Tuesday, June 29th 2004 - 21:00 UTC

Kerry promises “respect” for Latinamerica.

The almost certain United States Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry promised closer collaboration with Latinamerica, promotion of democracy and criticized the current President Bush administration for insisting with free trade in hemispheric relations.

Addressing the US Organization of Latino elected Officials Mr. Kerry outlined the main points of his Latinamerican policy if he's elected president next November.

Mr. Kerry anticipated he would sponsor the creation of a "Community of the Americas" with the purpose of working to achieve "shared objectives" of a long agenda including immigration, poverty, free trade, democracy, etc.

The presidential hopeful announced he would like to return to the negotiation table the recently signed trade agreement with five Central American countries and similarly would review the Free Trade Association of the Americas project that includes the 34 hemispheric members with the exception of Cuba.

Mr. Kerry criticized President Bush's "mono thematic" attitude towards Latinamerica with the sole purpose of implanting "free trade" and for having virtually destroyed the mutual respect with the region nurtured in the eight years of the Clinton administration.

"His monothematic policy towards Latinamerica, the same recipe in all trade agreements, has destroyed the respect and comradeship of the Clinton years", said Mr. Kerry, adding that President Bush "in stead of being a good neighbour the president has consistently ignored several regional diseases such as political and financial crisis, unemployment and drug trafficking".

The Bush administration recently reached a free trade agreement with five Central American countries which faces strong opposition in the US Congress and is currently negotiating a similar accord with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

However Mr. Kerry announced he would push for the controversial inclusion in trade agreements clauses protecting the environment and labour and union rights, which many Latinamerican countries consider an "intervention in domestic affairs".

But Mr. Kerry was more eloquent when promising to ensure democracy and the rule of the law in a continent not entirely satisfied with what democracy has delivered so far.

"As president I will help build that (democratic) spirit and a wider "Community of the Americas", a community where "neighbours look after their neighbours". Mr. Kerry said democracy had advanced with great strides in Mexico, Brazil and Chile, but it has also fallen back in other countries. "We can't simply remain idle and uninterested when violence forces out elected presidents as has happened in Bolivia, Argentina, or even stimulate a president to run away as in Haiti".

Further on he stressed that "our government will not welcome a government named by a military Junta, as was the case in Venezuela", in direct reference to the April 2002 brief coup against President Chavez.

"We'll create Council for Democracy with outstanding international leaders to jointly work with the Organization of American States, OAS, helping to solve crisis before they explode threatening public order and bloodshed".

Mr. Kerry promised to treble financing for democracy strengthening programs in the framework of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Venezuelan president Chavez claims NED has supported coup sponsors in Venezuela.

Finally he promised more educational exchanges with Latinamerican, "to conquer hearts and minds of the new Latinamerican generations", and committed a future Kerry administration to help undocumented immigrants become citizens.

This promise involves millions of Mexicans and critical of the Bush administration that only admits temporary "work permits".

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