In Brazil, Morales Calls on LatAm to Expel US Envoys to Force End to Cuban Embargo

Lula and Amorim at Mercosur summit Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, who went to Brazil for a summit of 33 Latin American and Caribbean leaders, including Cuba's Raul Castro, said that Latin American nations should expel their US ambassadors until Washington lifts its decades-long embargo against Havana.

The US and Canada were not invited to this week's summit in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, which was aimed at deepening economic and political ties in the region, without American interference. The US wasn't allowed to send even an observer.

Morales, in September, had expelled the US ambassador from La Paz, accusing him of fomenting unrest. The US retaliated expelling Bolivia's top diplomat.

Together with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Morales has expressed hope that President-elect Barack Obama might end the Cuban embargo. Castro himself has discussed his interest in holding talks with the new American leader over the issue.

Obama, on the other hand, has said that he would be willing to talk with Cuba's leaders but that he would maintain the nearly 50-year-old embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the island.

Still the Shoes

The Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at the end of the summit at the Costa do Sauí­pe beach resort. joked about the recent incident in Iraq when George Bush was the target of a journalist's shoes:

"People, please, nobody should take their shoes off. Since it's too hot here, we'll notice before it can be thrown due to the bad odor."

A little earlier, the Brazilian leader had asked his colleagues to not be "servile" to the United States.

"I believe that often the subservient behavior in politics is what makes people to not get proper treatment and respect."

He then told a story that happened to him in 2003 during a G-8 meeting:

"I arrived and everybody was sitting down, I went and shook hands. Then when president Bush came in, everybody got up. But I together with Kofi Annan (then UN's secretary general) didn't get up. Bush came to greet us without any problem, without any difference.

Venezuela and Mercosur

By 265 votes to 61, Brazil's House of Representative approved this Wednesday, December 17, the admission of Venezuela to the Mercosur trade market, which now is comprised of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Those who voted against the approval argued that due to president Hugo Chavez controversial persona, the admission of Caracas could hurt commercial deals of the South American bloc.

Venezuela, however, will only be allowed into the group after the Senate also votes. Chávez, in 2007. after being criticized by Brazilian senators for closing the television station RCTV, compared the Brazilian Senate to "a parrot that repeats whatever Washington says" adding that the Brazilian Congress was controlled by the right wing.

The Lula administration was able to get the necessary votes only after agreeing with the opposition to vote subjects of interest of the minority, including the nomination of former senator José Jorge as minister at the TCU (Federal Audit Court).

The process to admit Venezuela to Mercosur has been dragging since July 2006, when that country was admitted provisionally to the bloc.

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