreaza told Independent Media.

“Our democratic socialist project is not the twentieth century way of Cuba or the Chinese model, it is our own project which has a very strong state that seeks to have good relations with the private sector,” Arreaza said.

Venezuela will continue to struggle economically given the fact that the banking system is largely controlled by the US, making banks reluctant to do any kind of business with Venezuela. “The problem is not President Trump specifically, but the US system, as the Executive Order declaring Venezuela a threat to the US was initially signed by President Obama,” Arreaza has lamented.

Arreaza believes that so far Chavismo has triumphed over the right wing opposition, and the government intends to build on their successes and address the many challenges facing the country.

Independent Foreign Service