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President Meets with South American Leaders

During a brief trip to Colombia to attend the inauguration ceremony of that country’s newly re-elected President Alvaro Uribe Monday, President Oscar Arias talked trade and disarmament with his South American counterparts.

He met with Uribe, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Peruvian President Alan García, as well as with representatives of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared, a group made up of family members of hostages captured by insurgent groups. Arias has promised his support in ensuring the success of the ongoing Colombian peace process (see separate story).

Bachelet promised to send a delegation to Costa Rica to explain how Chile has benefited from free trade, according to Casa Presidencial in San José (see separate story).

On Tuesday, the last day of Arias’ three-day visit to Bogotá, he met with García, who said he is interested in increasing trade between Costa Rica and Peru.

García also pledged Arias his support for the “Costa Rican Consensus,” a disarmament plan Arias has been actively promoting since his tour of Europe in June. It calls for developed countries to take developing nations’ spending habits – particularly weapons and military spending – into account when calculating aid, and increasing debt forgiveness for countries that minimize military spending (TT, June 9, 16).

Arias was scheduled to meet Monday night with Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage but cancelled the meeting, saying Lage had attempted to put limits on what Arias could discuss during their conversation.

According to the daily La Nación, Arias had planned to send a message urging Raúl Castro, to whom ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro has handed the reins of the government, to organize a transition to democracy. However, Arias said Lage approached him during the inauguration ceremony Monday and told him he didn’t want to talk about that issue.

“I can’t allow people to place conditions on the issues I want to talk about, so I had to cancel the appointment,”Arias told the daily.



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