By Russ Dallen
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS -- Uruguay has offered an inactive base in the Antarctic to Venezuela. This will likely allow Venezuela to meet the requirements to join the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) as a consultative member, according to the Venezuelan government.
The Ambassador of Uruguay to Venezuela, Gerónimo Cardozo, invited the Venezuelan Government to send a scientific team next year to carry out the country's second expedition to the Antarctic.
“In 2008, a Venezuelan expedition traveled to one of the two Uruguayan bases at the Antarctic with the support of a Uruguayan ship and scientists,” said Ambassador Cardozo.
Cardozo explained that the ATS is an organization created to preserve the ecological balance of the planet and defend the Antarctic's territory from any violation of its sovereignty, restricting the activities there to peaceful missions.
“With Uruguay's support, Venezuela achieved its entrance to the Treaty, but under a non-consultative status,” Cardozo claimed. According to the ATS, Venezuela became an "acceding" member in 1999.
The signatory consultative members have the right to speak in debate and to vote at ATS meetings. To become a consultative member, however, the country needs to have built a base or or carried out "substantial" research there.
The Antarctic Treaty System's yearly Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) are the international forum for the administration and management of the region. Only 28 of the 46 parties to the agreements have the right to participate in decision-making at these meetings, though the other 18 are still allowed to attend. The decision-making participants are the Consultative Parties and, in addition to the 12 original signatories, include 16 countries that have demonstrated their interest in Antarctica by carrying out "substantial" scientific activity there.
Uruguay has been a Consultative Party since 1985.
Last month, Uruguay donated its satellite orbit space to Venezuela in exchange for 10% of Venezuela's first satellite's transmission capacity.
Venezuela had no rights to a satellite space on its own. At one time, the Andean nations -- Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela -- had hoped to launch a common satellite, first to be named Cóndor and then Simón Bolívar, but the project was never fully funded and the orbit reserved for their use is now used by a Mexican satellite.
"The agreement yields great benefits to Uruguay, which does not have the resources to make the investment, and for Venezuela, which does not have an orbit at its disposition," Venezuelan Science Minister Nuris Orihuela said at the time.
Meanwhile, trade between Venezuela and Uruguay has increased 240% in the last three years, says Cardozo.
“Venezuela has become Uruguay's seventh best trade partner in just three years. It is only surpassed by Brazil, Argentina, the Customs-free Area of Nueva Palmira, Russia, Spain, and Germany,” he said.
In 2005, when the current president Tabaré Vásquez arrived in power, trade with Venezuela was almost null.
“In 2006, Venezuela only represented 1.93% of Uruguayan exports. Nowadays, the trade has increased by 240%, reaching 6.56% by mid 2008,” says Cardozo.
Trade has expanded under an Energy Cooperation Treaty the two countries signed in 2005 after the election of leftist Tabaré Vásquez. The agreement allows Uruguay to pay its oil debts to Venezuela with goods and services.