Mayor strikes deal with Chávez

The point at which President Hugo Chávez decided that London should serve as a model for services and governance in Caracas was not immediately apparent. He came in May, visited City Hall amid much controversy and fanfare, and was soon gone.

But the result of his visit is likely to be an extraordinary deal struck with London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, that would see Caracas benefit from the capital’s expertise in policing, tourism, transport, housing and waste disposal.

London, meanwhile, would gain the obvious asset the Venezuelans have to give: cheap oil. Possibly more than a million barrels of the stuff.

South American diesel would be supplied by Venezuela—the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter—as fuel for some of the capital’s 8 000 buses, particularly those services most used by the poor.

The exchange arises from the high-profile offer Chávez made to London in May.
Since then officials have been meeting to bring the deal about.

Last week Livingstone confirmed that the agreement was in the making, and finer details were being thrashed out.

But opponents on the London assembly are unconvinced. Angie Bray, the leader of London’s Tories, dismissed the scheme as a “socialist propaganda fest’‘.

Mike Tuffrey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in London, said the deal smacked of aid, not trade. “This reduces us to the status of a Third World barter economy. We should be weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, not trying to get them at subsidised prices from Venezuela.’’—

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