Sometime in the next ten days, President Obama can expect a call from Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula wants to invite Obama to a meeting of the Union of the South American Nations (Unasur) meeting to discuss the increasing American presence in Colombia, now that the South American country has allowed US military forces to use Colombian air bases to track down rebels and drug dealers. A conversation about the topic should take place before the next Unsaur meeting, scheduled for August 28th in Bariloche, Argentina.
During the last meeting of Unasur leaders, last week, in Quito, Ecuador, the Brazilian president said he was “uneasy” with American troops going to Colombia and proposed the meeting with Obama. The main reason for his concern, he said, is that South America should be able to solve its own problems without outside help, especially since the Narcotraffic Combat Council was just created by Unasur to fight drug traffic in South America without international interference. “The Council can answer many things that Colombians think only Americans can answer,” Lula said.
But during a press conference, Lula expressed a concern that must cross the mind of every leader whose neighbors are about to host American troops: Are they really going to stay where they’re supposed to? Lula emphasized that it should be made “explicit” that American troops will act only within Colombian territory. Translation: Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Obama can sign whatever they want, as long as we don’t have American soldiers crossing into the Brazilian Amazon.
Guest contributor Gabriela Lessa is a journalist and blogger spending the summer in her native Brazil. Watch for her dispatches on motherjones.com.