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.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.