UNASUR Fails to Reach Full Consensus on U.S. Bases in Colombia

All defence and foreign
ministers of South America met yesterday in a Union of South American Nations
(UNASUR) meeting to discuss the situation of U.S. use of Colombian bases, and
also general regional security measures. The meeting managed to reach consensus
on three key proposals but Colombia
stalled agreement on two others.
By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com

maduro_carrizalez_ABN.jpg

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (at left) and Defence Minister Ramon Carrizalez at the UNASUR meeting (ABN)
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (at left) and Defence Minister Ramon Carrizalez at the UNASUR meeting (ABN)
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Mérida, September 17th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - All
defence and foreign ministers of South America met yesterday in a Union of
South American Nations (UNASUR) meeting to discuss the situation of U.S. use of
Colombian bases, and also general regional security measures. The meeting
managed to reach consensus on three key proposals but Colombia
stalled agreement on two others.

The
UNASUR conference, which took place in Quito,
Ecuador, was the
result of last month's special UNASUR meeting in Argentina where heads of state
decided to strengthen South America as a
"peace zone" and to hold yesterday's conference to come up with concrete
measures to increase trust and security.

Unlike
the meeting in August, yesterday's conference was not broadcast live. Coming
out of the meeting, the Ecuadorian representatives told the press that the
final document consisted of five central points: Exchange of military
information, transparency of defence spending, information and consultation
about military activities in border areas, consultation and cooperation around
unanticipated military action, and fulfilment of previous agreements.

Colombia did not
agree that military agreements with countries outside the UNASUR bloc should be
approved by it, nor on the demand for real security guarantees for the region's
countries regarding the U.S.'s
agreement with Colombia
to use its bases. Colombia
requested time to discuss the issues internally, before approving the final
conference document.

The
Ecuadorian ministers proposed a further meeting to discuss the points on which
consensus was not reached. They will decide the date for that meeting at the
end of the United Nations General Assembly next week. However, they stressed
the progress that was achieved, including an agreement that countries will hand
in all information concerning defence spending over the last five years.

Ecuadorian
Foreign Minister Fander Falconi also said the UNASUR meeting was important because
they had set up a resolute body to resolve South America's
internal problems. He said UNASUR "is newly created and achieving trust entails
a process," but it was becoming stronger and could now discuss issues without
consulting third party countries.

There
was also full support for the idea of increasing efficiency in border control
and adopting measures to impede the presence of armed groups in such areas.

Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez said the aim of the Venezuelan representatives at the
meeting had been to continue demanding that the Colombian government tell the
truth about the purpose of the increased U.S. presence in Colombia.

Venezuelan
Vice President and Minister for Defence Ramon Carrizalez was unsatisfied with
the meeting's outcome, and said that Colombia was paralysing UNASUR.

He
said that all members of UNASUR except Colombia were in agreement with
providing information required to maintain security in the region, saying
"trust starts with transparency."

Colombia, he said, "is
refusing to hand over information that that would provide a certain
transparency... this is creating concern over the true causes of the agreement
[with the U.S.
for use of its bases]."

Venezuelan
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that as a result of Colombia's
ongoing civil war, 4 million Colombians are living in Venezuela. "It's time for
a South American alliance for peace in Colombia, instead of an alliance
for war, so that no more guns or bombs arrive," he said.

During
an inauguration of a public school, Chavez commented on the meeting's outcome.
"The Colombian representative had the audacity to excuse themselves for not
presenting the document of agreement that they have signed with the United States,
saying they couldn't show it because they needed the permission of the U.S
government," said Chavez.

Chavez
said the Colombian government is isolating itself from UNASUR but applauded
that, "for the first time, governments are meeting and demanding that Colombia
explain what is in the agreement."

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