Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UNASUR and Bolivia

Argentine President Fernández, Chilean Chancellor Alejandro Foxley, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Bolivian President Evo Morales at the UNASUR conference in Santiago, Chile

The five-hour UNASUR meeting in Chile on Monday seems to have produced some promising initial results. Evo Morales' government and the rebel leaders of Bolivia's "Media Luna" provinces have agreed to participate in mediation led by Brasil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

UNASUR expressed its clear and emphatic support for the Morales government's legitimacy and also for the territorial integrity of Bolivia against any secessionist aims of the rightwing rebels. The statement issued by UNASUR after the summit said clearly that Morales' mandate was "ratificado por una amplia mayoría" (ratified by a substantial majority).

Lula's position was critically important. Brasil would be hit very hard immediately by a cutoff of natural gas supplies from the "Media Luna" region of eastern Bolivia.

But it's not "only" economic interests at stake. UNASUR was formed to be a body of regional cooperation in South America without the participation of the United States. It's not an "anti-American" organization. But South American nations have had plenty of experience with dictatorships, often assisted by the malign influence of American governments. Chile and Argentina are still very much involved in cleaning up the human rights and economic messes left by their respective dictatorships.

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez joined the other UNASUR leaders in uniting behind Evo Morales' democratic government in Bolivia

Also at issue in Bolivia are the use by the rebels of foreign mercenaries and threats by Venezuala's Hugo Chávez to intervene militarily. Brasil also doesn't want to see a civil war raging on its western border, natural gas or not.

The Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), [English: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR] issued a report condemning the actions of the rebels, warning that the pro-oligarchy rebel leaders were endangering democracy and human rights throughout Bolivia.

UNASUR established a commission to investigate the 30 deaths that occurred during recent days' conflict in Prado.

Morales warned again after the meeting that the hydrocarbon oligarchs were attempting a coup against his elected government with the "Media Luna" revolt. His "fiscal general" (interior minister in European usage, attorney general in American usage) is bringing charges of genocide against the rebel government of Pando, Leopoldo Fernández.

It's safe to say that the democratic nations of South America have staked a great deal of diplomatic credibility on their support of democracy in Bolivia. If the rebels were looking for support from some of the more conservative governments there - though I'm not sure any of them right now count as "conservative" in the American sense - this meeting surely represents a big disappointment to them.

Sources and references:

A Matter of Morals, Not Morales: Respect Bolivia's Democracy! by Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, AlterNet 09/13/09

Los presidentes de la región respaldaron a Evo Morales ante la crisis en Bolivia Clarín (Argentina) 15.09.2008

Lula toma las riendas de la crisis boliviana El País (Spain) 15.09.2008

Bolivia: la Fiscalía General acusa de genocidio al prefecto de Pando Clarín (Argentina) 15.09.2008

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condena la violencia en Bolivia El Mundo (Spain) 15.09.2008

Unasur apoya a Morales y creará una comisión de investigación Cadena SER (Spain) 16.09.2008

Los líderes suramericanos dan su apoyo unánime al Gobierno de Morales El País (Spain) 16.09.2008

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