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Oiling up the Sahel

September 16, 2009

just sign on the dotted line

Hugo Chávez woke up feeling generous today, and has offered to build an oil refinery in Mauritania, no strings attached:

CARACAS – Venezuela plans to build a refinery in Mauritania to supply fuel to countries on the west coast of Africa, President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday.

Mauritania “produces 18,000 barrels per day of crude,” but “a transnational (oil company) takes it and it has to import gasoline,” Chavez said in a statement released by the Information Ministry.

How charitable! How selfless! And how coincidentally beneficial for the Venezuelan oil industry’s plans to expand into Africa:

“We have made a proposal to the Government of Mauritania … to build a refinery” in that country “to process not 18,000 barrels, but 30 or 40,000, to refine everything they produce, and if they cannot find more oil over there, to ship petroleum from Venezuela,” Chavez said.

Venezuela’s goal is to refine as much crude as possible in Mauritania and “distribute petroleum derivatives throughout the axis that passes through Mali, Niger and Gambia, all those countries, some of them allies of Venezuela,” the president said.

It’s just like in that song: first we take Nouakchott, then we take Niamey.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. hnnsbhrnbrg permalink*
    September 16, 2009 20:47

    word is aziz will fly to caracas next week.

  2. September 17, 2009 14:51

    Gambia? So anyplace outside French or US influence that has a coast. It seems the oil scramble is truly on.

    That said, I’d rather have Chavez than Chevron, BP, Shell, or ELF/Total in my country. Note that they want to refine (and sell) the oil there, something the west never does. It just passes out of the country, returning a segregated housing area for Europeans, a local prostitution boom, and payments to the President’s Swiss bank account. In Niger, the Chinese are building a refinery near Zinder to come on line when their first eastern Nigerien wells do. In both Chinese and Venezuelan cases, African clients develop local capacity and markets, not just a rentier economy.

    Now do they hope to suck _out_ raw materials as well? That’s capitalism for you, but Chavez’s plan looks the least like this model. Contrast with Chevron in Angola.

    More to the competence of the writers here, does this have anything to do with the TSGP that will reach the west through Algeria? Perhaps Libya would like to undercut that route?

    • September 20, 2009 20:19

      As per the TSGP, the ones who want to undercut it are the Russians, especially. The Libyans specifically, I think, are less concerned about it. In the case of Venezuela, I think there is a Russian connection in so far as Chavez is a Russophile and has put himself in as much of a “camp” the Russians have. But with this project in particular, I don’t think there is much that these Mauritanian ventures can do to “undercut” the TSGP, assuming the TGSP is actually what some think it will be (and there are many who think it isn’t, just like the solar project, but the Algerians, from what I can tell, are taking it very seriously, for what that’s worth). After all, the TSGP is aimed at Europe, not the Sahel, which it is planned to merely pass through. The strategic logic of the TGSP is to undercut Russian influence in Germany/Central Europe by providing a second big source for those countries. This is just Chavez making friends with fellow goons and beating his chest.

      It is also the Mauritanians following up on the short/medium term results and consequences of the junta (Gen. Ould Abdel Aziz’s) foreign policy through last year, which pushed Mauritania into closer relations with “radical” countries like Iran, Venezuela, Libya, etc. Right after the election, the Iranian FM visited Nouakchott offering social, economic and even military cooperation; his ties with Libya come from the same roots in post-coup isolation. The Mauritanians broke of their ties with Israel to get Libyan support (as well as Iran’s but the goal was Libya). So now you have the Mauritanians hanging out with all sorts of neo-Third Worldist goons, paying their dues for support after the coup.


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