Brazil Wants South American Summit to Create Anti-Drug Council

US military in Colombia
Unasur, the Union of South American Nations, will debate the creation of four ministerial councils on narcotics-traffic, infrastructure, culture and education and social development during the summit hosted by Ecuador, which begins this Monday.

According to a release from the Brazilian presidency the four new councils will complement the existing ones on health and defense, which were created at the last summit in Costa de Sauipe, in northeaster Brazil, last December.

The Unasur summit takes off next Monday in Quito when Ecuador receives the pro-tempore presidency of the organization from Chile.

The creation of a Council to combat narcotics-traffic will enable the region to discuss how to counter the drugs trade "precisely when this issue and matters of regional defense have emerged in the regional debate," said Marcelo Baumbach, spokesperson for the Brazilian presidency.

"President Lula believes that the most appropriate forum for this discussion is Unasur, given its characteristics and the importance that the organization is gaining in solving the crisis in the region," added Baumbach.

The Unasur summit coincides with a serious controversy in the region following Colombia's announcement that it will allow the deployment of US forces in seven bases of its territory to help combat the drugs business.

Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia have been the most critical of the military understanding between Bogotá and Washington. Ecuador and Venezuela were excluded from the recent tour of South America by Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to explain details of the deal to his peers.

Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia in March last year following a military incursion against a camp belonging to the Colombian cocaine funded guerrilla movement FARC in Ecuadorian territory.

President Uribe and his Foreign Affairs minister Jaime Bermúdez have decided not to participate in the Quito summit next Monday.

The agreement with Washington includes the deployment of 800 US men and equipment in seven Colombian bases under Colombian Defense ministry control.

The move is partly consequence of the forced relocation of a similar agreement in the Ecuadorian Air Force base of Manta, but which President Rafael Correa, refused to extend.

The purpose of the Manta base was for US air surveillance and monitoring of the drug cartels in the region.

Under a long standing agreement between Colombia and the US, Washington can deploy up to 800 men in advisory tasks in Colombia; currently there are 200.

During this week's visit to seven South American presidents, Uribe received mixed support: from Peru, Paraguay and Chile's acceptance of Colombia's sovereign decisions, to Bolivia, critical of the decision; Argentina which downplayed the controversy; Uruguay that appealed to two basic principle: non interference in internal affairs and no foreign military bases in the region, and Brazil which proposed that the drug traffic issues be addressed by a special committee from the region.

Mercopress

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