Fiery talk, lofty ideas at Africa-South America summit

PORLAMAR, Venezuela (Reuters) – Anti-imperialist  rhetoric and ambitious ideas flowed on Sunday at a summit  dominated by South America’s leftist leaders and some of  Africa’s best-known former anti-colonial fighters.

Flanked by the likes of Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and  Luiz Inacio Lula Silva of Brazil, Venezuela’s socialist leader  Hugo Chavez, the summit’s host, looked in his element as he  heard a plethora of proposals to promote poor nations’ global  clout.

The two-day summit on Venezuela’s sweltering Margarita  island, in the Caribbean, came right after the UN General  Assembly and the G20 summit and was intended as a counterpoint  to Western dominance of global institutions.

“We have to construct a new alliance, discover  opportunities and help ourselves mutually,” Lula said, summing  up the central theme of speeches by the 28 leaders present.

On specifics, Mugabe and Chavez proposed greater  cooperation on exploitation of resources like minerals and  oil.

The Venezuelan, who sees himself at the forefront of a  global “anti-imperialist” movement, urged his fellow leaders to  form a “multi-state” corporation for mining.

“Africa and South America are rich lands, yet their peoples  are poor, because they have been exploited. Let’s not allow  them to keep exploiting and ransacking our lands. Those riches  belong to our people,” the garrulous Chavez said, giving a  mini-speech himself between every speech by another leader.

“Let’s not waste a day. If we start with just two or three  countries, well we’ll start with those that can.”

Mugabe, a former guerrilla commander in power since  independence from Britain in 1980, echoed the sentiment, saying  Zimbabwe could offer minerals and agricultural products for oil  and technology.

“In Africa, greater industrial development has been  difficult because of a reliance on the very powers that  colonized us,” he said. “They do not want really to see us  industrialized.”

Some of the summit participants are severely criticized by  opponents for abusing rights and democracy at home.

On the sports front, Mugabe suggested the ASA (South  America-Africa) nations meeting should hold their own World  Cup-style soccer tournament, while Lula urged support for  Brazil’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

“The biggest sporting event after the World Cup cannot be a  privilege of rich nations,” said Lula.

The United States is also bidding for the 2016 Games.
“The International Olympic Committee’s leadership is like  the world’s riches — all concentrated in Europe which has more  delegates than all of Africa and Latin America,” Lula said.

While the summit has included plenty of harsh words in  general for the West’s past sins and present indifference to  global poverty, Venezuela sought to defuse perhaps the most  provocative theme to emerge at Margarita.

On the eve of the summit, its Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz  said Iran, an ally of Chavez and in the West’s bad books over  its nuclear policy, was helping Venezuela find uranium in the  South American nation.

But Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez sought to calm the  controversy caused by that, telling Reuters that Caracas was  yet to develop a plan to exploit its uranium, and was only  working with Russia to develop nuclear energy for peaceful  uses. “No plan has been determined,” he said.

Analysts say Venezuela is more than a decade away from  developing nuclear power.

A 95-point resolution produced at the summit touched on  wide range of global issues. It included a call to reform the  UN Security Council; proposals for more cooperation in  education, technology, mining, agriculture and energy; and  condemnation of piracy, nuclear weapons and illegal arms  trading.
Libya was nominated to host the next ASA summit in 2011.

Paying his first visit to the Americas, Libya’s Muammar  Gaddafi — in power for four decades — has been holding court  in a tent at the summit hotel and gave a fiery speech on  Saturday saying a small club of major powers were still trying  to run the world on their terms.

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