Summit in Venezuela: “Accelerate South American Union”

The summit between the presidents of Colombia, Spain, Venezuela, and Brazil ended with an agreement to coordinate in the fight against international crime, against poverty, and for South American Integration.

Presidents Uribe of Colombia, Zapatero of Spain, Chavez of Venezuela, and Lula of Brazil posing following their summit in Venezuela.
Credit: Prensa MCI

Caracas, Venezuela, March 30, 2005—During a summit held in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ordaz, Brazilian, Colombian, Spanish and Venezuelan leaders strengthened political alliances, pledged to combat terrorism, drug-trafficking and poverty, and, in words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, draw a “new geopolitical map…to counterbalance the global dominance of the United States.”

“This meeting has the objective of evaluating the situation of our countries and looking for solutions to accelerate the South American integration project as a geopolitical component that we are driving forward with our souls, because it is the only path that we have: the Latin American Union,” affirmed Chávez.

The four nations agreed that the South American Community of Nations will be an important mechanism to promote political coordination and economic, social and cultural integration to further project South American interests into the international scene. Recent coordination between CAN (Community of Andean Nations), MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South) and the European Union was acknowledged as fundamental in strengthening regional integration working toward this goal. Chávez took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of a common currency as well as several other integration mechanisms are vital for Latin American integration.

After reiterating his support for Latin American unity and praising regional efforts in Cuzco, Peru for the formation of the South American Community, Lula, whose government recently announced that it would not be renewing an IMF loan, asserted that, “all we want to do is occupy our space in the world, show respect for all nations but also wanting to be respected by them.”

The Heads of State then evaluated progress with respect to the strengthening of ties between their countries and renewed their commitment to deepen the dialogue and the political coordination in shared areas of interest. They pledged support for the creation of a multi-polar world, respect for sovereignty and for international human rights treaties.  Although they recognized the fundamental role of the United Nations in preserving peace and international security, they affirmed that the international body, in particular, the UN Security Council, needed to be reformed, and decided to coordinate their views in several upcoming international forums.

Drug Trafficking, Terrorism and Border Security

Highlighting the grave dimensions of the Colombian conflict, Uribe pleaded with this counterparts to take a stronger stance on drug trafficking and terrorism. “We won’t resolve a problem of this dimension without the help of our neighbors.” asserted the Colombian President.

He received a positive response, as all four Heads of States affirmed that terrorism and drug trafficking are grave threats to democracy and security around the world, and pledged to coordinate joint efforts between national authorities within the bounds of international law. The International Agreement for the Repression of the Financing of Terrorism and Resolution 1373 of the Security Council were pointed to as valuable tools to combat terrorism efficiently and to punish those who commit such acts.

Although Zapatero has taken heat from both opposition parties in Spain as well as political opponents of Chávez, his government is contemplating a 1.7 billion dollar sale of military equipment to both the Venezuelan and Colombian governments. The Spanish Prime Minister explained that the sale is in the best interest of all parties; it will create jobs Spain, support Colombian-Venezuelan border security and reduce shipments of cocaine to Spain, Europe’s largest consumer of the drug. The military equipment includes: ten C-295 transport planes, four coastal patrol corvettes and four smaller coast guard patrol boats, which according to Spanish officials, “will not have any offensive capability,” and designed for, “civilian uses and could be incorporated for use by forces such as the coast guard or police.”

While US officials have yet to comment on these possible purchases, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among many other US officials questioned Venezuela’s motives in recent arms purchases from Russia and expressed fear that these weapons would wind up in the hands of terrorists and other regional destabilizing forces. Although Lula, whose government is selling Venezuela Super Tucano light-attack propeller planes, refrained from specifically mentioning the US, he defended Chávez in the face of “slander and insinuations,” asserting that Venezuela, “has the right to be a sovereign country and to make its own decisions.”

Although the four nations reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism, they acknowledged that it has as wide array of origins and motivations, none of which are justified.

Poverty: the “Most Powerful WMD in the World”

Poverty was also high on the Summit’s agenda. The Heads of State agreed that in addition to impeding the entire regions of people from having a dignified life; poverty obstructs development and is one of the major causes of destabilization in the world.

According to Lula, “poverty is the most powerful weapon of mass destruction that exists in the world.”  He noted that in spite of scientific and technological advances, and government programs, poverty has yet to be mitigated, let alone eradicated. Upon urging his fellow counterparts to work towards promoting a more just multilateral system of trade, Zapatero proposed creating an education for debt exchange, and Chávez reiterated his suggestion first made at the Monterrey Summit, of creating an International Humanitarian Fund.  The four nations voiced their support for the Brazilian candidate for the Dirección General de la Organización Mundal de Comercio (OMC), due to his awareness of and commitment to solving the problems faced by developing countries.