ANKARA – Evo Morales became the first Bolivian president to visit Turkey on Tuesday, where the leftist leader met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has just returned from a visit to Russia, where he met with Vladimir Putin.
The three nations have been united recently over their foreign policy approaches to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
All three governments oppose the United States proposed solution to the turmoil, which would see interim President Juan Guaido takeover from Nicolas Maduro until new elections could be slated.
Morales arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara around midnight on a flight from Dubai, where he had participated in an investment meeting.
He kicked off his visit by laying a wreath of flowers at the grandiose mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the much-revered founder of the modern Turkish republic.
The leader of the Andean nation said that his country will name “in the next days or weeks” an ambassador in Turkey, within a broad plan to strengthen the relations of both nations.
“Bolivia has a debt with Turkey: Turkey has quickly installed (in 2018) its embassy in Bolivia, and in the next few days, maximum weeks, we will appoint an ambassador in Turkey,” he said at a joint press conference with Erdogan, at the headquarters of the presidential palace.
Among other issues, they agreed to increase bilateral trade, since the current amount of $113 million a year “is too small” and the new target is $500 million a year, Erdogan said.
Morales highlighted the potential offered by Bolivian lithium deposits, the largest in the world, in which Chinese and German companies already work, and noted the “important the presence of Turkish companies.”
He also gave a press conference at the University of Ankara, where he spoke about the country’s economy, which he described as a success since his government came to power in 2006.
He denounced what he saw as external pressure from international financial organizations trying to influence Bolivia’s economy.
“Up until 13 years ago, 82 percent of investments went to multinationals and only 18 percent to Bolivians, it’s important to retake control of natural resources,” he said.
“When I was a candidate for the first time in 2002, the United States ambassador, Manuel Rocha, said that if Evo was president, there would be no cooperation or investment,” he continued.
He went on to describe the economic trajectory of his country, which is particularly strong, according to him, in the energy sector.
Bolivia also exports quinoa, coffee and beef to China, he added.
He said he would request the Turkish government used its close relations with Moscow to convince Russia’s leadership to open up its market to Bolivian meat.
Morales took part in a ceremony signing agreements with Erdogan after their meeting.