The World-View 13/06/11
Venezuela leads resistance to increase in OPEC production quotas, while Brazil sits on the fence over UN condemnation of Syrian regime.
Venezuela joined five fellow members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) this week in rejecting a Saudi‑led proposal to raise production quotas in order to quell oil prices, which have risen sharply since the outbreak of the ‘Arab Spring’ of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
While speculation is rife that the Saudis might choose to unilaterally increase production, the short term effect of the disagreement was to force prices higher on international markets.
Venezuela was joined in defiance of the cartel’s dominant member by countries including Iran and Libya. ‘Today’s price—around $100 per barrel—from our point of view is a fair price’, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez remarked this week, with his energy minister, Rafael Ramírez, adding: ‘We do not need to introduce more oil into the market; we have enough’.
Venezuela’s dependence on oil revenues to fund its public policy programme is well known; it seems unlikely, however, that its views on the subject of production limits are shared by those of its South American neighbours that have been struggling with inflationary pressures from, among other things, rising fuel prices.
Elsewhere, Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, offered an insight this week into the government’s views on the increasingly violent situation in Syria.
As the regime of Bashar al‑Assad continues to crack down on protests, the United Kingdom and France, two of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are pressing for the organisation to issue a resolution on the subject.
Brazil, which currently holds a non‑permanent Security Council seat, has reacted cautiously to the Anglo‑French proposal. ‘The last thing we want to do is contribute to exacerbating tension in a region that can already be considered one of the most tense in the world’, Patriota said on Thursday.
Patriota sought to explain his stance by expressing concern about the manner in which the Security Council resolution mandating action against Libya was acted upon.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has, however, made clear that ‘there is no prospect’ of reaching agreement on a resolution authorising military action against Syria. Indeed, as the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo lamented this week, the chances of Russia and China agreeing to such action are very slim.
Brazil’s real reluctance, then, seems to be to back a UN condemnation of the Syrian regime. To that end, Patriota was quoted by the Brazilian daily O Globo as maintaining that ‘we are in contact with the Syrian government and there are signs that they are willing to make political reforms’.