Fiery talk, lofty ideas at Africa-South America summit


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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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.