Nicolás Maduro’s highly publicized trip to China, Algeria, and Cuba also included his attendance to the last summit of the G77+China, an intergovernmental organization within the United Nations whose goals is to represent the collective interests of developing countries or the so called “Global South”, enhance their joint negotiating leverage on international issues within the UN, and promote South-South cooperation. And, in a world where the influence of the West has declined, autocracies like Venezuela can find a lot of space to associate with other nations under the protection of potential superpowers.
The Group of 77 was created in 1964 by 77 developing countries that signed the ‘Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries’ in Geneva. The organization’s chairmanship lasts for one year and rotates regionally (between Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean). Venezuela held the chairmanship in the biennium 1980-1981 and in 2002. For the sake of accuracy, the group should be named G134+China, considering that it has expanded since its creation.
This year, Cuba gathered more than 100 representatives from different nations at the Centro de Convenciones de La Habana, between September 15th and 16th. Well-known figures such as Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, Gustavo Petro, Xiomara Castro, Alberto Fernández, Luis Abinader, Mahmoud Abbas and Azali Assoumani attended the meeting and amicably greeted Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Li Xi, a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, represented China at the summit. António Guterres, UN Secretary General, opened the summit in the Centro de Convenciones: “The world is failing developing nations”, he said, and advocated for international equality for the Global South.
And Maduro, in a black suit and red tie, did encounter some “South-South cooperation” as the Argentinian and Honduran presidents demanded the end of sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela. In fact, he delivered a ten-minute speech for the occasion. In a flattering display of devotion, he called revolutionary Cuba “the epicentre of the resistance of the peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean” and Havana “the capital of the Global South’s families.” He added: “This is our home, this is our family, this is the space where we are all equal, where no one seeks to impose, dominate, exploit, scorn, or exclude anyone. This is the great family of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the family of the southern peoples.”
The implications of this summit are simple: doubling down on the anti-imperialist and anti-Western rhetoric to gain support in other regions that have a negative recent history with European colonial powers and the US. Cozying up with other anti-Western or sanctioned countries will benefit the economic and political survival of his regime
The G77 embodies the former colonized countries’ desire to build an alternative supranational architecture. As a counterweight to the G7, a forum of rich and democratic countries, it intends to introduce the Global South as a powerful actor in international affairs against the latter. It is another example of the contemporary pursuit of ‘politics of recognition’ of minorities and discriminated groups. Nevertheless, the group manifests internal contradictions and limitations. The term Global South, coined in the late sixties by the political activist Carl Oglesby, now refers to a heterogeneous and dissimilar group of countries such as Uruguay, Syria, and Vietnam. It is evident that after five decades, this group now includes some countries that have developed their economies and exert influence as middle powers in their respective regions.
Yet, Maduro can find leverage in such a block. The implications of this summit are simple: doubling down on the anti-imperialist and anti-Western rhetoric to gain support in other regions that have a negative recent history with European colonial powers and the US. Cozying up with other anti-Western or sanctioned countries will benefit the economic and political survival of his regime. It’s not only now-dried but once endless Chinese loans. It’s Iran alleviating Venezuela’s self-inflicted gasoline crisis, India seeking a debt-for-oil deal with PDVSA, Brazil’s billion-dollar exports to Venezuela, South Africa’s diplomatic support of Maduro during internal crises, Malaysia’s help in skirting American oil sanctions, Uganda and UAE’s role in trafficking Venezuelan gold, Syria and Algeria’s close ties or the support of most of Latin America’s new pink tide.
Additionally, the Maduro government can gain support from academic and intellectual circles in the North by presenting himself as a victim of neocolonialism and exploitation. He will surely find some ears and arms from people willing to confront the ‘global North.’ In fact, the Democratic Socialists of America sent a delegation to Caracas last year and the Black Lives Matter organisation has portrayed Maduro as an anti-racist leader.
Clearly, Maduro is getting gradually more comfortable in being surrounded by representatives in international summits while also normalizing his figure abroad, leaving behind the times when he encountered repudiation and isolation by a myriad of countries. In part, this is the result of academic concepts, like the Global South or the multipolar world, becoming a geopolitical brand where autocracies can find solidarity and compensate for sanctions issued by democracies.
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