George W. Bush also participates in the summit with all Latin American heads of State.
Amid a tense diplomatic situation between USA and the two main Mercosur block partners –Argentina and Brazil-, the Organization of American States (OAS) annual summit begun yesterday in the Mexican city of Monterrey. The agenda includes a number of contentious issues as the recently proposed new immigration law in the United States, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, terrorism, corruption and, as usual, Cuba.
The United States and Canada will push to reaffirm a 2005 deadline for completing talks on a Free Trade Area of the Americas. However, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina –South American largest economies- have already expressed that they need more time to study the integration process.
Another controversial area is the fight against corruption. Washington wants a joint declaration so the OAS could expel corrupt governments from the OAS. The move is opposed by several Latin American countries on the basis of the self-rule principle. Venezuela and Brazil praised to be active on this issue.
US President George W. Bush is expected to hold separate meetings with Brazil’s president Lula Da Silva, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner and Bolivia's Carlos Mesa. There, Bush will try to ease tensions with the leader of Mercosur block after a week of controversies.
Last week, Argentina called for a formal apologize from the US administration after the Hemispheric official Roger Noriega said his government was “concerned” on Buenos Aires fully restored ties with Cuba. Noriega and other US diplomats have recently launched an offensive against Latin American governments with close ties to the Communist Cuba, as Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. Observers say it is related to the 2004 presidential race in the United States, as Bush badly needs anti-Castrists votes of Florida to become reelected.
Brazil, for its part, has strongly condemned increased security measures in the United States designed to prevent terror attacks. It retaliated against the US decision to photograph and fingerprint foreign visitors by doing the same to US citizens arriving in Brazil. Yesterday, Brazilian courts overturned the order and lifted restrictions to US citizens.
As for Mexico, in a US television interview on Sunday, Mexican President Vicente Fox said that he wanted to work towards the free movement of workers between Canada, the US and Mexico. Last week US President George W Bush announced an immigration reform plan that would give illegal immigrants a chance to gain legal status.
As became known, US officials are quite concerned on the situation in Bolivia. The South American country lived a turmoil in October last year, after a popular rebellion ousted the pro-US and pro-market leader Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. A controversial gas export project had sparked protests that left over 80 people killed.
Washington is concerned about the future of Bolivia, as the new president Mesa is a weak leader and the strongman is the leftist trade union leader Evo Morales. US diplomats will also lobby against the new strong man of Uruguay, Tabare Vazquez, as the leftist leader is expected become elected president of his country later this year.