Friday, November 09, 2007

Axis of Oil

What's it all about, Alfie? Why oil, of course.

Since I'm teaching a Latin American Studies class this semester, I'll occasionally devote more posts to Latin America.

First, what is Latin America? It's anywhere Spanish, Portuguese (and French) power came to play in the Americas from 1492 onwards. The term itself was coined by French policymakers to linguistically justify their piece of the pie in the mid-1800s (Quebec is not part of it). The mix of indigenous, European and African cultures make up Latin American culture.

I just finished Nikolas Kozloff's Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States (PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2006) and found it quite interesting, if hastily published (i.e. it would have been nice had an editor read it through first -- at least once).

In a nutshell, Chávez is like Castro only with a lot of oil. He survived a US-backed coup attempt in 2002 and is now in a much stronger position. "Without a doubt, Chávez has proven that he is an adept political survivor. Even as President Bush's popularity plummets, Chávez's stature has grown throughout Latin America." (p. 105). Petróleos de Venezuela, the state-owned oil corporation and 100% owner of Houston-based CITGO, presides over the fifth largest oil reserves and the fifth largest oil exporting infrastructure in the world. (Keep in mind the population of Venezuela is larger than that of Texas but smaller than California's).

Most of Latin America has tilted left since the Bush-Cheney administration took power in the United States after the contested election of 2000. The governments of Venezuela and Brazil are friendly with each other, and Brazilian officials announced overnight the discovery of vast new oil reserves. Together, they will rival the Middle East in oil reserves, exports, and power. It will be essential for the next US administration to improve relations with Latin America and develop a rational approach to trade policies.

Alexandra Braun Waldeck of Caracas, Ms. Earth 2005.

Today's Rune: Fertility.

Happy birthday, Anne Sexton and Jim Carleton!

Hasta la vista!


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the post. I will have to admit that I am also fascinated by the culture and politics. Having just read, by JR's urging,
"Love in a time of Cholera" and "100 years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez it reminded me of the many Russian writers who wrote on the corruption of their system but in reverse. Thank you for sharing. MW:)

Erik Donald France said...

Gracias, MW! Great books. Viva Garcia! The new movie version of "Cholera" may be decent.

Johnny Yen said...

Most people don't realize that the US gets most of its oil not from the Mideast, but from Venezuela and Mexico.

Chavez is a fascinating and sometimes vexing character. What he's doing in Venezuela is great, but I doubt he's immune to the old dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.