Colombian President-Elect Santos greeted with protests in Argentina

Social organizations repudiate Colombia’s policies, support Venezuela

[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for July 27, 2010.]

Juan Manuel Santos

By Stella Calloni

Buenos Aires, July 26 – President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met tonight with the president-elect of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, who is on a tour of the region in the midst of a severe crisis with Venezuela and while an emergency meeting of the Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (Unasur – Union of South American Nations) is being planned for Quito, Ecuador.

During the afternoon, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the Plaza de Mayo to reject Colombia’s policies and the Colombian visitor and to support Venezuela, a country they consider to be the target of “generalized activity by the United States that threatens all of Latin America.”

The meeting between Fernández de Kirchner and Santos, which lasted an hour, included a broad review of the situation in the region. It included the participation of Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, the foreign minister designate of Colombia, María Angela Holguín and the Colombian ambassador in Buenos Aires, Álvaro Eduardo García Giménez.

It was mentioned during the proceedings that the Argentine president may act as mediator in the conflict between Colombia and Venezuela.

Her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, in his position as secretary general of Unasur, also met with Santos a few hours before the arrival in the country of the Venezuelan foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro, who will meet with the president tomorrow.

There was secrecy sourrounding the meeting, which created speculation here because of the role the president had played at other times, during humanitarian efforts in which she intervened for the release of captives by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

The president also played a role at the time of a Colombian military attack against a FARC encampment in Ecuador on March 1, 2008, which had serious consequences in the loss of human life and damage that still causes tension in relations between the two countries.

President Álvaro Uribe was criticezed by most of his colleagues for the action and Argentina concurred.

Another difficult moment was a meeting of presidents of Unasur countries in the tourist city of Bariloche, in the south of the country, shortly after the US announcement on the use of seven military bases in Colombia, on which there was a general position in the region against the decision.

Behind today’s meeting is some recent history, an Argentine official commented, recalling as well that the Unasur governments are always prepared “to make every effort to avoid conflicts in the region,” as well as coups d’état.

In fact, in the case of Honduras in June, 2009, several countries, Argentina among them, still do not recognize the government of Porfirio Lobo, chosen in elections considered “a continuation of golpismo.”

In a supper meeting tonight between Santos and Néstor Kirchner, the former president’s efforts as secretary general of an Unasur faced with a serious conflict will begin.

These efforts will continue tomorrow when he meets here with the Venezuelan foreign minister, then Kirchner will travel to Venezuela next August 5. The next day he will visit Colombia for a meeting with President Álvaro Uribe.

During the afternoon former President Kirchner said that “brother countries cannot be in confrontation with each other” and emphasized Argentina’s will and disposition to “contribute to the peace” of the region.

Santos arrived in the country during a series of demonstrations by social organizations in observance of the 58th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón on July 26, 1952.

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