MADRID – Bolivian President Evo Morales was received Monday by King Juan Carlos at the Zarzuela Palace on the first day of his official visit to Spain.
Morales, who came to the royal residence in January 2006 as his country’s president-elect, was accompanied by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Bolivia’s top energy official, Oscar Coca.
The king warmly greeted his guest and inquired about the trip he is making to Spain, his first official visit as Bolivia’s president and just three months before he runs for reelection.
Juan Carlos, Morales and the rest of the participants at the meeting met in private to discuss matters on the bilateral agenda for the visit, during which authorities have scheduled the signing of an agreement whereby Spain will forgive roughly $85.7 million in Bolivian debt to Madrid.
Morales will be the guest of honor Monday night at a dinner hosted by the king, Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia.
In remarks earlier Monday at a session in Madrid of the New Economy Forum, Morales invoked his mantra that Bolivia wants “partners, not bosses” in exploiting its resources, chiefly natural gas and lithium.
He also took up an issue currently dividing Latin America: Colombia’s plans to grant the U.S. Armed Forces access to seven bases.
While asserting that where there are U.S. military bases “there is no peace and there is no democracy,” Morales guaranteed that his country is not going to break relations with Colombia or with the United States if the Washington-Bogota pact materializes.
“The behavior of an ambassador of the United States is one thing and the embassy is another,” he said, thus recalling the events of September 2008 when he expelled envoy Philip Goldberg after accusing him of conspiring with separatist-minded opposition leaders in eastern Bolivia.
He said that he could not allow an ambassador “with conspiratorial desires to help and encourage the opposition.”
“We’re not going to break relations with anyone, but we can’t be prohibited from having relations with some countries,” he said, apparently alluding to flak his government has taken for its warm ties with countries such as Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.
The Bolivian president said that wherever in Latin America there exists a U.S. military base “there are coups d’état” and by way of example he mentioned Honduras, the site of a U.S. installation.
“That is our experience in Latin America. Possibly, it may be different in Spain,” added Morales, who is due to meet Tuesday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. EFE