South Americans Shouldn’t Be Distracted by US Military, Says Lula in Bolivia

Presidents Morales and Lula For the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva differences inside the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, are more "a matter of form than content" because "our main objectives are compatible and at the same time convergent," according to an interview in Bolivia's leading newspaper La Razon.

However the Brazilian president, who is visiting Bolivia this Saturday underlined that Unasur needs to find "common and coordinated answers to the challenges of security in the region, beginning with combating drug trafficking and organized crime."

"If we reacted in this way, we would have better conditions to overcome longstanding rivalries and differences, which even today are an obstacle to dialogue and the construction of joint solutions," added Lula.

More specifically, the Brazilian president said he wants to avoid any possible regression for the regional integration process from the controversial military agreement between Colombia and the United States, an issue he will be addressing with Bolivian president Evo Morales.

"The heart of the question it not to allow the bases issue, even when most delicate, to interfere or cause regressions in South America's integration; that's the message from Brazil to Bolivia."

During the last Unasur summit in Quito, Ecuador, Bolivia proposed that all countries which accept the presence of foreign forces in their territory should be expelled from the integration mechanism.

The Quito declaration mentioned no word about this proposal, in spite of Venezuela and Bolivia's protests, but it was agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting in Bariloche, Argentine Patagonia at the end of August to address the issue.

"The question of the US forces deployed in Colombian bases concerns, and very much, Brazil, since it's an element that aggravates tensions in the region, but Brazil also respects Colombian sovereign decisions as long as they are limited to Colombian territory," emphasized the Brazilian leader.

Looking ahead to the Bariloche meeting Brazil would like to see a "frank, pondered, objective" discussion on the US forces/Colombian bases issue.

"If the summit is well guided, the region's position for a bilateral dialogue with the United States would be so much stronger", he said.

Anyhow Brazil's main objective remains South American integration and avoiding situations which could set back the clock.

Regarding South America's possibilities of improving its profile in the world economic map, Lula called for greater competitiveness from production centers, which he described as "the solution" and the instrument to achieve it, "integration".

For that "we need a unified economic space, capable of overcoming the fragmentation of markets and regional infrastructure."

Lula and Morales bilateral agenda includes trade, gas supply, combating drug trafficking, infrastructure investments plus technological and scientific cooperation.

Bolivia, which holds South America's largest natural gas deposits behind Venezuela, has Brazil and Argentina as its virtually only clients.

"Brazil and Bolivia for all they share must always walk together," concluded Lula.

Mercopress

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