Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s president-elect Rafael Correa met in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Dec. 21, where they spoke in support of a regional integration that goes beyond trade. “This integration must be based on a new model, on complementary coherence, replacing the absurd model imposed by the North of competing with one another,” Correa said, repeating his request that Venezuela return to the Andean Community of Nations and said one goal should be the fusion of that organization with Mercosur, the South Common Market. (Periodico 26, Cuba, Dec. 21)
Both leaders spoke strongly against the US-led War on Drugs in the Andean region. “The battle against drug smuggling has been an excuse that imperialists have used for several years to penetrate our country, trample our people and justify a military presence in Latin America,” Chávez told reporters at Caracas’ airport where he greeted Correa. “The big cause is over there, the consumption, the drug money, the banks that launder billions of dollars each year, but no one does anything about it,” he added.
Chavez also backed up Correa’s criticisms of US-contracted herbicide spraying in the Colombian rainforest along Ecuador’s border. “Colombia must look for other methods,” Chávez said.
Chávez said that relations with the Bush administration would be stalled until the US ambassador in Caracas, William Brownfield, retracted his charge that drug smuggling had soared in Venezuela since the government broke off cooperation with the DEA last year. Chávez accused Brownfield of a “great lie.”
Correa has also said he will refuse to extend the lease on the base in the Ecuadoran port of Manta, from where US air crews fly missions throughout the region. (Reuters, Dec. 21)
Correa abruptly canceled a visit to Bogota on Dec. 22, citing the herbicide spraying. “I couldn’t be visiting our sister nation of Colombia while they are bombarding us with glyphosate on the border,” Correa said. (AP, Dec. 22)