Caracas, July 13, 2004—All five presidents of the Community of Andean Nations (CAN), including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, signed The Quito Act in support of Venezuela’s proposal for a humanitarian fund, as well as expressing interest in Venezuela’s social programs, particularly in health and literacy.
The Venezuelan proposal was included in point 23 of The Quito Act. “We support the initiative for the creation of the International Humanitarian Fund begun by Venezuela to encourage the realization of effective aid to programs of regional development.”
Venezuela’s social programs were an item of interest in the Social Agenda of The Quito Act, where the Andean leaders agreed to look into Venezuela’s achievements in health and literacy programs. “We are very interested in the offer by the government of Venezuela for the Andean associates to know the content, the formulation, and results of the different social programs (Missions) put into practice in different areas of social development, especially relating to basic medical attention (Programa Barrio Adentro – Inside the Barrio program) and the struggle against illiteracy (Mision Robinson – the Robinson Mission).”
The presidents of the Andean countries agreed to tackle the problems associated with poverty through a strategic plan called “Integration for Development” via the better distribution of wealth and to increase employment opportunities. The leaders agreed to advance the fight against drugs, with cooperation in terms of health, work, migration, education, commercial exchange, agricultural sector development, tourism and the environment.
The Quito Act also includes the establishment and development of an Andean Zone of Peace, where all nations agreed to keep their nations free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and where conflicts can be resolved peacefully.
The Quito Act specifies that this zone of peace should respect the values, principles and practices of democratic political and institutional systems of the member countries and of the entire region, respecting justice, unity, and social equality.
The organization of Andean countries agreed to continue the fight against drugs while confronting the social problems associated with the illicit drug problem. Cooperation with the European Union in its international fight against drugs is set to continue.
The Quito Act specifies the following points:
- The creation of a Andean Plan of cooperation against terrorism.
- To advance an agreement between the CAN, MERCOSUR, and Chile. There will also be a free trade agreement with the European Union.
- Agreement and dialogue of cooperation between the Andean Community and the European Community.
- To allow the negotiation of commercial agreements with third countries, giving the green light to nations that wish to pursue free trade agreements with the United States for example.
- The approval of a program to distribute the Andean Charter for the promotion and protection of human rights.
- Cooperation of the member countries in areas of education, culture, science, and technology.
- To adopt an Andean Plan for the fight against drugs.
The Quito Act supports the strengthening of democratic institutionalization in Venezuela and Bolivia and supports the presidential referenda to be held on August 15 and July 18 respectfully.
On the economic front, the Andean countries have given priority to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States over Andean economic integration largely due to bilateral negotiations already taking place between Colombia, Ecuador and Peru with the United States. [The FTA encompasses only the Andean counries and the U.S. and should not to be confused with the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is for all of the Americas.]
The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez reiterated his country’s opposition to the FTA. Chavez said that before making agreements with other countries, the Andean region should take firm steps towards the integration of South America. Chavez pointed to Mercosur as an example of common economic integration, while proposing specific programs towards this integration and the goal of a united South America.
“We are interested in MERCOSUR, where we have already integrated. We are interested in finding an alliance of CAN with Mercosur to create a Block of republics of the South, to create the United States of South America,” President Chavez said.
“We came to debate a proposal that is not new. We insist on the integration of the energy sector, in a South American bank, in a South American channel to avoid the influence of large networks, to nurture the idea of a humanitarian fund to push forward the social struggle to unite against illiteracy and global poverty,” Chavez said.
While Venezuela’s proposal for an International Humanitarian Fund has been approved, president Chavez challenged the Andean presidents to reevaluate their position in favour of a free trade agreement with the United States before the social and economic integration of the Andean region.
Chavez also issed a strong criticism of the Andean Community, saying, “We are living in a crude reality on this continent. The Andean Community should look at itself profoundly, this is the sixth summit that I have had the good fortune of attending and crudely I tell you very sincerely, we do not see that we are moving forward. On the contrary, be aware that we are moving backwards.”