Friday, March 10, 2006

A pot calling the kettle.............

This weekend Condoleezza Rice will visit Chile for the inauguration of a new president, Michelle Bachelet, a very 21st-century woman and, as a moderate socialist, very much like other democratic leftist populists emerging around the region. The Secretary of State said the United States has no quarrel with leftist leaders in Latin America as long as they govern well.

During her two-day trip to Chile, Ms. Rice will hold a host of meetings with Latin American leaders, including Bolivian president Evo Morales. Mr. Morales has confirmed he will meet this weekend in Chile with US Secretary of State at the swearing in of Chile´s new president.

It will be their first meeting, and one closely watched in Latin America, where Bachelet and Morales are the latest leftist politicians to win openly democratic elections.

''The United States has no trouble, no difficulty, dealing with countries from either side of the political spectrum,'' Rice said, citing Chile and Brazil as left-of-center governments that have good economic and other ties with Washington.

Morales said in interviews that in spite of U.S. claims to good relations and cooperation with his government, he has received "great aggression and provocation" from the United States administration.

The meeting’s agenda could include maintaining preferential US tariffs for Bolivian manufacturers and preservation of the Andean market for soy from the latter, threatened by Washington´s “Free Trade Agreement” with area nations.

Since his election, Morales has held a cordial phone call with President George Bush and asked the United States to reconsider a proposed cut in anti-drug aid to Bolivia from $80 million to $67 million. The United States did offer a small amount of humanitarian assistance in the recent flooding of rural areas that has claimed many lives and left thousands homeless.

Yet, just the mere presence of Morales is in itself a significant event and lies heavy with historical context. It is the first time ever has a president of Bolivia attended an inauguration in Chile.

The reason being that the two countries had engaged in a war in the nineteenth century (War of the Pacific - 1879-84), at the end of which both Peru and Bolivia were forced to cede territory to Chile. Bolivia turned over its Pacific coast province of Litoral and has been a landlocked nation ever since. The Bolivians continue to claim the area, known as the Atacama corridor, but the former governments of Chile have refused to negotiate.

Morales is scheduled to also have private talks with both the outgoing president of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, and Ms. President Michelle Bachelet. So many already have affirmed their most sincere congratulations and note an expressed ecstatic optimism of her ascension to office.

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