Rio+20 revelation: US and Venezuela agree on polluting

Venezuela blames capitalism for global warming, but the country's delegation to Rio+20 allied with the US to block the Oceans Rescue Plan and fought against a deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Andre Penner/AP
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during the closing ceremony of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 22.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Caracas Chronicles. The views expressed are the author's own.

Last week in Rio, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (a follow-up to the historical Earth Summit of 20 years ago) went through without attracting the same attention of its predecessor. Few top world leaders attended and the final document left almost everyone unsatisfied.

Hugo Chávez was resigned to stay home this time, so he couldn’t repeat the Copenhagen experience of almost three years ago. But what about the Venezuelan delegation? Were they just passive observers or did they achieve something concrete? Not a bit of it…

Claudia Salerno, Deputy Foreign Minister for North America and head of the delegation, previewed the role of the Bolivarian government, days before the summit began:

“What is necessary right now is to review the deep causes of what causes the crisis of the planet… Capitalism is a model that is exhausting the capacity of Earth’s regeneration… and we [Venezuela] are part of the struggle against the predator of the planet that is capitalism.”

QUIZ: Hugo Chavez 101 – How well do you know Venezuela's president?

How her actions backed those ambitious words? Prepare to be surprised…

According to Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director for the enviromental NGO Greenpeace, Venezuela made a “sinful alliance” with the United States to block the Oceans Rescue Plan, a proposal made to fight pollution in the high seas and protect biodiversity. Canada and Russia joined to block that proposal as well.

That wasn’t the only thing that the Venezuelan delegation blocked. A specific deadline to end all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 was suppressed from the draft text by the objection of Venezuela and other oil producing countries. What else can be expected from the country that spends more on keeping its gasoline the cheapest in the World than it does on education?

The Bolivarian delegation also tried to hijack the meeting to discuss events in Paraguay and Salerno made headlines of her own by denouncing an attempt of aggression by a member of Greenpeace. The NGO denied Salerno’s claims.

Chavismo’s grandiose green rhetoric might not be so hard to swallow, if it wasn’t for its terrible, terrible environmental record at home.

Remember that big petroleum coke mountain in Anzoátegui? In less than a year it has almost doubled in size. Nearby, the number of oil spills in the Puerto Píritu Bay in the first half of the year has already surpassed the total number of spills registered on 2011. PDVSA can’t even be bothered to stop oil spills it knows are happening, even when they threaten to pollute thousands of people’s water supplies. Its overall environmental record is one long trail of tears.

Somehow, we have to take lectures on the unsustainability of capitalism from these guys!

Parece que para el medio ambiente no hay corazón venezolano…

– Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo is a writer for Caracas Chronicles, the place for opposition-leaning-but-not-insane analysis of the Venezuelan political scene since 2002

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