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Chile Expresses “Respect” for Military Accord Being Negotiated by Colombia and the United States

By Dialogo
August 06, 2009

Santiago de Chile, 5 August (EFE).- The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, today communicated to her Colombian counterpart, Álvaro Uribe, who is traveling in the region, her country’s “respect” for the military accord that Colombia is negotiating with the United States. That is how it was explained to reporters by Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández, who attended Wednesday’s private meeting between Bachelet and Uribe, accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Jaime Bermúdez, in La Moneda Palace. “Bachelet repeated that Chile respects the sovereignty, the national interests, and the political decisions of every country on this continent, and in this case in particular of Colombia,” Fernández declared. “Why should we get ourselves mixed up in whether it seems good or bad to us that one country has a military accord with another? We respect it,” stressed the minister, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). Following the meeting, Uribe offered a brief statement to the press in which he expressed his “gratitude” to the Chilean leader, with whom he said that he had held a “quite significant dialogue,” and offered “a greeting full of affection to the brother nation of Chile.” Uribe, who visited Peru and Bolivia yesterday, left Santiago en route to Argentina and Paraguay, the next stops on his tour to meet with his South American colleagues, a trip which will end in Uruguay and Brazil on Thursday. With these visits, the Colombian president is seeking to explain to his peers the accord that his administration aims to sign with Washington to permit U.S. troops to use seven military bases in Colombia for anti-drug-trafficking operations. This accord has given rise to concern among the leaders of countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, and the Venezuelan head of state, Hugo Chávez, has even denounced it as a “threat” to regional stability. At present, the executives of Peru, Chile, and Paraguay - a country to which Uribe is traveling today - have already expressed their respect for Colombia’s sovereignty. Bolivian leader Evo Morales, on the other hand, yesterday repeated his rejection of the presence of U.S. troops in the region. “Permitting military bases in Latin America is an act of aggression against the governments and democracies of Latin America. We are going to defend Latin America’s sovereignty,” he declared. With regard to Bachelet’s own display of concern, Fernández explained that the president had already expressed her respect for sovereign decisions and had proposed discussing these matters “in the appropriate meetings,” if any country should so wish. “And the next such meeting is Unasur,” the foreign minister stressed. Uribe has already announced that he will not attend this summit, which will be held in Quito on 10 August and at which Bachelet will turn over the organization’s rotating presidency to Ecuador, with which Colombia has not had diplomatic relations since 2008. Following his meeting with Uribe yesterday, Morales announced that he will propose a resolution against the acceptance of foreign military bases in Latin America at the meeting. “You can’t single out one case without examining the whole context, and we are in favor of respecting all such accords, and in any case we have various forums and platforms where we can talk to one another in a civilized way,” Fernández said, alluding to this initiative. These forums could include the Organization of American States, the Río Group, or Unasur itself, where Chile’s chief diplomat stressed that “decisions are made by consensus, so that declarations can be issued on any topic on condition that there is a consensus.” In Lima, the first stop on his marathon trip, Uribe received the support of his Peruvian counterpart, Alan García, who said that the Colombian leader “has done a lot for Colombia and for the whole continent.” The president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, also affirmed today, a few hours prior to Uribe’s working visit, that “every country is sovereign” and can allow the presence of foreign military personnel in its territory or not.
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