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Bachelet under pressure
by Progreso Weekly staff    Progreso Weekly
Entered into the database on Sunday, June 04th, 2006 @ 11:04:59 MST


Untitled Document

Face of US Diplomacy (photo:Thomas Paine's Corner)

Bush wants Chile to shun Venezuela

With an arrogance bordering on intimidation, the administration of George W. Bush wishes to impose its will onto Chile's sovereignty and force that country to impede Venezuela's admission to the United Nations Security Council.

That attempt came to light on Sunday, April 28, when the Chilean daily La Tercera published a report -- based on Chilean diplomatic sources -- titled "White House Ultimatum." Progreso Weekly has translated that report and summarizes it here. Words [in brackets] are PW's clarifications.

Venezuela’s Chavez with Chile’s Bachelet. White House wants to prohibit the friendship.(AP photo)

During a visit by Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley to the U.S. State Department on April 21, "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice devoted an overwhelming proportion of her meeting with Foxley to only one issue: Venezuela's candidacy to the United Nations Security Council," La Tercera reported.

"She differentiated this issue from all other regional and multilateral decisions and said its singularity is that 'it aims at the heart of U.S. interests.' Foxley attempted to explain that Chile must consider the opinions of its neighbors and that, in any case, has not yet made a decision [...] but the Secretary of State was unequivocal: the United States 'will not understand' a vote by Chile in favor of Venezuela at the Security Council."

Bush's choice: Guatemala

In October, the General Assembly of the United Nations must choose the five new rotating members who will join the Security Council on Jan. 1, 2007. The Council, which oversees global stability, is composed of 15 countries. Five of them (the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain) are permanent members; the other 10 are elected for two years but change alternately, in groups of five.

Latin America is entitled to two seats, now occupied by Peru and Argentina, but the latter must abandon its sea on Dec. 29. Venezuela wishes to occupy the vacant seat, but is challenged by Guatemala, the United States' unofficial candidate.

Traditionally, the selection is made by the members of GRULAC (the group of Latin American and Caribbean nations) and that makes the vote at the Assembly General a mere formality, because the other countries respect the regional consensus. Therein lies the importance of Chile's vote.

The rules also establish that if two or more nations from a region insist on their candidacy until the end, the dispute must be settled by the United Nations' 191 member countries.

Chile might be 'a loser'

In her conversation with the Chilean foreign minister, Rice warned that, if Chile supports Venezuela, "Chile could fall into a group of losers, against the feelings of the United States, Mexico, part of Central America and almost all of Europe. Rice referred to the decisions the Security Council might have to adopt regarding Iran and stressed the 'provocative' friendship [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez has developed with the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadineyad [...] who now challenges the White House with a continuation of his nuclear program.

"The Secretary of State paid little attention to the other topics on Foxley's agenda. [...] Nor did she embark on a deeper examination of the free-trade treaty [between Washington and Santiago.] Her message was: The entire bilateral agenda will be easy if Chile does not vote for Venezuela, but very difficult if it does.

More than a warning, a threat

"A lot worse was the Chilean minister's meeting with Under Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who openly displayed his skepticism toward the policy of prudence and what he called -- with a mocking tone -- the 'naive idea' of solidarity within South America. According to [Zoellick], Chile's silence [...] would end up separating the country from the world actors with which it interacts, such as Asia and Europe, and would earn it scant dividends among its neighbors. [...]

"Zoellick recalled that, when he was Secretary of Commerce, he personally intervened with President Bush so [Bush] might go ahead with the signing of the FTA with Chile, despite the fact that at that time President Ricardo Lagos had announced he would vote against the invasion of Iraq. [...] 'This time I wouldn't do the same,' [Zoellick] told Foxley."

Foxley pointed out that "the United States should understand that Chile needs to evaluate its vote for the Security Council after looking at its immediate surroundings." Zoellick answered that "if that reflection leads to a vote for Venezuela, the bilateral relationship [Chile-U.S.] would be 'decisively damaged' [...] and that the costs in terms of security and commercial trade would be extremely high.

Sovereign reaction

The reaction in Chile was instantaneous and solidly nationalistic. The spokesman for the Chilean presidency, Ricardo Lagos Weber, said that "Chile is a dignified country that doesn't allow itself to be pressured, and it's a country that conducts diplomacy. [...] We are not into pressure; we are into building consensus."

Christian-democratic senator Jorge Pizarro said that "we should not be overly concerned by any pressure from the United States." Conservative senator Sergio Romero said that "in international relations, people don't use that kind of threat, so I'm surprised that [Rice] can speak like that."

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will travel to Washington on June 9 to meet with President Bush and discuss issues of mutual interest, fulfilling an appointment made weeks ago. At a private luncheon at the White House, Bachelet will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Foxley and Minister of the Economy Andrés Velasco. Bush will be flanked by Rice, Zoellick, Under Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs Thomas Shannon and National Security Council adviser Steven Hadley.

As La Tercera predicts, "if the hosts apply only one half of the pressure put on Foxley during his preparatory visit, we can be that it won't be a peaceful luncheon."