The Guardian | 9/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
South America's shaky union
Sept 01--The attempt by South America to integrate its defence policy has survived its first major test, but more co-operation is needed
For all his sky-high popularity in Colombia, Álvaro Uribe is the most reviled president in the rest of South America. His recent decision to allow the US military to install seven bases in his country has enraged several of his neighbours, like Hugo Chávez, and concerned others. Yet Uribe was the man of the day last Friday when the presidents of the member states of Unasur gathered in the Argentine city of Bariloche to discuss concerns over the bases.
Unasur is meant to be run by a council formed by the defence ministers of its member states. But earlier in August, when regional unease peaked over the Pentagon plans, the Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, suggested in a meeting in Quito that the matter be discussed in depth by the presidents themselves rather than the ministers. The crux of the discussion would be the need for assurances from Uribe, who was absent from Quito, about what the American bases are to be used for.
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