President Michelle Bachelet defended fellow Latin American leaders Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez Wednesday and asked world leaders not to demonize Latin America.
Bachelet is in Europe to attend the European Union and Latin America and Caribbean summit in Vienna on May 11 to13.
"I would not want us to return to the Cold War era where we ?demonize' one country or another. What we have witnessed in these countries (Bolivia and Venezuela) is that they are looking for governments and leaders that will work to eradicate poverty and eliminate inequality," said Bachelet.
Bachelet was speaking in defense of the left-wing "power axis" between Bolivian President Morales, Venezuela's Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, an alliance which alarms many conservative nations like the United States. Her allusion to a "power axis" is read as an indirect slam on U.S. President Bush, who has invoked similar phraseology in vilifying nations like North Korea and Iran.
Bachelet's support provoked Chavez to eulogize his Chilean counterpart. "Michelle Bachelet is an extraordinary human being, an extraordinary friend. Woman, socialist, ?allendista.' We all support her. I am a ?michellista,'" he said during his visit to Rome on Wednesday.
Bachelet has promised an open dialogue with her Latin American counterparts during the fourth summit of the European Union and Latin America and Caribbean on Thursday and Friday.
"We will sit down and talk about everything, and with Bolivia. I have already said on many occasions, and I repeat it again now, that we have an unconditional agenda," said Bachelet.
Bachelet was also praised for Chile's economic progress. Spanish Prime Minister José Rodriguez Zapatero explained that Spanish businesses were particularly "happy" working in such a "serious and modern" nation, adding that Chile is an "example to the rest of Latin America and the world."
Spain and Chile signed a cooperation agreement Wednesday calling for greater cohesion in Latin America and improved economic, social and political integration in the region. Spain is particularly concerned about its economic interests in Latin America following Bolivia's nationalization of hydrocarbons this month. The Spanish-Argentine energy company Repsol YPF has invested more than US$1.2 billion into Bolivia's gas industry since 1997.
By Cristina Dunn The Santiago Times - News about Chile