Caracas , October 12, 2006 (Venezuelanalysis.com)— Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that the recent military cooperation agreement signed between Bolivia and Venezuela was not a threat to Chile’s national security but asked that all agreements are made transparently.
Bachelet said that the accord “doesn’t appear” to pose a threat. She continued by saying that, “The information I have is that it’s within what is normal defense cooperation between two countries.”
Regarding her request for transparency she said, “It’s good to be able to be transparent so there won’t be any kind of distrust among countries,” adding that when Chile has made decisions regarding its military it has done so transparently.
The agreement will involve Venezuelan financial assistance for the construction of new military bases along Bolivia’s entire frontier which borders five countries in all. These are Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
Bachelet’s announcement follows concerns raised by opposition voices in the Chilean Chamber of Deputies who claim to be alarmed by the “military build up” along its border. In an interview with BBC World, the President of the Defense Commission of the chamber, Patricio Hales, has said that the Venezuela-Bolivia agreement is “perturbing” appeared to place the blame on Venezuela while arguing that Bolivia would suffer as a result, “The Venezuelan government has not done Bolivia a favor with this decision. Rather, it has created a difficulty for them,” said Hales.
The difficulty to which he refers is the longstanding demand by Bolivia for a corridor through Chile to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia used to extend to the coast but it lost territory to Chile in a war in 1879-83. There have been no bilateral relations between the two countries since 1978 because of this.
Bolivia has categorically denied even that they are building military bases around its frontier. The Director of Bilateral Affairs from the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Calzadilla said there is nothing “warlike” about the agreement saying it was about improving logistics around the country,
“It has been said that we are going to build twenty military bases but there is nothing in this. Venezuela is going to contribute engineers and technical advice so we can have an alternative route to get our products from eastern Bolivia quicker and smoother [to Paraguay],” said Calzadilla.
Calzadilla also suggested it was Bolivia that should be worried about Chile’s military and not vice-versa, “In no way is Bolivia making acquisitions like Chile recently did, which has caused worry in Bolivia,” he said.
Calzadilla said that the root of the disagreement was Venezuela’s campaign for a seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Bachelet has indicated that she’ll support Venezuela and Calzadilla thinks the right is trying to make it difficult for her to support Venezuela by portraying it as a negative influence in the region.