Vinod Mubayi


[Hugo Chavez was an inspiring leader in many ways as was his companero from an earlier generation, Fidel Castro.  His untimely death from cancer is a setback in some ways but if his successors can consolidate the Bolivarian project he began, it could be a landmark in Latin America’s struggle to sustain a progressive future for its countries and peoples, hitherto in the shadow of the superpower colossus to their north].


In the early 1980s, I was an energy consultant to several UN organizations when I was asked by the Group of 77 to prepare some reports on possible energy projects involving technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC) as well as economic cooperation among developing countries (ECDC).


The Group of 77 (G-77) is a coalition of developing countries that was formed in the 1960s to promote the collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity vis-à-vis the rich, developed countries at the United Nations.  There were 77 founding members (including all the South Asian countries) of the organization, which gave rise to its name, but the organization has since expanded to 132 member countries.


TCDC and ECDC were political buzzwords at the UN in the early 1980s along with talk of a New International Economic Order.  Many fruitful possibilities for worthwhile projects in the energy field existed that could involve both TCDC and ECDC; countries like Brazil, Argentina, and India had built sufficient technical capacity in many of their state-owned energy companies while several African countries, for example, had potential energy resources that were either unexplored or under explored.


I burnt the proverbial midnight oil on many evenings in a small office I had in one of the UN buildings in New York formulating what I considered to be useful projects based on then known data and wrote up a report in a few months.  Once in a while, the manager of the G-77 programs at the UN (I think he was a Mexican then and was later replaced by a Filipino; they used to rotate the manager among member countries every few months) would stop by my desk shortly after 5 p.m. to chat and would always invite me for a drink in the UN lounge.  He would tease me often by asking: “Why are you working so hard? You know the leaders of our countries, as soon as there is a possibility of any lucrative energy discovery they will rush to Houston or New York to hand it over to one of the major US multinationals!”


These memories were recalled by the untimely demise of Hugo Chavez, who was perhaps the first leader of a developing nation to sincerely and comprehensively put the ideas of TCDC and ECDC into actual effect, not just in terms of rhetoric, but real programs and projects.  The deal between Cuba and Venezuela by which a trade of Venezuelan oil for Cuba’s health and medical expertise takes place at rates determined by use value rather than capitalist exchange value is the best known example.  Of course, Venezuela is rich in oil resources, which makes this cooperation possible.


But 30 years ago there were other developing countries that also had resources but TCDC/ECDC remained just a slogan for them to posture with when needed.  It needed the commitment and genius of Chavez to turn it from a slogan into a reality.  He will surely be remembered for this, in addition to his other achievements, whenever and wherever resistance to imperialist dominance is needed and heeded.

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