Venezuelan and Ecuadorian Presidents Seal Friendship with Joint Declaration

Ecuador’s President Elect Rafael Correa arrived in Venezuela Tuesday to strengthen his friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and to sign cooperation commitments. Chavez also supported Correa in opposing Colombian drug fumigation along the Ecuadorian border.

Caracas, December 22,2006 (— Ecuador’s President Elect Rafael Correa arrivedin VenezuelaTuesday to strengthen his friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez andto sign cooperation commitments. The two presidents signed a joint declaration topromote integration via the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and forenergy cooperation. Correa also requested that Venezuela rejoin the trading group ofthe Community of Andean Nations (CAN).

The joint declarationthat Chavez and Correa signed promised to deepen political, economic, cultural,and social cooperation between the two countries. This commitment would befollowed up and formalized once Correa assumes the presidency in January 2007.

ALBA, whichEcuadoris now interested in pursuing, is Chavez’s proposal for regional integrationbased on fair trade instead of free trade, complementarity, cooperation, and solidarity.So far Cuba and Bolivia have alreadyjoined the project.

With regardto energy cooperation, Venezuelacommitted itself to train Ecuadorian specialists in the areas of oil exploration,production, transport, storage, processing, and commercialization. Also, the stateoil companies of the two countries, PDVSA and Petroecuador would create joint venturesin the area of oil refining, so that Petroecuador can modernize and increaseits refining capacity in Ecuador.Until this is underway, though, Venezuelawould offer to refine Ecuadorian oil in Venezuela.

Another areathat the two presidents committed themselves to cooperate in is the area ofcommunication, so that Ecuadormight soon join the Telesur TV channel. Telesur is the continent-wide progressiveLatin American news channel, which is currently supported by Venezuela, Cuba,Uruguay, and Argentina. Also,they discussed the creation of RadioSur, a new continent-wide radio network anda Latin American news agency.

Correareceived important backing from Chavez on the issue of Colombia’s drugfumigation along the Ecuador-Colombia border. Correa has complained about theprogram, saying that it is bad for Ecuadorian crops and people’s health. He cancelleda planned trip to Colombiauntil the country halts its spraying.

Accordingto Reuters, Chavez supported Correa’s position by saying, “The battle against drug smuggling has been anexcuse that imperialists have used for several years to penetrate our country,trample our people and justify a military presence in Latin America.”

After Correa’sextended meeting with Chavez, he appeared upbeat about the prospects of Venezuela’s return to the CAN. “The president is evaluating it [Venezuela’srejoining of CAN], and let’s hope we can move forward. I think that CAN has to be strengthened andfrom there we have to try to merge the two processes of integration in South America: CAN and Mercosur, said Correa.

Venezuela withdrew fromthe CAN earlier this year in protest against Peruand Colombia, both membersof CAN, for signing bilateral free trade agreements with the U.S. Correa said he understood the position of Chavez.“There is great disappointment about CAN. The results are very poor, the vision ismistaken…but with the will of the presidents that the Andean region is electingwe can change that situation,” he said.

Correa also visited the tomb of Simón Bolívar, the leader of the independencestruggle of the Andean nations (Venezuela,Colombia, Ecuador, Peru,and Bolivia) and who dreamtof a united Latin America.

“Who can doubt that we are one people on seeing the Latin American looksof those young people, on seeing the mixed race people, indigenous and brownthat said: Enough! to the years of exploitation, to give away governments, toimperial domination, to exclusory systems and to injustices,” said Correa.

Correa, who was briefly the Minister for the Economy in 2005, will beformally sworn in as president on January 15 next year. He is renowned for making fiery speechesagainst the USgovernment much like Chavez. In fact,when asked recentlyto comment on Chavez’s description of President George W. Bush as the devil hesaid that, “Calling Bush the devil offends the devil. Bush is a tremendouslydim-witted President who has done great damage to the world.”

He was elected presidentNovember 27 with 57.9% of the vote after running on a platform that promised torein in political elites. His opponentwas the conservative banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa.