Brazilian President meets President of Colombia

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva travelled to the Colombian city of Leticia, in the triborder region, where he met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. They discussed the crisis between Colombia and Venezuela.

The crisis began after the arrest of the FARC leader Rodrigo Granda, also known as Ricardo Gonzalez. Venezuela argued that Granda's arrest is illegal and that Colombia invaded Venezuelan territory in the course of the arrest. Colombia, in turn, claimed the arrest occurred inside Colombian territory and accused Venezuela of harboring terrorists.

Lula and Uribe did not say very much publicly, opting instead to have a reserved conversation to discuss the matter. Lula proposed a bilateral solution between Colombia and Venezuela, suggesting himself as a peacemaker between the two countries.

Later, Lula talked by phone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations Celso Amorim will coordinate the eventual Brazilian efforts to help solve the crisis.

Yesterday, after a meeting with Peruvian Minister of Foreign Relations Manuel Rodríguez, the Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations, Carolina Barco, said in a interview with Radio Caracol [1] that Colombian chancellery is engaging in a dialogue in the best terms with the Venezuelan chancellery and that there exists the best spirit to solve the problems.

Lula's role

Brazil has a seemingly good relationship with Colombia. In March 2003, Lula met Uribe and they discussed the concerns of both countries. They also discussed the FARC. Brazil did not want to name the FARC as a terrorist group. Amorim explained that it is not part of Brazilian policy to classify political groups as terrorists. Brazil, however voted for a Organization of American States motion condemning an alleged terrorist FARC attack in Colombia [2], [3].

Chavez and Lula have a close relationship. President Lula repeatedly defended Chavez. Both men have been said to manifest support and empathy for the Cuban President Fidel Castro, though Lula has distanced himself publicly from the Cuban leader.

In an interview with the Washington Post not long after his election, Lula said, "In relation to Cuba, let's not confuse the passion that my generation has for the Cuban revolution and what it represented then with any approval of the Cuban regime today. I defend religious freedom, cultural freedom, freedom for trade unions and political freedom." However, Lula tried to expel the New York Times journalist Larry Rohter because of writings deemed libelous [4], [5]. Also Lula tried to create a council formed by sympathizers and members of his party to control the press [6], [7].

The FARC is a member of the Foro de São Paulo organization led by Lula. Lula and others members of his party already have received FARC leaders many times [8], [9], [10], [11]. Lula supports the FARC position against the influence of the United States in Latin America. According to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, in a interview on the Brazilian television channel Record, Lula said FARC should become like the Workers' Party and should participate in Colombian elections. He denied the supposed Workers' Party relationship with the FARC and said the term axis of evil used to describe the relationship between Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba was a bad joke [12].

According to Lula, Brazil wants to establish good relationships with all countries, including the United States. However, he leads the Foro de São Paulo, an organization whose members the US government sees as enemies. These members include: National Liberation Army, the FARC, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity, Sandinista National Liberation Front, Tupamaros, and the Communist Party of Cuba.

See also