The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva suggested to his peer American Barack Obama that he should meet with South American leaders to address the announced presence of US forces in seven Colombian bases.
Given the coming Union of South American Nations, Unasur, summit in Argentina next August 28th to discuss the issue, Lula told President Obama in a telephone exchange on Friday how sensitive, for the whole region, was the announcement of US troops displayed in Colombia.
He further suggested some sort of legal security that the US military activity would be circumscribed to Colombian territory, Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim told the press corps in Brazilian capital Brasília.
"President Lula reiterated our position, pointed out sensibilities in the region, which are not small since it's not a matter of one country or another, it's our concern also given the proximity with Amazônia," added Amorim.
The Colombian plan to subscribe an agreement which would allow US troops to the displayed in Colombian bases has triggered serious criticism from several Latinamerican leaders, mainly from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez who warned about "winds of war blowing in the region".
Amorim added that Lula da Silva suggested a meeting of Obama with Unasur leaders to dissipate doubts. According to the minister Obama thanked Lula da Silva and said he would talk about the possibility of such a meeting with his advisors.
The two leaders also discussed the Honduras situation where constitutional president Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a coup and flown to Costa Rica by the military. Lula da Silva insisted with Brazil's position that Zelaya must be reinstated to ensure the rule of democracy in the region.
Obama apparently said that an OAS delegation would be traveling to Honduras in the coming days and following that "Brazil and the US would decide on the next steps".
But Unasur is not homogeneous about the Colombian decision: several countries consider Bogotá's attitude a "legitimate sovereign decision" (Peru, Chile, Paraguay) while others are particularly critical such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and even Argentina, which as Brazil is demanding guarantees about the deployment of US forces.
"President Lula da Silva believes that if the coming discussions in Argentina at the end of the month are well geared, the region's position vis-í -vis the US will be far stronger. That's the idea he will try to transmit to Bolivian president Evo Morales", said Marcelo Baumbach, presidential spokesperson.
In Washington the White House released a communiqué on the phone call between both presidents but does not mention a word about the bases. It simply says President Obama will be receiving Lula da Silva in Pittsburgh for the coming G20 summit at the end of September.
However Colombian Foreign Affairs minister Jaime Bermúdez was quoted in Bogotá stating that the agreement with Washington for US forces to operate from Colombian bases was "advancing" and discarded any "consultation" process with other South American governments in the coming Unasur summit in Argentina.
"We're not going to Argentina to consult about the cooperation agreement with the US. This is a fact. Negotiations have been closed, we're simply working on the legal adjustments of the understanding in each country, but we are going ahead", underlined Bermúdez.
"What we are interested in discussing is terrorism, arms build-up, illegal weapons trade, military cooperation agreements with countries outside of the region. We're committed to combat drug trafficking and terrorism and as we have signed an agreement with the US, we would like more cooperation accords with all countries of the region", concluded Bermúdez.
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