Venezuela and Italy gave a jumpstart to joint railway construction
projects in the South American country on Thursday with the signing of
a series of cooperation accords.
|President Hugo Chavez meets with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (PP)|
During an official meeting in the Miraflores presidential palace,
the Venezuelan Ministry for Housing and Public Works and the Italian
Ministry for Infrastructure and Transportation signed a document to
“express their commitment to honor previously contracted obligations.”
Another agreement was signed to provide education and technological
training to “the communities adjacent to the railway lines of the
national railway plan,” according to the Venezuelan Information
“Italian companies have helped us so very much in the area of
railways, and we want them to continue helping us,” President Hugo
Chavez said as he addressed the Italian delegation. He said Venezuela
is willing to increase its supply of oil and natural gas to Italy.
The Contuy Medio Consortium, made up of Italian, Venezuelan, and
Japanese firms, has been in charge of railway construction including
lines to connect Venezuela’s La Encrucijada and Valles del Tuy regions,
as well as Caracas and the port city Puerto Cabello, since 1996.
The projects have stalled in recent years as the result of a lack of financing, according to local news reports.
Last Sunday, Chavez said he will not accept the stalling of the
projects any longer, and demanded that the Italian companies look for
financing independent of the Venezuelan government.
“Those companies have the means to seek financing, and they must do
it; they can’t put the whole burden on the national budget [of
Venezuela],” Chavez said during his weekly talk show, “Aló, Presidente”.
Chavez also called on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to
help the seek financing for the projects. Italian Ambassador Luigi
Maccotta, who was in the audience during the show along with officials
from the Italian firms, promised to speak with Berlusconi on the
During Thursday’s binational meeting, Italian Foreign Minister
Franco Frattini delivered a letter to Chavez from Berlusconi in which
the prime minister extended an offer to seek “innovative mechanisms of
Chavez said he received the letter “with affection, hope, and
appreciation,” and expressed his willingness to seek “new horizons in
The president emphasized that it is necessary to construct a “new
international order” in response to the world economic downturn sparked
by the 2008 financial crisis. “All crises bring opportunity and
obligate us to take action,” said Chavez.
Venezuela plans to construct 13,665 kilometers of train line with
the capacity to transport 240 million people per year between the
country’s major cities by 2030. Railway construction has been revived
during Chavez’s two terms as president, following a 70-year standstill.
In other accords signed on Thursday, the health ministries of both
countries signed an agreement to cooperate in the fields of oncology,
hematology, and pediatrics for low-income populations, and the higher
education ministries moved forward on plans for university student
exchanges and research cooperation.
Also, the Hydrological Institute of Venezuela signed an agreement
with officials from the island of Cerdeña, a region of Italy, to
“promote the development of research aimed at the betterment of the
management of water resources, by way of training, storage, treatment,
quality control, transference and distribution.”
Last year, the Italian firm ENI signed a contract with the
Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, to develop a section of
Venezuela’s vast oil reserve along the Orinoco River.