President García travels to Ecuador for UNASUR Summit

Peru President Alan García left early today, August 10, for Quito to attend the Union of South American Nations Summit, UNASUR, and also the swearing in of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for another term of office under Ecuador’s new constitution.

When the UNASUR’s founding treaty was signed May 23, 2008, in Brasilia, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was elected president pro tempore of the organization for a period of one year.

During this year’s transference ceremony, to be held at San Agustin Chapterhouse – where the Ecuadorian Independence Act was signed two centuries ago – Correa will assume the UNASUR’s pro tempore presidency.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is the only head of state not scheduled to attend the meeting, due to the discussion UNASUR members will hold on Uribe’s decision to invite U.S. forces into Colombian military bases to run operations against the country’s narcotics industry and FARC guerilla.

The UNASUR is a political and economic community that integrates the South American continent’s twelve countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. The regional body aims to boost economic and political integration in the region, and some members hope UNASUR could become a regional version of the European Union.

The U.S. Bases Debate  — Last week, during President Uribe’s visit to Lima, President Garcia endorsed Uribe’s “fundamental work” in the region as a “democratic model for the continent to follow.”

“I believe that history will show us just how much President Uribe and his government have done for Colombia, but also how his forceful example has provided a democratic model for our continent,” said García after his 80-minute meeting with Uribe at the Government Palace. “President Uribe and the people of Colombia know just how much Peruvians love Colombia and how much we respect President Uribe’s pacification and development efforts.”

Uribe embarked on a seven-country South American tour last week, in response to widespread fears that an understanding currently under discussion with Washington would give the U.S. military long-term leases to at least four Colombian bases, although U.S. President Obama has denied any interest in following-up the invitation.

Although Uribe has the support of Peru, and Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said that the U.S. bases pact is a matter of Colombian national sovereignty, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Paraguay have been outspokenly against any such arrangement.

The U.S.’ main military base in South America was – until July 17, 2009 – at Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The 10-year agreement signed in 1999 was not renewed by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa who, after winning the presidential election, said that Ecuador would “negotiate with the U.S. about a base in Manta, only if they let us put a military base in Miami.”

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