FMLN continues to move forward on alternative trade agreements with Venezuela

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Last week the Venezuela government signed an agreement with a public, joint-venture company in El Salvador that will allow Salvadorans to benefit from Venezuela's offer of cheaper oil to poor countries or communities. Chavez offered this program to the Salvadoran government nearly two years ago, but President Saca insisted that the plan would not work, and later his cabinet ministers claimed that the Venezuelan government was lying about the offer. In the absence of government action, the FMLN created a non-profit entity, with the involvement of 20 FMLN municipalities, which will deal with the logistics of receiving and distributing the reduced-price oil and gas. One of Venezuela's main stipulations for receiving the oil program is that the price reduction be passed on to consumers and that it not stay in the hands of private, transnational oil companies.

Estimates are that this program will cover up to 30% of El Salvador's oil need, with 100,000 barrels a month. The discounted rate Venezuela offers allows El Salvador to have a long-term, low-interest period of 23 years to pay off 40% of the oil purchased. The reduced-rate oil for El Salvador, like Venezuela's PetroCaribe project and the reduced-rate heating oil for poor U.S. communities, is part of the Venezuelan and Cuban government's alternative vision for trade, laid out in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA, which promotes alternative kinds of trade relationships between nations that are beneficial to all. For example, Chavez has said that when El Salvador has reactivated its production, "we will look for the payment [on the oil] to be in coffee, sugar, industrial goods, and other products that we need." The FMLN, the social movement, and activists opposed to the U.S.-backed free trade model have long asserted that it is possible to establish an alternative kind of trade-relations that is beneficial to developing nations, not one that guarantees corporations' rights to drive down wages, labor standards, and environmental protections. Many people in El Salvador are enthusiastic about this FMLN-Venezuela agreement because directly benefits the population and because it proves the viability of this kind of alternative trade agreement.

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