Monday, October 17, 2011

Nov 17/11 | On a doctor's (insider?) take on the Bolivarian caudillo's health

A panel of distinguished doctors.  Not seen in Caracas lately.
PMBComment | Below you will find a very interesting interview (translated from the original) with a Venezuelan doctor that has in the past treated President Chávez and who claims to be in touch with people in the know of his current malady. While it is strange to have a doctor discuss in such details a particular patient, this was bound to occur given the irresponsible secrecy surrounding Mr. Chávez's condition. Indeed nothing proves more that we do NOT live in a democratic society that the secrecy that has surrounded his matter. An elected president is nothing more than an employee of the public; that same public, which the populist Chávez once termed "el soberano". It would seem that "the sovereign" has the right to know what is happening to someone who has concentrated - while in the public payroll - all power in his hands and is using copious amount of public monies to seek a cure in an even more secretive (i.e. less democratic) foreign country. But no, the information gap is filled with speculation, rumours and lies. In the mean time Hugo Chávez spends almost every waking minute talking about his illness, his treatments, his recovery, and doing little to run a country that seems to be spinning out of his - and everyone's - control. 

When asked my opinion about the real state of Mr. Chávez's health, I have to plead ignorance on the facts, but can surmise that in this type of circumstance no news is usually bad news. Much of what Dr. Navarrete discusses about his mental state is well known but not necessarily well incorporated into news or academic writing about the subject. As to his current prognosis, if it were truly good, the clearly distracted (scared?) but usually communicative leader of the Bolivarian movement would waste no time to have REAL doctors (i.e. not Fidel Castro) get on TV and present, in proper fashion, his medical facts. Failure to do so tells a great deal. PMB

M Semanal         

Original Source (in Spanish) :
Mexico City, Sunday, 16 October 2011                   

Translated into English from the original Spanish

Hugo Chávez. Life Expectancy: Two Years
The president went from having problems with triglycerides and cholesterol 20 years ago to receiving treatment for bipolarity during the last ten years and now has an aggressive tumor in his pelvis that requires chemotherapy and offers a very bad prognosis. 

The cancer President Hugo Chávez is suffering from has shaken Venezuela and the President’s allies. The physician who had brought in a team of Venezuelan physicians to Miraflores Palace to look after the President’s health, before the President would subsequently entrust his life only to Cuban physicians, agreed to talk to M Semanal about the subject.  In this interview, surgeon Salvador Navarrete Aulestia traces the profile of patient Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, and his diagnosis is not good: the President suffers from an aggressive malignant tumor of muscular origin lodged in his pelvis.  The life expectancy in those cases can be up to two years.       
During recent years, steeped in secrecy, several Latin American presidents have seen their health deteriorate while wielding power: Fidel Castro bequeathed the presidential chair to his brother Raúl in Cuba as he was on the brink of death in 2006; Néstor Kirchner become ill while he was President and died last year, and his widow Cristina is showing signs of depression as she leads Argentina; Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has cancer; Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica, age 76, has mentioned that he suffers from stress; Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes does not hide his extreme attachment to tobacco, while Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is recovering from lymphatic cancer; Vicente Fox had spinal surgery amidst his term of office and Peru’s former President Alejandro Toledo suffers from alcoholism.
Having taken care of the President’s health is not the only merit earned by Salvador Navarrete, a specialist in laparoscopy trained in Venezuela, France, the United States and Cuba.  He has published some thirty writings and scientific videos, and received a series of awards; among them the Venezuelan Society of Surgery prize, the Cipriano Jiménez Macías Prize and the Ricardo Baquero González Prize, at several sessions of the Venezuelan Congress of Surgery.  This is his testimony.
VFG:  What is the profile  of Hugo Chávez Frías as the patient of a physician to the Office of the President?
SN: President Chávez is a man who, in the past, has been treated for an illness of the manic-depressive kind, something known to his biographers and to those of us who have seen him as physicians. This illness had been previously managed by a group of psychiatrists led by physician Edmundo Chirinos, who in 2010 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering a female patient in 2008. This medical treatment serves to counteract the President’s manifestations of unstable mental states that swing from euphoria to sadness, states in which the personality becomes dissociated and reaches episodes of losing contact with reality.  It is a very frequent illness in today’s world, categorized as bipolar disorder.  President Chávez oscillates between these two poles, with more of a tendency toward euphoria, to hyperactivity and to mania.     
VFG:  When was your first meeting with President Chávez as a patient?
SN:  I saw him as a patient at Miraflores Palace in March of 2002, on the eve of the coup d’état against him, because he was feeling very distraught.  The Minister to the Secretariat of the Presidency, Rafael Vargas, who was living at the presidential residence, asked us to create an inner circle of politically trustworthy Venezuelan physicians in order to treat the ailments of a President who was under immense pressure and physical debilitation. 
VFG:  What was the work like for that medical team having the mission of caring for a President during Venezuela’s greatest political crisis of the last decade?
SN:  It was a very intense experience. He had us become members of the personnel of highest political trust assigned to Miraflores Palace. The three of us were Venezuelan physicians: a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist and yours truly as the team’s surgeon.  Of the three I was the only one having political militancy, being a member of the Expanded National Office of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), founded by President Chávez, as part of the Office of Ideological Training, which was a great political party until its conversion in 2007 into the core of the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
VFG:  What was the experience like for  this group of Venezuelan physicians who were faced with a powerful patient who was being hounded permanently?
SN:  The three of us went to evaluate the President several times.  On that occasion, less than 10 years ago, we found it necessary to perform an upper and lower endoscopy (inserting a camera through the mouth and through the anus).  The reason we went there was to protect him, so that that ailment would not evolve, but he did not allow us to examine him.  Today, now that the cancer he suffers from has been discovered, the President states publicly that he regrets his haughtiness toward the medical recommendations.
VFG:  Does this then have to do with an unwilling and skeptical patient?
SN:  The President is very distrustful. Very, very distrustful.  He thought he was never going to take ill. On one of those occasions he and I had an important discussion, when I called to his attention the lack of political responsibility that resulted from his not allowing his ailments to be tended to and from his not allowing us to perform our medical work, which was to preserve his health. 
VFG:  Were there any consequences?
SN:  The President never made enemies with me.  That episode stayed where it was, suspended in midair, and faded away even more so as a result of the tribulations of the coup d’état that followed. From that moment onward I became aware of many things surrounding power and I abandoned my political militancy and moved on to “winter quarters” as an advisor to the government in the field of Health; but I did not withdraw completely.  Two years later the then Minister of Health, Francisco Armada, appointed me as his ministerial representative to the administration of the University Hospital of Caracas, an office I held until July of this year when, happily, after having resigned twice, the current Minister of Health, who had been a student of mine, Eugenia Sader, accepted my resignation from an office I held from 2005 until July of 2011, with a very nice letter of appreciation. It was a very interesting honorary public office which kept me active in hospital administration, despite the fact that three less-than-transparent, formerly military, Ministers of Health came and went. Now I dedicate myself to medical and academic activity.
VFG:  What kind of person did the President turn out to be during the medical auscultations that he allowed to be performed on him at that time?
SN:  He is a very, very clean person.  It is noteworthy that he sees to it that someone grooms his fingernails and toenails, and that is something that draws much attention toward him, a military man.  The President presents himself very well and has a very particular magnetism.  He is a man who is very careful about his personal appearance, who is always well groomed, who does not smell bad, who is meticulous, who is concerned about being in good physical shape. He is an interesting man of power, not inclined toward reading in a systematic way, but reads fragments he tries to tie together in his own ideological imagination, which can swing from one faction to the other.   
VFG:  What was the most noticeable addiction entered in his medical record?
SN:  He is a man who drinks a lot of coffee, lots of it.  He drinks countless cups of coffee daily.  He smokes under stressful situations or for pleasure, in private, never in public.  On a daily basis he works until late hours of the night, is a night owl and makes his ministers work at the same pace as he does.  He gets up at six-thirty or seven in the morning, with an average of three or four hours of sleep nightly, no more than that, and he sleeps very little.  He is a strong man, even though he may now appear deformed from the effect of the chemotherapy.   
VFG:  What records appear in the history prior to the President’s current clinical record?
SN:  There are no operations or records of previous surgeries.  He has a record of a metabolic disorder known as dyslipidemia, in other words, high cholesterol and triglycerides.  At that time he was not receiving treatment for it and he was showing a tendency toward high arterial tension, but he was not hypertense.  At about 180 pounds he was barely ten to thirteen pounds overweight, not like he is now.  He is a tall strong man whose height is about 5 feet 10 inches.
VFG:  How did this patient, a decade later,  suddenly display a clinical profile with cancer?
SN:  The President decided to go in a radically different direction after the coup d’état against him.  He walked away from all the Venezuelan physicians and placed himself absolutely in the hands of Cuban physicians.  A month ago we met with people very close to the President and I told them the same thing I told him at Miraflores when he was my patient: that there is a lack of awareness of the national political impact stemming from the President’s health.  The answer from these people around him was the same: that he cannot be told anything about his health, that he does not pay attention to anyone, much less to Venezuelans.
VFG:  There is much speculation about the type of cancer that afflicts the President. Neither he nor anyone else has said what it is.
SN:  I am going to offer the information I have concerning that premise you propose to me.  President Chávez has a tumor in his pelvis that is called a sarcoma.  Those are retroperitoneal tumors of the pelvic floor. From the embryological point of view they can be of three types: mesodermal, ectodermal and endodermal. The information I have from the family is that he has a sarcoma, a very aggressive tumor having a very bad prognosis and I am almost certain that is the reality.  That is why they are giving him such an aggressive chemotherapy, because if it were prostate cancer, then hormonal treatment would be given and that would be it, and you wouldn’t even notice he was receiving any treatment.  
VFG:  Are you then discarding a prostate tumor?
SN:  It is not a prostate tumor.  It is a tumor that is very near to the prostate and is probably invading his bladder.  Or it is a tumor that originates in the bladder and is invading the pelvis.  In any case, it is a tumor that originates in the lower part of the pelvis, which is considered to be the anatomical region that is within the hips. Behind that region are the iliopsoas muscles, which are muscles that, [originate] at the lumbar region of the spine, [and insert at] the femur, lifting it upwards. It is the muscle that makes it possible to raise the knee while seated. That is why we think the tumor is of a muscular nature, that it is lodged and originates there; I say so because, before undergoing surgical intervention for removal of the malignant tumor the size of a baseball, the President was oversensitive to a problem in his knee: referred pain. That is why we are almost certain that this has to do with that kind of cancer.  That is a some information that, through the public’s natural interest, we have been integrating and constructing little by little.  I am the family’s surgeon and I met with one of their (the family’s) other physicians, we shared the available information and fully coincided in this diagnosis I am making.      
VFG:  The inevitable question everyone is asking is: what is the range of life expectancy for a profile similar to that of President Chávez?
SN:  We believe that the prognosis for President Chávez is not good. And when I say the prognosis is not good that means that the life expectancy can be for as many as two years.  This explains the decision to hold elections sooner.
VFG:  Is an ill president the result of two decades of stress, starting with his attempted coup d’état in 1992 and which includes the 12 years he has been in power?
SN: Men in power are individuals who believe themselves to be possessed by a supernatural force.  In order to aspire to be President of a country you need to have an emotional condition different from the majority of the people, because you need to have a lot of ambition and perseverance to be able to move so many people out of your way and be able to take power and keep it.  That constitutes  a very particular psychic and emotional state.  To have the cojones to aspire to lead a country of 50 million inhabitants, or 30 or 20 million, requires more than just will.     
VFG:  You know the President’s family because you as a surgeon have operated on them.  Is there a common tendency toward certain illnesses?
SN:  On the Chavez side of the family, the paternal branch, they tend to have vascular diseases.  [His father] suffered a stroke.  And on the Frías branch, his mother’s side, they have a tendency to have tumors.  I operated on his mother for a benign tumor of the neck in 1999, together with another colleague who is their family physician and whom I still see frequently.  And now she is a very healthy and very strong woman.  But President Chávez was a healthy man when I examined him in the context that led to the coup d’état of 2002.  He only suffered from a problem with elevated cholesterol and elevated triglycerides and a mental problem consisting of bipolar behavior under treatment.  Someone in the family must have that illness, an ancestor, because President Chávez definitely has it, but we do not know who he inherited it from.     
VFG:  Are the President’s family’s physicians also Cubans?
SN:  No, we are the family’s physicians.
VFG:  And why is it that Cubans and not Venezuelans are occupying that space?  Has the President become distrustful?
SN:  Absolutely, right now President Chávez does not trust anyone.
VFG:  Nobody?
SN:  Nobody.  In Venezuela President Chávez does not trust anybody: only Cubans.  In fact, at the Military Hospital there is now a floor prepared just in case something happens to the President and all the personnel are strictly Cuban.  Not even the stretcher-bearers are Venezuelan.
VFG:  Does that explain the imprecise report published by the Miami Herald about President Chavez’s hospitalization a couple of weeks ago?
SN:  I can say with certainty that between Sunday September 25th and Monday the 26th he was given dialysis because the kidney was not filtering the medications well and he was suffering. On Monday medical colleagues had to remove a dialysis machine from the Caracas Military Hospital and take it to Miraflores Palace.   
VFG:  It was in his bedroom at Miraflores Palace where you performed an auscultation at some moment.  What’s it like  within that intimate realm of the President of  Venezuela?
SN:  It is a very plain and orderly bedroom, just like he is.  With a very small bookcase, with the readings he chooses for the moment, everything is very tidy, and I must insist that he his a very meticulous, clean, orderly and austere person. That is how he is.
VFG:  What is the scenario with Chávez being ill in 2012?
SN:  This scenario has two options: one with Chávez as candidate and the other without him.  The President could die and the military would have to take power for a while; or, if his illness prevents him from running as candidate, then the incumbent party would lose the elections.  If he comes forth under conditions of health acceptable for en electoral campaign, according to recent information he has more than 55 percent acceptance in popularity, but as a candidate Chávez scores 35 points, a yet unnamed independent candidate would receive the same 35 percent, and the opposition candidate only 22 points.  These are the consequences of the President’s illness.
Salvador Navarrete, surgeon
A surgeon with specialty in bariatric and metabolic surgery, graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, Luis Razetti School, Central University of Venezuela, in 1981.  Postgraduate work completed at University Hospital in Caracas, where he received the title of Specialist in General Surgery.
He completed his training in France, the United States and Cuba, specializing in laparoscopic surgery.  Likewise, he was a visiting assistant at the Laparoscopic Unit led by the prestigious Dr. Moses Jacobs at Baptist Hospital in Miami.
As a specialist in surgery for obesity, he has participated widely as a panelist and presenter at medical conferences and gatherings in Venezuela, as well as in Japan, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Peru, among other countries.   
Dr. Navarrete has more than thirty scientific publications and videos, which have earned him wide recognition, among them the following:  the Venezuelan Society of Surgery Prize, the Cipriano Jiménez Macías Prize and the Ricardo Baquero González Prize, bestowed upon him at different events of the Venezuelan Congress of Surgery.  
He has been Chief of the Surgical Team at University Hospital in Caracas, Chief of Residents of Surgery Service II and currently is Chief of the Endoscopic Unit of University Hospital in Caracas.
His teaching activity at the Luis Razetti School of the Faculty of Medicine of the Central University of Venezuela has been extensive, including General Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies of General Surgery and Coordinator of the Internship of the Undergraduate Program in General Surgery of the Department of Clinical and Surgical Therapy B of University Hospital in Caracas.
Currently he is Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies of General Surgery at University Hospital in Caracas and Head of the Department of Clinical and Surgical Therapy B.
Doctor Navarrete shares his professional activities among University Hospital in Caracas, El Ávila Clinic and Santa Sofía Clinic.  He belongs to numerous scientific societies: founder of the Endoscopic Surgery Section and of the Bariatric Surgery Section that are part of the Venezuelan Society of Surgery, as well as founder of the Venezuelan Society of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery.
He’s a member of the Latin American Endoscopic Surgery Association, The Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons and of the Laparoscopic Surgery Society of Spain, among others.
Víctor Flores García

 Translation by: Indysurfer

Read more of this PMBComment!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Oct 13/11 | On RIA Novosti's "What Russia stands to lose if Venezuela sees regime change"

Chavez (L) and Sechin: Till death do us part...

PMBComment | It is refreshing to read this article in Russia's state-owned news service RIA Novosti (see below). This might very well be intended to reflect the split that exists among Russian officials about murky dealings with Bolivarian Venezuela. 

On the one side there is the team headed by Igor Sechin, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Zar, that believes they have to take full advantage of a weak government in Caracas in order to sign as many contracts as possible ("The next guys will be inclined to sign deals only with US companies" goes their storyline). 

On the other side, there are Foreign Ministry officials and international advisers to the Kremlin more attune to the risks posed by dealing with a government that has unilaterally changed the terms of all pre-existing oil contracts and nationalized hundreds of companies. This tug of war has been going on for at least 6 years and it is clear that Sechin's group has made huge inroads into Venezuela as the regime desperately seeks funds and allies to survive its own administrative incompetence and moral recklessness. 

The hope of the "lets take advantage (lets get rich) group", as expressed by one of the individuals interviewed for this article, is that these contracts are treated as "State to State contracts" and not as contracts signed by various Russian entities with a particularly corrupt and indecent government. However, as was the case with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Gaddafi's Libya, the flaw in this approach is that contracts signed in haste with crumbling regimes are particularly vulnerable. Past experience notwithstanding, the monies involved for promoters and intermediaries is too tempting to pass up and might in itself justify brokering and signing these deals independent of their eventual fate. Hundreds of millions of Venezuela's and Russia's easy-earned oil dollars are probably already in secret accounts of crafty functionaries on both ends of these hurried deals.   

From my conversation with leading opposition political figures in Venezuela, there is absolutely no intention to break LEGAL commitments that serve the real interests of a free and truly democratic Venezuela, but at the same time there is a clear expectation that grown ups - whether they speak Russian, Mandarin or Brazilian Portuguese - will understand perfectly well when the music stops and it is time for them to leave the party owing up for junk debt, broken down air crafts, rusty tanks and 'misplaced' silverware. 

In order to ally misperceptions and fears, I have reminded many in Russia's establishment that the Chinese oil companies came into Venezuela prior to Chávez's election in 1998. They were awarded contracts in open and transparent processes in which they outbid some of the largest companies in the world - including most of the US based oil majors. Russian companies were invited by PDVSA to participate in these bidding rounds and it was the Russian government that banned them from doing so as the main priority then was to channel scarce funds into Russia's crumbling Soviet-age oil infrastructure. So it is not true that an opposition led government will blackball Russian energy companies as a matter of principle. And at the same time they must remember that Chávez unilaterally changed the terms of the Chinese contracts and treated them with the same heavy handedness he treated Conoco and Exxon. 

I hope this article is well read in the Kremlin and surrounding buildings. There is much to be learnt about 11th hour greed. PMB  

PS: a little know fact about April 11th 2002 is that the Russian Federation was the first country to issue a statement expressing their desire to maintain good relations with the Carmona administration. Trace of that statement disappeared a few days later from the Russian Foreign Ministry web site, but it remains forever archived in the digital files of news agencies too lazy to point this relevant factoid out. 

RIA Novosti

Features & Opinion

What Russia stands to lose if Venezuela sees regime change

18:27 11/10/2011
Natalia Karnova, RIA Novosti
Multi-billion dollar contracts between Russia and Venezuela, sponsored by Hugo Chavez, the incumbent president of this Latin American country, may be under threat. The health of the 57-year-old Venezuelan leader, who has ruled his country for almost 13 years, is deteriorating. This development comes not long before Venezuelans vote in presidential elections.
A number of experts have been polled by Prime on what could, potentially, happen to Russian contracts in arms, oil, gas, energy, transport and agriculture, and what might be in store for the companies that concluded these contracts and are working in this Latin American country if Chavez goes.
Investment and plans
The Civilian Association Citizen Control for Security, Defense and Armed Forces reports that over the past six years the country has spent $15 billion on weapons and military equipment, with Russia accounting for $9.5 billion of that sum.
Last week, a Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin visited Venezuela and signed an agreement on granting the Bolivarian Republic a $4 billion loan to continue this military-technical cooperation with Russia. Two billion will be allocated next year, and two more in 2013, Chavez explained.
Development of the Junin 6 and Junin 3 oilfields on the Orinoco River is one of the major joint venture projects involving the two countries. Junin 6 is being developed by Russia's National Oil Consortium, which includes, on a parity basis, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz and TNK-BP, together with Venezuela's state company PDVSA. Junin 3 is being developed by Lukoil.
Russian energy giant Inter RAO UES is planning to build a petroleum coke-fired power plant in Venezuela and is also interested in other projects. Russia is contemplating supplying more machines and equipment to this Latin American country and importing bananas and other agricultural produce.
Does it all hang on Chavez?
Experts interviewed by RIA Novosti have expressed varying views. Vladimir Sudarev, deputy director at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Latin American Studies Institute, does not believe the situation, especially regarding Chavez's health, should be overdramatized. "The main problem is that the regime itself is unstable, there is no successor, and the mood among Venezuela's top brass and army is not quite clear," he said. But extreme scenarios like a military coup are ruled out because that era in Latin American history is long gone, he believes.
In his view, whatever the situation, most of the contracts have been concluded with the Venezuelan state, not Chavez personally. Should the opposition suddenly take over, it may of course annul them, but it is a point of honor for any government to pay what it owes, especially as otherwise the Hague Court might step in.
"It is true that many of the contracts concluded with Caracas are linked to Chavez, but many people around him have backed them, too," argues Dmitry Abzalov, a leading expert from the Center for Current Politics. "This offers the country's authorities the chance to maintain a balance between the interests of North America, the destination for a lot of Venezuelan oil, and other partners, including Russia."
Russian oil and gas companies are understood to be firmly settled in Venezuela and the main risk they face would be power falling into the hands of individuals from the anti-Chavez northern provinces. Under this scenario, many nationalization projects and programs would be abandoned, companies would revert to their former owners, and Russia might find itself back at square one, the expert believes.
Konstantin Simonov, general director of the Foundation for National Energy Security, is confident that "judging from the Libyan experience, our contracts in Venezuela are likely to meet an unenviable fate." In his day, Chavez drove Western companies out of the country and refused to pay them compensation, so any new government would most likely invite them back, while simultaneously meting out the same harsh treatment to these Russian partners, who would later be said "to have cooperated with a criminal regime," he believes.
No to arms - yes to oil
What will happen to specific contracts? In Sudarev's opinion, if the opposition comes to power in Caracas, it will start by canceling the arms contracts with Russia. "We are partly to blame for this - although we offer sophisticated weapons, we do not back that up with any maintenance services," he said.
However, he downplays the impact any reduction in Russia's military contracts with Venezuela would have, pointing out that they already total nearly $10 billion, plus another four billion loaned by Russia, with half set to be used for military purposes. Therefore going forward the country is not particularly likely to need further armaments.
Oil and gas cooperation is likely to survive because it benefits Venezuela. Russia does not charge heavily and has positive experience in this field. "If reasonable people come to power in Caracas, they will be unlikely to shoot from the hip," Sudarev believes.
On the whole, in Sudarev's view, Russia should focus on the high-tech sector and nuclear energy rather than on car exports to Latin America, because the car market there is already cornered by Chinese and Korean manufacturers.
Abzalov of the Center for Current Politics agrees that some contracts may be revoked. "We will have a chance to retain our positions if pro-active steps are taken, as has happened with a number of Lukoil projects in Iraq," he noted. "Here Russia should both uphold general trends on the continent and look out for its own interests since, in a number of areas, Venezuela is our rival."
How much does Russia need this Caribbean foothold?
Experts agree that Venezuela is a promising country on the whole. This applies especially to the Orinoco deposits, in which China has already expressed an active interest, Abzalov noted. "Then there are the mineral resources and transport infrastructure, for example, the construction of a gas pipeline stretching across Latin America, to which Russia might like to contribute," he said.
"The fact that we are now established in Venezuela benefits us, including in terms of contacts with its neighbors," Sudarev believes. "It is a regional leader. It would therefore be wrong to pull out of it voluntarily."
Abzalov argues that if Russia wants to retain its positions, it should put down strong roots in Venezuela and cultivate cooperation with other countries in the region - Brazil, Argentina and Chile. "The important thing now is to reach an agreement with Venezuela's elite, Chavez's potential successors and, as far as I am aware, contacts are already being pursued through defense and defense industry channels," he said. "We may soon find out about talks ongoing on exactly this."
Simonov, on the other hand, does not believe that Russia should invest tens of billions of dollars in the Bolivarian Republic and cherish dreams about a global partnership. It is better to spend the money on developing deposits in Eastern Russia. "Bizarrely, we have paid about a billion dollars just for the right to invest in Venezuela," he said.
The problem is that Russia, as it seeks entry into foreign markets, chooses the most roguish regimes as partners and consequently runs terrible political risks. "Projects in Venezuela are set to last ten years, not a year or two, and this is a period when something is bound to happen to Chavez," he argues. In countries like this, regime change equals changing project participants, yet Russia stubbornly walks into the same trap time and again, Simonov concludes.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Read more of this PMBComment!