Non-Aligned Movement Summit meets in Venezuela as global capitalist crisis deepens
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held its 17th summit Sept. 17-18, on Margarita Island, in the state of Nueva Esparta, in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to mark its 55th anniversary. Its theme was “Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development.

By Abayomi Azikiwe 

Over 120 nations attended, including many heads of state, amid a growing economic and security crisis for oil and commodity producing regions. Venezuela has lost revenue due to U.S.- induced overproduction of petroleum resources.

Venezuela, Nigeria, Brazil, Angola, Ecuador and other countries are experiencing economic difficulties, which in some cases have resulted in political instability. The United Socialist Party in Venezuela is facing profound challenges to its authority by a U.S.-supported opposition coalition.

The summit’s concluding declaration said the nations and governments represented were “mindful of the fact that the history and reality of [today’s] world … demonstrates that it is the developing countries … who suffer more intensely from the disregard of international law, from invasions, from the ravages of war and armed conflicts, caused mostly by the geopolitical interests of the great centers of power, as well as from protracted conflicts inherited from colonialism and neocolonialism.”

These words reflect the burgeoning international crisis of internal and external displacement in recent years, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says has reached an unprecedented level.  The UNHCR reports that by the end of 2015, 65.3 million people worldwide had been forced away from their homes. In this population, approximately 21.3 million were refugees; more than half were under the age of 18.

so i recently found out that #blackout is not the only rad black thing happening today, as it is also Ghana’s independence day. shouts out to Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, founding member of the Organisation fo African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement (one of the dopest things to emerge during the cold war).

Russia receives hopeful signals from Iran on oil prices

Moscow, Sep 19 (IANS) With Russia having agreed with OPEC member Saudi Arabia earlier this month to cooperate to limit future oil output, news that Iran would support moves to stabilise the global oil market and lift prices will come as music to a Russia beleaguered by the fall in oil prices.

“Instability and falling oil prices are harmful to all countries, especially oil producers,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Rouhani was quoted as saying by the Iranian oil ministry news agency SHANA, following a meeting with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Sunday on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Venezuela.

“Tehran welcomes any move aimed at market stability and improvement of oil prices based on justice, fairness and fair quota of all the oil producers,” Rouhani said.

Iran, a member of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has been ramping up production to its pre-sanctions levels despite the recent supply glut, which has been pulling down prices.

Oil prices fell by more than two-thirds - from over $100 a barrel to under $30 - between June 2014 and January 2016. Prices have recovered somewhat this year, rising to nearly $50 in May, before dropping to just over $40 a barrel in recent weeks.

Next week, Algeria is to host meetings of the International Energy Forum and the 13-nation OPEC. Russia is not a member of the cartel.

With latest exit polls here showing the ruling United Russia party led by President Vladimir Putin poised to win over 50 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s elections to the Russian parliament, this news is more music to Putin’s ears with the economy in recession.

The Russian economy is deep into a recession with Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in decline for the sixth consecutive quarter.

After the sharp economic downturn from late 2014 and early 2015 brought on by lower crude prices and continuing international sanctions over its conflict with Ukraine, the decline gave way to the current stagnation where indices are at near zero, with GDP hovering around 0.5-0.7 per cent.

The Russian Finance Ministry has already had to borrow thrice from the country’s reserve fund this year to support the economy, while it is estimated here that at the current rate, those reserves will touch rock bottom by mid-2017.

It is also estimated that the $72 million National Wealth Fund, built up when oil prices were high, could be depleted in 2017-2019.

According to the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting here, with only a slight rise in real wages, consumer spending is down as citizens avoid making major purchases.

The 2011 elections took place with oil at $100-plus a barrel, a growing economy, indexed pensions, and a balanced budget. In 2016, oil is ranging around $35 to $45, Western sanctions continue against Russia, the ruble is falling, double-digit inflation, unpaid salaries, and sharp budget cuts.

The price of the OPEC basket of 13 crudes closed trade on Thursday at $41.67 a barrel.

Within a short time-frame recently, there have been a Metro workers’ strike here, protests over unpaid teachers’ wages in Murmansk, and a ten-day truck drivers’ strike against new taxes.

This edition of the quinquennial elections to the Duma have come at a momentous time, with Russia also having concluded an agreement last week with the US on a ceasefire in Syria, paving the way for new talks on the latter’s future.

Meanwhile from Monday, the Russian capital will for the first time host the 33rd annual International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) Conference following its selection as the venue after a global competition.

Over 1,500 participants from 70 countries are expected at the conference here, including technopark representatives from Russia, the US, Spain, Britain, Brazil, South Korea, China and Sweden, among others.

The conference here is being organised by the national innovation fund, the Skolkovo Foundation, which was created in 2010 by the Russian government for accelerating the country’s transformation from a resource-intensive to an innovation-based economy.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at



Venezuela’s Resort Island Devastated by Economic Crisis

AP, Sept. 16, 2016

MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela–This resort island was once mobbed with international tourists who loved the sparkling blue water, fine white sand and flawless sunny days. Now, swimming pools are empty, toilets don’t flush and many hotels can’t afford to offer meal service.

Crisis-wracked Venezuela gave the island community of 600,000 a last-minute cleanup to host leaders from the developing world for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. But all the attention can’t hide the steep decline the island has suffered as the socialist country sinks into economic and social collapse.

One of the most maddening problems for locals is daily water cuts government critics blame on lack of infrastructure maintenance. Hotel manager Luis Munoz says he counts himself lucky to see running water every two weeks.

Munoz left his job as an engineer six years ago to open a colonial-style hotel on the beach here with 46 rooms. Until recently, he was doing well, catering to international tourists, well-do-to Venezuelans and groups of schoolchildren on government-sponsored trips.

Now, every day has become a struggle.

“The important thing is to get by; that’s what we focus on,” he said, standing in his hotel lobby without a guest in sight.

Overall hotel occupancy has fallen to 35 percent this year, according to the local tourist board. Flights into the island are down 50 percent. The crash has been devastating to people working in tourism, who are also grappling with the severe shortages and raging inflation plaguing the rest of the country.

Like most Venezuelans, Munoz, 42, passes hours each week waiting in lines to try to buy basic goods at subsidized prices.

The few guests who still book his rooms must pack in their own soap, towels and even toilet paper. He manages to keep his hotel’s murky pool filled from a well. But food shortages have forced him to suspend meal service.

“How can you offer breakfast if you don’t even know what you might find to eat for breakfast yourself?” he said.

From the outside, the site that will host the summit, the Hotel Venetur Margarita, still looks like it could be a five-star hotel in Miami or Aruba. It was once managed by Hilton International, and in 2009 housed the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Former President Hugo Chavez later expropriated the hotel. Last month, water cuts put the lobby bathrooms out of service. Workers placed jugs of water in the bathroom for guests to wash their hands.

International tourists have begun to shun Venezuela in recent years as it has become one of the most violent countries in the world, and a complex currency system makes it difficult to change money.

A decade ago, 40 percent of Margarita Island tourists came from abroad, according to Chamber of Tourism President Igor Viloria. Now just 4 percent of tourists are international.

And while many Venezuelans continue to spend weekends on the beach, few can afford a plane ticket and hotel. Instead, more people make day trips to the coast, or camp out overnight to save money.

That’s left the business community here reeling, with no help in sight.

As recently as two years ago, the beach was filled each day by throngs of tourists. At night, they packed into the 200 restaurants that once lined the waterfront promenade.

Those shops were bulldozed by the government in 2014 to make way for a larger tourism revitalization effort, but that project has been beset by delays, and today the beach is desolate.

“It’s really been a blow,” Gonzalez said. “We used to have so many tourists, and now we have nothing. We’ve never seen anything like this.”