Monday, November 02, 2009

Rapproachement as Morales Challenges Obama

(digitalwarriormedia) A Bolivian delegation was in Washington D.C. last week to meet with U.S. State Department representatives as both countries negotiate a framework for reestablishing diplomatic ties.

It was the second meeting between the governments, whom have maintained fragile relations since the expulsion of their respective ambassadors in September 2008.

On Tuesday during a post-meeting press conference, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanaca told reporters, “We are close to reaching a framework agreement to achieve a constructive relationship."

Undersecretary for Democracy and International Affairs, Maria Otero called the ongoing talks a mechanism for seeking common ground in all areas of shared interest. “I am pleased with the progress,” said Otero, indicating that she looked forward to an agreement between the two countries in the near future.

The Bolivian government showed optimism for an improved relationship under the Obama administration. "Not everyone thinks alike. We all think differently. The challenge is to build good relations while accepting our differences," said Choquehuanca.

Despite these steps forward, Bolivia maintained its skepticism of U.S. policies within Bolivia and the Latin American region.

Over the weekend, President Morales rejected the military agreement signed between the U.S. and Colombia on Friday that grants the U.S. access to seven military bases and an increase of 1,400 personnel to fight local drug trafficking and “terrorists”.

Morales said this agreement is contrary to the progressive governments in South America and will not “guarantee security in the region.”

He questioned how President Obama could justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize while operating military bases in foreign countries such as Colombia. He criticized the U.S. supported military bases in Honduras that are empowering the coup instead of reinstating the democratically elected government.

Morales said Latin America is no longer “in the time of kings” and that “we cannot be in the time of American military bases.” He called on Obama to adjust the U.S. attitude towards Latin America as the region is living in a time of profound – yet democratic – change.

Nonetheless, while addressing specifically the meetings that took place in Washington, Morales expressed expectations that Bolivia and the U.S. will reach a “Draft Framework” and the normalization of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz in the coming months. "If the U.S. Embassy is meeting for diplomatic work and not for political work," said Morales, then his country can afford to have a U.S. embassy in Bolivia again.

The Bolivian government has long maintained that the U.S. meddled in Bolivia’s domestic affairs, even going as far as to operate an elite unit within Bolivia’s military and maintaining an "unofficial" office within the governmental palace in La Paz.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg was expelled in September 2008 following meetings held with the political opposition in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Morales declared Goldberg a “persona non grata” under suspicion that he was collaborating with opposition forces during a time of intense and sometimes violent political clashes. In retaliation, Bolivian Ambassador to the U.S. Gustavo Guzman was expelled.

Beyond normalizing diplomatic relations, other areas that will be addressed in the upcoming agreement are cooperation on drug trafficking and Bolivia’s status under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Bolivia’s trade benefits under ATPDEA were suspended by the Bush Administration in December 2008.

A U.S. delegation will travel to La Paz in November as talks on both sides continue.

Sources: ABI, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, MultiVu, Telesur



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