2 Jun 2008

No compassion from Boris

Dear Colleagues,

Boris Johnson last week announced he had cancelled the London-Venezuela co-operation agreement.

He falsely claimed that this was out of concern for Venezuelans. However, the deal was mutually beneficial to the citizens of London and Venezuela.

We outline below these benefits and the progress that was being made thanks to London's assistance.

All the best.

Gordon Hutchison

Secretary
Venezuela Information Centre

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The London-Venezuela Co-operation Agreement: The Facts
by the Venezuela Information Centre

The Co-operation Agreement signed between London and Venezuela came into effect on August 20, 2007. It was of potential great benefit to both sides. 133,000 of the poorest Londoners have so far benefited from half price travel under the scheme
and will now suffer from a doubling of their bus and tram fares once the agreement is cancelled.

From the outset, both parties agreed that London should focus on assisting Venezuela in developing plans to bring about long-term improvements in areas such as transport, city planning and the environment. It was recognised that these issues were of the highest priority to improve the lives of Caracas' citizens and that it would cost many millions of dollars to buy London's enormous experience and expertise in these areas at commercial rates. Depriving countries such as Venezuela of expertise and accumulated knowledge from the most advanced economies is one of the ways of putting pressure on them and depriving their citizens of the highest possible standard of living.

London, therefore, agreed to help in long-term strategic areas in which it had a proven track record of success, drawing on the world class expertise of its planners at Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority (GLA).

The long-term projects developed jointly by teams of experts from Venezuela and London included the reform of Caracas' transport system, the development of a transport strategy for the city, the designing of an urban development plan for Caracas and the elaboration of an air quality strategy for Venezuela.

Even though these are highly complex projects which take time to implement, significant momentum had been reached over the past months and all those involved were highly confident that tangible progress would be achieved by the time of the renewal date for the agreement at the end of August.

There were also a series of important short-term co-operation plans that were underway and scheduled for completion before the end of August.

In the area of transport planning these included an important pilot scheme to improve traffic congestion for a major urban transport corridor in Caracas, assistance with the designing of bus-metro interchanges along a new city metro line and a national road safety education campaign. TfL's top experts in traffic signals engineering, the planning of interchanges, marketing communications and traffic enforcement were directly assisting Venezuelan transport authorities and were scheduled to visit Caracas in the course of the month of May.

In the area of environmental planning there were also important short-term plans underway. Specifically, a delegation of Venezuelan environmental specialists had travelled to London in March and, together with their counterparts in the GLA, had drawn out a co-operation agenda for developing more efficient air quality monitoring and modelling methods in Venezuela. This would have been a crucial first step towards designing an air quality strategy that would have helped create healthier environmental conditions for Venezuelans. This agenda of short-term co-operation was also scheduled to reach completion before the end of August.

Unfortunately for Venezuela the new Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has chosen to disregard the terms of the London-Venezuela co-operation agreement which requires that London provide technical assistance as long as the agreement is still in force. Even if the new mayor has decided not to renew the agreement, the agreement stipulates that he should allow technical assistance plans to proceed until August 20th, when the agreement reaches its term.

Nevertheless, Johnson, as soon as he took over at the GLA, decided to cancel the scheduled visits of London experts to Caracas and, indeed, all of the assistance plans underway with Venezuela.

This clearly shows that his claims to have any concerns for the people of Venezuela are simply not true. The agreement was in the mutual interest of the people of Venezuela and London, its cancellation by Boris Johnson is against the interests of both.

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