A friendly press conference between two controversial presidents

· Culture, Economics, Latin America, Politic, Society

Cartagena | ColPas. The meeting of the two most controversial presidents of Latin America in Cartagena de Indias was rather friendly. Even if journalists touched hot subjects like the Farc hostages that broke relations between Chávez and Uribe since November 2007 or the issue of the reelection that both leaders are looking. But the most important thing was the agreement that will help small enterprises in both countries and the perspective of a common currency.

Both presidents were prudent in their answers, different to former reactions, for example in the issue of the Farc release after Uribe canceled the mediation of Chávez in November 2007. In that time Chávez broke any diplomacy and called Uribe “a poppet of the Empire” (USA).

Relations became even worse when the Colombian army bombed the camp of Raul Reyes, the international spokesman of Farc guerrillas. The camp was located at the south of the Putumayo River that is on Ecuadorian territory. In that time, Chávez supported the denounces of Quito arguing a violation of the Ecuadorian sovereignty. Chávez even treated to move troops to the border with Colombia with the order to open war if the case of Ecuador was going to be repeat on Venezuelan soil.

A regional currency

The dream of a regional currency is not new. But Chávez made it actual.

Uribe said to this regard that is it also the will of the Colombians in the course of economical integration. “It is a goal for all of us”, said president Uribe. He said also that it would be a good measure in time of crisis. About this, the ministries of finance of both countries are studying this possibility, thinking also in trials in different commercial sectors like energy.

Colombia sells to Venezuela 200 million cubic feet of gas per day and about 70 thousand kilowatts of energy. By its part, Venezuela sells to Colombia a great quantity of oil by La Guajira and North Santander states. President Uribe said that they could start to use their own currencies in those sectors as a begining.

Chávez, by his part, said that the study would be presented in a meeting in Caracas to be hold in April and added that it is already an exigence of the financial global crisis.

Obama: To those who cling to power…

Curiously, if US plays an important role in the distance among Uribe and Chávez, the recent speech of inauguration of president Obama, joined them.

Although it is not clear that Obama was thinking in Uribe – one of the strongest allies of Bush – and Chávez – his more international opponent -, his words “To those who cling to power…” were understood by some sources to the intention of both presidents for a new reelection.

The issue was touched in the press conference. A journalist asked: “Recently, a president said that it is not good to remain in power, to cling…”

Uribe answered that it is necessary to study the context and subject of the words of Obama. According to Uribe, the US presidents was referring to the clinging of terrorism and not to decisions of democracy. Uribe said also that Colombians respect and pay homage to the democracy of the Venezuelans.

Chávez gathered the idea of Uribe and said that both countries live in a democracy and that it is good that happens in both nations. The reelection is not a decision of the current president, but the decision of the people, said Chávez.

Ecuador, Piedad Córdoba and Farc

The other subjects that faced both presidents months ago, received very prudential answers.

To the question if Senator Piedad Córdoba has made any contact with him, Chávez said that she is a good friend, but it is a long time that he does not know about her.

He said also that he has not information about the possible release of the Farc hostages and that he waits any order from the Colombian government to help in the peace process.

To the question of the broken diplomatic relations among Colombia and Ecuador, president Chávez quoted the same words of president Uribe: prudence and hopes to reestablish the peace in the region.

“I am also a Colombian”, Chávez

The conference finished with an unusual cordiality among the two presidents. Chávez with his usual words of familiarity out of any strict scheme of diplomacy: He made references to Castro, to the gifts received from the hands of Uribe and to other subjects. He was like visiting a cousin at home. In a moment, praising the host country, he said that he was born at the south of Venezuela. He grew among Venezuelans and Colombians. He knew the Arauca river: “I learned that at the other side of the riever, was Colombia, in the documents of Miranda, in the vibrant and alive documents of Bolívar, Nariño and all of them.“, said Chávez with an air of poetry that reminds us that we are in South America, the land of Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Vargas Llosa.

At the end, he said that he feels also a Colombian. Words that a more calculator politician like Uribe, but not more diplomatic than Chávez, could only answer with a smile and a Gracias presidente.

Colombia and Venezuela have shared a long history and strong commercial links. Therefore, two things would join the two twin countries: the first will be the new role of US in their regard under the government of Obama, a president that has to choose between Chávez and Uribe and what they represent. The other thing that will make them more united is the financial crisis. The fact is already demonstrated in this meeting of the two most known presidents of the Western Hemisphere. Hopefully, both peoples would benefit of the friendship of their leaders.

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