the economist

Lula and his squabbling friends

Aug 14-- A bold Brazilian attempt to integrate South America has run into difficulty. Critics at home say Brazil should put national interest over leftist ideology

WHEN the leaders of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL in Portuguese), a 12-country group inspired by Brazil, met in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, on August 10th, there was little spirit of union. Their meeting followed a row between Venezuela and Colombia, whose president, Álvaro Uribe, did not attend, in part because Ecuador broke off diplomatic relations with his country last year.

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, backed by his allies, Bolivia and Ecuador, wanted to condemn Colombia for granting facilities at seven military bases to the United States, which is helping it battle guerrillas and drug-traffickers. “Winds of war are blowing,” he thundered. Four countries, including Chile and Peru, backed Colombia. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, tried to damp down the dispute, suggesting that the group meet both Barack Obama and Mr Uribe to seek reassurances about the use of the bases. But then Mr Chávez launched a diatribe against Colombia and Mr Obama. Lula cut short his visit to Ecuador and headed home, giving warning that UNASUL could “cease to be an integration process, becoming just a group of friends.” If only.

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