31 May 2006

BACHELET ADMINISTRATION REACTS TO REPORTS OF U.S. THREATS

(May 31, 2006) Government spokespeople downplayed U.S. Department of State threats against Chile in the event that Chile supports Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Ricardo Lagos Weber, Chile’s government spokesman, indicated that Chile would not be pressured by the U.S., but instead seek regional consensus on the issue before indicating which way Chile will vote on the issue.

“These are distinct issues that have nothing to do with each other,” said Lagos Weber. “I do not see how a country could be penalized for exercising its international rights.”

According to a story that was published in La Tercera on May 28th, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told Chile’s Minister of the Exterior Alejandro Foxely that Chilean support for Venezuela as a member of the U.N. security council in October’s elections would “decisively damage” bilateral relations between Chile and the U.S. The report went on to quote Zoellick as saying that, in the event that Chile did support Venezuela, it would lose its status as a “major non-NATO ally of the U.S.” and suffer economic penalties in the form of reduced commercial exchange between Chile and the U.S. (ST, May 30).

In a statement that seemed to dismiss the threats, Foxely said that Chile would consult with the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRUPAC) to arrive at a consensus as to which way the region would vote.

“We are in a phase of consultations in which we are going to evaluate and appreciate the opinions of friendly countries and then, later, we will make a decision,” said Foxely.

In the 2003 build-up to the invasion of Iraq, Chile cast a deciding vote against the U.S.-led resolution to overthrow Saddam Hussein without any noticeable affect on bilateral relations with the U.S.

SOURCE: LA NACIÓN, EL MERCURIO, LA TERCERA, RADIO COOPERATIVA