QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez met on Friday for talks that centered on joint economic initiatives, but the visiting head of state also raised the possibility of military cooperation in the face of threats posed by the U.S. “empire.”
Chavez cited problems that both countries have had with their common neighbor, Colombia.
Caracas and Quito need to consider “cooperation accords in the military, scientific, technological area” in the interest of “guarding our borders,” the leftist Venezuelan leader said.
“We know that Colombia has not been able to cope with a set of very serious problems that spill over its borders, that have done plenty of damage to relations with Venezuela, also with Ecuador,” he said.
He was referring to Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict, which has sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Ecuador and Venezuela, and to a pact signed last year that gives the U.S. military access to seven bases in Colombia.
Since Chavez took office in 1999, Colombian authorities have periodically accused him of supporting their country’s FARC rebels, while Bogota’s March 2008 raid on a clandestine FARC camp inside Ecuador spurred a regional diplomatic crisis.
The summit started with a ceremony at the Ecuadorian presidential palace to introduce a line of environmentally friendly automotive lubricants developed by Petroecuador and Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.
Correa then pointed to plans for Petroecuador and PDVSA to conduct joint gas exploration in Ecuador’s Gulf of Guayaquil and to build a new refinery on his country’s Pacific coast.
Though Venezuela is one of the world’s top oil producers and Ecuador’s crude output is modest, both governments depend heavily on petroleum revenue.
Later, the two presidents witnessed via videoconference the simultaneous launch of fish-farming projects in Ecuador and Venezuela under the aegis of what Chavez described as a “great-national” seafood enterprise that he said would be the first of several such ventures in various economic sectors.
Ecuador’s agriculture minister, Ramon Espinel, said the fish-farming initiative would create jobs and aid both countries in reaching the goal of food sovereignty. EFE