LA PAZ – The presidents gathered on Thursday to celebrate the bicentennial of an uprising in La Paz against Spanish rule expressed support for deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya and called for an end to U.S. military involvement and influence in Latin America.
Bolivian head of state Evo Morales was joined for the occasion by the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez; Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and Paraguay, Fernando Lugo.
Also taking part were Cuban Vice President Jorge Sierra and representatives from Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, as well as Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas.
Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba are part of the Caracas-led ALBA bloc, which once again closed ranks Thursday to defend the reinstatement of Zelaya, who was ousted by the Honduran military on June 28.
Honduras is also an ALBA member, though the junta in Tegucigalpa wants to sever ties with the group.
In a speech preceding a military parade with cadets and troops from several countries, Morales specifically called for an end to the U.S. Southern Command’s influence over Latin American militaries.
He even blamed USSOUTHCOM for the coup d’état in Honduras, though he offered no specifics to support that conclusion.
While the United States has traditionally provided aid and training to the Honduran military and Washington retains a base in the Central American country, the Pentagon suspended joint military activity in the wake of Zelaya’s ouster.
Chavez said Morales’ message was important because it calls on Latin American soldiers “to never again put themselves at the service of a coup-plotting bourgeoisie,” but instead “act as liberators of their peoples.”
The leftist Venezuelan leader said U.S. officials who knew of the coup in advance withheld the information from President Barack Obama. EFE