Lukashenko craves for retaining Belarus’ influence in Latin America
On March 7th – 8th, President Lukashenko went to Venezuela to attend the President Hugo Chavez’s funeral.
Minsk seeks not to lose its influence in Latin America after the Venezuelan President Chavez’s death. At the same time, the farewell ceremony created a setting for an informal meeting between the representatives of the Belarusian and the U.S. delegations.
Chavez’ funeral changed format – first it was planned to bury him on March 8th, but later to embalm his body - permitted President Lukashenko to take part in the ceremony. Previously Belarus was supposed to be represented by President’s Chief Executive and Chairman of the Belarusian-Venezuelan High Commission Mr. Sheiman and First Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Semashko. Farewell ceremony gathered more than thirty heads of states, raising it to the highest international level.
Lukashenko’s political goal during his visit was to ensure the continuity of the previous agreements between Belarus and Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. It is known that Lukashenko held meetings with the Presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Cuba as well as Venezuela’s Vice President and likely successor of Chavez, Mr. Maduro.
Finally, the U.S. delegation’s composition, announced on March 7th, suggested there could be a meeting with Belarus’ delegates Viktor Sheiman and Vladimir Semashko. In particular, one of the members of the American delegation was former chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives, William Delahunt. In October 2010 he held talks in Minsk with Prime Minister Sidorsky and Presidential Administration Head Makey.
Currently Mr. Delahunt heads a lobbying firm Delahunt Group, which, inter alia, offers consultancy services on international relations and economic development. Belarus could be interested in such consultations, bearing in mind its preparations for the “thaw” in relations with the West. However, there were no public reports about meetings between the Belarusian and American delegations.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.