Sun, May 18, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Leaders vow to fight poverty, warming

UNITED WE STAND The Peruvian president urged his European and Latin American counterparts to put aside petty differences and focus on setting clear strategies

AP , LIMA

Peruvian indigenous men participate in the alternative People’s Summit in Lima, Peru, on Friday. The People’s Summit runs parallel to the meeting to be attended by leaders from nearly 60 Latin America and European countries in Lima to discuss climate change, trade, poverty and the global food crisis.

PHOTO: AP

European and Latin American leaders have pledged to fight poverty, global warming and high food prices, presenting a show of unity amid a festering conflict between two South American nations.

The regions’ fifth summit in a decade concluded on Friday just a day after Interpol vouched for the authenticity of documents implicating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in efforts to support Colombian rebels. Interpol’s report prompted impassioned denials from Chavez.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia opened the summit with an appeal for nearly 60 leaders or top officials to put aside petty issues and focus on setting clear strategies to combat poverty and global warming.

“It is imperative that what unites us take precedence in our meetings,” Garcia said. “We leave aside, for the moment, what we disagree on.”

In the summit’s final declaration, leaders vowed to fight poverty, drugs and crime and said they were “deeply concerned by the impact of increased food prices,” which have spiraled as global demand for commodities soars.

“We agree that immediate measures are needed to assist the most vulnerable countries and populations affected by high food prices,” the declaration said, stressing the need to support rural farming “to meet a growing demand.”

Garcia suggested that every country aim to increase food production by 2 percent.

The declaration also encouraged free trade and cooperation on biofuels, although those goals were not as universally endorsed.

Bolivia and Ecuador in particular resisted plans for a trade association between the Andean Community and the EU, while Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was forced to defend biofuels such as ethanol — of which his country is the world’s largest exporter.

“Obviously, the oil industry is behind” criticism of alternative fuels, Silva told reporters in Lima, dismissing claims that corn and sugarcane-based ethanol are partly responsible for soaring food prices.

But despite persisting policy differences, participants seemed to overcome sharper political feuds, such as that brewing between Venezuela and Colombia.

Interpol on Thursday confirmed the integrity of computer files, seized from a rebel camp, that suggest Venezuela has armed and financed Colombian guerrillas — discrediting Chavez’s assertions that Colombia had faked them.

The findings boost pressure on Venezuela’s anti-US president to explain his ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America’s most powerful rebel army.

Chavez on Thursday dismissed Interpol’s report as “ridiculous.” He denied arming or funding the guerrillas — though he openly sympathizes with them — and threatened Thursday to scale back economic ties with Colombia.

“One of the big problems we have [on the continent] is the government of Colombia,” Chavez said in brief remarks during a break at the summit.

He called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe “a promoter of disunion” — saying Uribe did “not fit in” in a region where the leaders of Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay “are a brotherhood.”

Colombia’s March 1 attack on a FARC camp where the computer files were discovered prompted Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, an ally of Chavez, to sever diplomatic relations with Colombia and to denounce the computer documents, which indicated that his government also had dealings with the FARC.

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