Peru’s Garcia travels to Argentina for UNASUR Summit, Uribe expected to come under fire for military base deal

Peru President Alan García – the only South American leader to have expressed support for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s U.S. military base deal – left early Thursday to attend an extraordinary Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, Summit in Argentina.

The extraordinary meeting will take place on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009, in Argentina’s ski resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche, and will focus on expanding U.S.-Colombia military ties.

After snubbing the previous UNASUR meeting in Ecuador earlier this month when the deal drew immediate opposition from leaders throughout the region, Uribe agreed to attend the gathering in Argentina.

Though the Colombia-U.S. military base deal has yet to be sealed, Uribe provisionally consented to allow U.S. forces access to at least seven Colombian military bases to combat regional drug trafficking and to target terrorism, illicit smuggling as well as humanitarian and natural disasters.

So far, only Peru has supported Colombia’s decision.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales contended that the U.S. bases deal is not really about battling Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels or drug traffickers, and Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo argued that it does not contribute toward easing conflict and tension in the region. And, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez has warned of a coming “Yankee military force,” and said that the “winds of war” were starting to blow across South America.

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.”

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.

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