1STLEAD:Bolivia to maintain links with Colombia despite US bases

14 Sep 2009

Madrid – Bolivia will not sever relations with Colombia despite its disapproval of Bogota’s decision to give the United States access to Colombian military bases, Bolivian President Evo Morales said Monday. Morales was speaking at an economic forum on beginning his first official visit to Spain as head of state.

“Bolivia will not break off relations with anyone, not even the United States,” Morales said on being asked whether Bolivia might follow the example of Venezuela in suspending relations with Colombia.

“Where there are US military bases, there is no peace or democracy,” the Bolivian president said. “That is our experience in Latin America,” he added.

Morales also defended his country’s right to have relations “with everyone,” including Iran, Venezuela or former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

He urged foreign companies present in Bolivia to respect the country’s legislation, acting as “partners and not bosses” when participating in exploiting the country’s natural resources.

Some companies had been found to be “conspiring against my government” and to be financing the opposition because they did not want an indigenous person to be president, the Bolivian leader charged.

Morales was due to discuss the upcoming nationalization of Bolivia’s electricity sector, in which several Spanish companies have stakes, when meeting Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Tuesday.

Before beginning his official visit, Morales presided over a rally of some 7,000 Bolivians in Leganes near Madrid on Sunday, pledging to fight for the legalization of undocumented Bolivian immigrants in Spain.

“When Spaniards and Europeans arrived in America, our grandparents never said they were illegal,” he told an ecstatic crowd.

Only 98,000 of Spain’s estimated 250,000 Bolivians are legally in the country.

The rally was seen as having a strong electoral flavour, as Bolivians resident in Spain are allowed to vote in the December 6 presidential and legislative elections.

Morales’ visit followed that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Madrid on Friday.

Source: Earth Times

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