- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Latin laments

Ecuador and Colombia are bickering over pollution and terrorists, while Venezuela accuses Colombia of chasing rebels over its borders. All the while, millions in South America are waiting for their leaders to make their lives better.

That was the assessment of Latin relations from a former senior South American ambassador to the United States, as the presidents of the South American Community of Nations met in Brazil last week.

Ambassador Odeen Ishmael said poor people across South America “will no doubt wonder whether [the leaders] will have another ‘talk shop’ or if they will produce tangible results.”

“Throughout the continent, the lives of a vast array of people are plagued with crime, violence, disease and poverty,” he said. “Numerous summits everywhere have resulted in volumes of proposals but very little action to alleviate these problems.”

Mr. Ishmael, Guyana’s ambassador in Washington from 1993 to 2003, was the senior envoy from Latin America and the Caribbean until he was named ambassador to Venezuela.

In his latest post, Mr. Ishmael enjoys a unique perspective on issues and often sends his analyses to Embassy Row.

As the leaders prepared for the summit, Mr. Ishmael said, Ecuador was complaining about Colombia’s use of herbicides to attack the root of the cocaine trade, which enriches drug lords and Colombian rebels. Ecuador said Colombia’s aerial spraying in forests along the border is damaging Ecuadorean commercial crops and livestock.

“Also Ecuador’s announcement that it does not regard guerrilla groups in Colombia as terrorist organizations has certainly caused some upset in the relationship between the neighbors,” he said.

Venezuela, meanwhile, is complaining that Colombia’s war against the insurgent groups is chasing the Marxist rebels across the border into Venezuela. Colombia has accused Venezuela’s left-wing government of harboring the rebels and trying to destabilize Colombia’s conservative and pro-American government.

Mr. Ishmael noted that corruption is a major issue in Brazil, where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is “under heavy pressure even within his own party” to crack down on official misconduct.

The two-day summit ended Friday with the adoption of more resolutions, mostly dealing with energy and oil issues.

Back in Bogota

The United States is urging Colombia to broaden its aerial spraying program to include the country’s nature parks, which have become safe havens for coca growers.

U.S. Ambassador William Wood said the weed killer used elsewhere in Colombia “doesn’t seep into the soil or contaminate rivers.”

Drug lords have turned tens of thousands of acres of virgin rain forests in the country’s 49 national parks into fields for growing coca, the main source of cocaine. For every acre of production, three acres of trees are downed, the Colombian government said. However, spraying is prohibited in the parks.

“We don’t want the parks and reserves to turn into refuges or sanctuaries for coca,” Mr. Wood told the Colombian news magazine Cambio in the capital, Bogota.

India gets tough

India yesterday signed on to a U.S. program designed to help both countries coordinate investigations into terrorism and organized crime.

U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford and Indian Home Secretary V.K. Duggal signed the agreement making India a partner in the U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

Mr. Mulford called the agreement a “very, very important step forward,” as both countries broaden cooperation “in every area of human activity.”

India is the 16th country to sign the treaty with the United States.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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