People’s Daily, Beijing, 6 April 2006
Venezuela accuses U.S. of undermining unity of Andean Community
Venezuela has accused the United States of attempting to undermine the unity of the five-nation Andean Community in the way of free trade deals.
"The black hand of the Empire," (in an apparent reference to the United States) was responsible for recent conflicts within the Andean Community, Venezuelan Foreign Trade Minister Gustavo Marquez told the state broadcaster, VTV, on Wednesday.
He added that the group, made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, faced a crisis because two of the countries had signed free trade agreements (FTA) with the United States, and Ecuador was moving closer to it.
Marquez said the fact that Colombia and Peru had recently signed FTAs with the U.S. showed the U.S. was blackmailing them: — threatening to withdraw customs privileges which had been established with all Andean Community members, except Venezuela, in 1995 — if they did not sign.
The maneuver was a tactic resulting from the U.S. failure to establish its Free Trade Area of the Americas, the minister said.
The United States was also trying to divide members of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) to prevent alternative trade deals, he added.
Venezuela has articulated its strong opposition to free trade deals with the United States, saying the pacts could inundate the region with cheap imports and destroy local industries.
"These free trade agreements affect Colombian and Venezuelan workers, and Bolivian peasants. They create hunger, underdevelopment and greater dependency," Marquez said.
Bolivia has called for an emergency meeting of the Andean Community trade bloc, warning that it was on the verge of disintegrating.