Another summit is coming to Caracas

movimiento-de-paises-no-alineadosForeign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Oil Minister Asdrubal Chavez are making a quick tour of the Middle East this week, with visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. As they’re heading for Bahrein, looks like things are not going as planned.

The main excuse for the trip is “…the preservation and stability of the oil market”, which is strange because oil prices are stable – stably low that is. If Maduro’s previous tour back in January didn’t change the oil market around, yours won’t do either.

But that’s not the topic of this post. The point can be found right at the lede of this press article from the Oil & Mining Ministry’s website.

Get ready, people! From September 28th to October 1st, NAM is coming to Caracas. Ah… it’s not that “nam”, Dude!

I’m talking about the Non-Aligned Movement. What’s that, you ask?

It’s a group of nations not related with any power bloc. Based on a term used by India’s former PM Jawaharlal Nehru, the organization itself was born in 1961 and had between its founders some historical leaders like Nasser, Sukarno, Tito and of course, Nehru himself. Its purpose: to present an alternative to the two superpowers of the time: the U.S. of A. and the now-extinct U.S.S.R (1917-91).

But with the end of the Cold War, NAM has struggled to find a new purpose and some of its members have moved on. At the moment, 120 countries remain part of the Movement: most of them come from Africa, Asia and the Americas. But it’s important to point out that two of its largest members India and South Africa, along with two (of 17) observer  countries, Brazil and the P.R. of China, have sort of their own power bloc going on for quite a while, so there’s that.

Two countries who still hang around at NAM and still see it as useful are Iran and Venezuela.

The Islamic Republic hosted the last summit back in 2012, and sees the organization as a platform for its foreign policy. The Bolivarian Republic thinks the same thing, as the late comandante eterno believed in the concept of a “multipolar world”. More recently, NAM released a strong statement of solidarity and support for Nicolas Maduro against Obama’s recent Executive Order.

Interestingly enough, Venezuela joined NAM in September 1989, during Carlos Andres Perez’s second presidency and long before that it joined a loosely similar group, the Group of 77 (G-77) in the sixties (during the term of Raul Leoni). The country even presided such group twice: Once in the Pre-Chavez era (1980-81) and then again in 2002.

Which takes us to the issue of the upcoming summit. The decision was taken in Tehran three years ago and looks like the central government has no intention of either cancel or postpone the meeting. After all, back in the day, Chávez enjoyed hosting summits like the G-15 summit (a NAM sub-group) back in 2004 or the first CELAC summit in 2011.

As the last (and longest-serving) Foreign Minister Chavez had, Maduro understands that summits are great for PR, something he really needs now. The expectations he had for the recent Americas Summit in Panama went south thanks to the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement that overshadowed the occasion, and perhaps because of some other stuff. Beside the typical collection of guys like Mugabe, Obiang or Lukashenko, the thought of having India’s PM Modi or South African President Zuma here could help him to sell both the image of stateman and that Venezuela is just fine.

But there’s the cost (both financial and political) of spending lots on something that won’t bring any real benefits. There’s also the chance that it could either backfire or, even worse, be treated with complete indifference by many of NAM’s members and international public opinion.

One thing is completely certain: the world today isn’t like 1961. It’s not even like 2012.

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