Tuesday, September 16, 2008

South American leaders back Morales

Al Jazeera, Sep 16, 2008

South American leaders announced the “full and firm support” for Morales [Reuters]

South American leaders at a crisis summit in Chile have issued a statement strongly supporting Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, and rejecting any break-up of Bolivian territory.

The meeting, where the statement was released late on Monday, was convened as an attempt to resolve the political turmoil in Bolivia that has left at least 18 people dead.

In the statement the presidents of nine South American countries expressed “their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority”.

The statement was agreed by Morales and the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Cristina Kirchner, the president of Argentina, said after the six hours of talks that “the agreement was unanimous”.

Rebellious governors

The leaders also said they were looking at creating a committee to attend talks between Morales’s government and rebel governors in Bolivia’s east who oppose his rule and are seeking autonomy for their states.

They encouraged both sides to negotiate an end to Bolivia’s political crisis, which has disrupted natural gas supplies to Argentina and Brazil.

Morales accused his enemies at home of mounting a “civic coup” [AFP]

“After nine hours of debating, they came out with unrestricted supoport for the democratically elected government of Bolivia,” Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Santiago, said.”Morales came out saying … this proved, finally, that Latin America recognises and is ready to defend its democratically elected leaders.”

At least 18 people died and 100 were wounded in Bolivia’s northern state of Pando last week after clashes broke out between government supporters and opponents.

The South American leaders condemned the deaths in Pando and called for a commission to investigate allegations many of the victims were pro-Morales peasants shot dead in an ambush.

Morales’ government has said it will charge the rebellious eastern governor with genocide for allegedly ordering the machine-gunning of peasants, a part of Bolivian society that strongly supports him.

Coup claim

On arrival in Santiago, Chile’s capital, Morales accused his enemies at home of mounting a “civic coup d’etat”.

The summit statement said the presidents “warn that our respective government energetically reject and will not recognise any situation that attempts a civil coup and the rupture of institutional order and which could compromise the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia”.

“We hope opposition groups can understand this statement as being from all of South America, not just its presidents,” Morales said after the summit.

The violence in Bolivia has also sparked a diplomatic standoff between Bolivia and Venezuela on the one side, and the US on the other, with Morales and Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, expelling Washington’s ambassadors to their countries, accusing them of backing the opposition.

Washington responded by ordering the Bolivian and Venezuelan envoys to the US to leave.

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