South American leaders unite behind Bolivia's Morales
BY GIDEON LONG
South American leaders rallied behind Bolivian President Evo Morales Monday night with a nine-point action plan at the conclusion of the emergency regional summit called to seek an end to the political violence convulsing the Andean nation.
The summit at the presidential palace La Moneda, which ended after about six hours of talks, backed the Bolivian government, warned it would refuse to recognize any type of coup or bid to redraw Bolivia's borders, condemned the occupation of state buildings, called on all parties to cease violence, condemned last week's massacre in Pando province and announced a UNASUR commission to investigate it.
''Let's hope that the opposition groups were able to understand this South American manifesto/. . . . I want them to know that the government and social movements are simply working to seek equality for Bolivians -- deep structural, social and cultural changes. It's important to have opponents, but opponents with proposals and not with violence, as is the case with some groups,'' Morales said at a press conference following the meeting.
In addition, the presidents announced a second commission, to be headed by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, to try to open dialogue between the Bolivian government and the anti-government groups. A third commission will offer logistical support to the Bolivian government.
The make-up of the commission that will travel to Bolivia to investigate the deaths in Pando will be decided next week by Bachelet in consultation with the other presidents.
The meeting broke up at about 9:50 p.m. The leaders came out one by one into the outdoor patio of La Moneda, where they were mobbed by journalists but had very little comment.
As they got into their limos, there was still a small group of leftists outside La Moneda waving green, red and yellow Bolivian flags and holding banners supporting Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The press conference started at 10:15 p.m. in a small patio in one corner of La Moneda. A seemingly upbeat Bachelet, dressed in red, spoke first and described the talks as "long but very fruitful.''
Morales, wearing a traditional Andean shirt, spoke after. Neither leader took questions.
The meeting was chaired by Bachelet in her capacity as head of UNASUR, a regional body set up to foster political and economic cooperation among South American nations.
In addition to Morales and Bachelet, the South American leaders present included Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay and Chávez of Venezuela. Peru decided to send its foreign minister, José Antonio García Belaúnde. Guyana and Suriname did not attend.
José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, also participated in the discussions.
According to the newspaper El Mercurio, the Chilean government's initial fears that the opposing views of Brazil and Venezuela could not be bridged did not materialize. Both presidents supported the final resolution.
Even though Chávez, Correa and Morales spoke against the United
States in their interventions, Bachelet managed to omit any mention of
the United States in the final declaration, the newspaper added.