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Lula Sees Peace and Harmony Between Colombia and Venezuela

Presidents Santos and ChavezAfter meeting with the president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, at the Industrial Federation of São Paulo (Fiesp), Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that he believes Colombia and Venezuela will reach an agreement on peace and move ahead in harmony.

As for the question of Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, the FARC, Lula declared that it was an internal, domestic problem.

“If another country, like Brazil or Argentina, or any other, wants to help, that help should only be forthcoming if Colombia asks for it. If Colombia does not ask, it [the FARC] is and remains an internal Colombian problem to be resolved by Colombia,” declared Lula.

Mauricio Funes is on an official visit to Brazil. His wife is Brazilian. Many years ago, when she lived in Brazil, she was active in the PT – president Lula’s political party.

Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Juan Manoel Santos of Colombia say they have “turned the page” on their latest diplomatic crisis.

Following talks that lasted four hours, in the city of Santa Marta, Colombia, where Simon Bolivar died, Chavez and Santos announced that a development commission will be established for the region along their common border, promising to exert greater control along that border, halting the transit of armed groups, and that the area will be monitored by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

And the two presidents restored all political, diplomatic and commercial relations between their countries.

Another commission will deal with the sticky problem of an US$ 800 million debt Caracas has with Colombian private corporations.

“Thinking of the future of our people and our countries, we have decided to move ahead slowly, but with firm steps at a steady pace,” said a joint declaration.

As for the immediate cause of the latest crisis, accusations by Colombia that Venezuela was providing FARC guerillas a safe haven, Hugo Chavez declared: “The Venezuelan government does not and will not aid Colombian guerillas. And you can believe that.”

Chavez went on to call the accusations against his government “an infamy,” but admitted that irregular crossings of the long Colombia/Venezuela border (over 2,000 kilometers) did occur.

“If I were a leader of the Colombian guerillas I would do all I could to achieve peace,” said Chavez, adding that he had asked Santos to avoid listening to gossip and establish solid lines of communications so further crises could be avoided.

Santos, meanwhile, praised the promise by Chavez to deny assistance to armed groups. “It is essential that our relationship has a solid foundation,” said the president of Colombia.

The only note of disagreement was when Chavez said the Organization of American States was partially responsible for the crisis and that he considered the new Union of South American Nations – UNASUR – “an adequate place” to deal with South American problems.

Chavez praised Nestor Kirchner, the UNASUR secretary general, for his presence at the Santa Marta meeting.

However, Santos then repeated the position of the former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, that the presence of UNASUR did not exclude the presence of other organizations. This was a clear reference to the Organization of American States where Colombia has its staunchest ally, the United States.

The recent Colombia/Venezuela crisis was hard on the economy. It is now estimated that bilateral trade this year will not exceed $1.2 billion, down from $6 billion in 2008.

Iran Sanctions

Meanwhile, president Lula signed a decree adhering to the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council against Iran. In announcing the decree, Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, emphasized that the Brazilian government was signing on to the sanctions reluctantly only because the country complies with international rules. Brazil considers the Iran sanctions “inopportune and counterproductive,”said the minister.

According to Amorim, “President Lula signed the decree because Brazil has traditionally complied with Security Council resolutions, even when we do not agree with them, because we are faithful to the ideal of multilateralism and opposed to unilateral decisions.”

Amorim went on to criticize the United States and the European Union for their [further] unilateral sanctions against Iran saying that isolating Iran did not contribute to the effort to find a peaceful solution to the problem.

“Isolating a country just makes everyone a little more radical. And the sanctions punish only the poor and vulnerable as we saw in Iraq. They also hinder commerce,” declared Amorim, adding that the decree signed by Lula “will not have a lasting effect on Iran – Brazil relations.”

ABr

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