Tension Rises: Brazil and Bolivia Take Off the Gloves

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is already in Vienna, Austria, to take part in the 4th Latin American-Caribbean-European Union (EU) Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government. This is the first visit to Austria by a Brazilian head of State.

During the two-day meeting, which gets underway Friday, May 12, dozens of representatives from the two regions will discuss ways to intensify cooperation in the areas of international trade, democracy and human rights, infrastructure, migration, higher education, culture, and science and technology.

Other topics are also expected to come up, such as the progress of negotiations on agricultural issues in the context of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, the war on terrorism, drugs and organized crime, growth and employment policies, and international cooperation to mitigate the effects of poverty and social inequality around the globe.

President Lula had no official engagements scheduled for Thursday when he arrived in Vienna. Upon arriving in the Austrian capital, he went directly to the hotel where rooms have been reserved for the presidential entourage.

Celso Amorim, Brazil’s Foreign Relation Minister, suggested that Bolivian President Evo Morales and Lula might have a meeting this Friday, May 12, after harsh words from Morales against Brazil (‘just talk no help’) and Petrobras (‘acting illegally in Bolivia’).

If the meeting doesn’t happen the Brazilian government intends to ask for an explanation for Morales behavior and an indication about the intentions of La Paz.

"We need to know the terrain we are walking on," said Amorim, adding that the Bolivian president’s declarations were completely unexpected and very different from what has been agreed between the two countries. He also revealed that the Brazilian government was indignant at Morales’s declarations.

Morales not only accused Petrobras of "illegal activities" in Bolivia, but also informed that his government has no intention of paying compensations to the Brazilian oil company.

The Bolivian President went as far as criticizing the purchase by Brazil of the state of Acre, which used to be Bolivian territory. According to Morales, Brazil paid the land with a horse.

Commenting on that, Amorim said, "Acre’s problem was solved 100 years ago. And it was solved by the patron of our diplomacy, Baron of Rio Branco."

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