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Three Latin American Leaders in Blair's Progressive Governance Conference

Argentina's Kirchner, Brazil's Lula and Chile's Lagos will arrive in London later this week to attend to the re-launch of the "third way"


On Sunday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will receive in London, 16 "progressive" leaders from all over the world, in an attempt to re-launch his so-called "third way", an initiative set out 13 years ago, together with former US President Bill Clinton. Among the guests, there will be three South American heads of State, all of them leading center-left administrations in their countries:  Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, Chile's Ricardo Lagos and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner.


Despite the diplomatic importance of the event, a leftist fraction of their followers questioned the three leaders for accepting Blair's invitation. In fact, the "third way", seriously damaged after Clinton-led air strikes over Belgrade and Blair's support to Washington's campaign over Iraq, has little supporters amid Latin American intellectuals.


The three leaders had a leftist background, but after becoming presidents of their respective countries, they had to leave behind ideologies to face the realities of a peripheral region. However, they have not yet resigned to their principles, as try to keep an independent foreign policy from USA and, paradoxically, the United Kingdom.


Chile's President Ricardo Lagos, an old Socialist militant, was Ambassador to the Soviet Union during Salvador Allende's leftist Government (1970-1973), overthrown by the militarist coup led by Augusto Pinochet and masterminded by Henry Kissinger's US State Department. Lula, in turn, is a former trade unionist that built his own politically party (Workers Party) joining the efforts of a broad arch of left wing Brazilian organizations. Finally, Nestor Kirchner is a former militant in the left wing of the hegemonic Peronist Party, a political movement founded by the charismatic populist leader Juan Domingo Peron in the forties.


According to the outcomes of the last meetings, Lula, Lagos and Kirchner, have developed excellent mutual relations, as praise for the political integration of Latin America. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Frias also shares such ideas, but was not invited by Blair, surely because of his "politically incorrect" ruling style.


However, Lula recently dismissed suggestions that his attendance calls into question his credibility as a leftwing leader. "Brazil isn't interested in a first, second or third way," he said. "It wants to find its own way." According to sources, Lula hopes to use the meeting to present his ideas for combating global poverty, promote his "hunger zero" program and press for a permanent seat for Brazil on the UN Security Council.


Argentina, England and the Falklands


Kirchner's visit to London will also settle an historical precedent, as it is the third visit of an Argentine President to the United Kingdom since 1982's Falklands War. Previous ones did not include conversations over Islands' sovereignty, but recent Argentine FM's declarations to the UN General Assembly could indicate that something has changed since Kirchner took office.


Speaking on behalf of the Argentine Government, Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa expressed nation's interest to restart talks over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as Malvinas. However, UK's response was fast and conclusive: "There is nothing to discuss about it".


Unfortunately, neither Kirchner nor Bielsa want to talk to the foreign press until they return from their trip over Europe. By that time, the Argentine Government would make clear country's official position on the question.