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    Chile's President Sebastian Piñera (c) speaks with U.S. Defense Minister James Mattis (r), next to Chilean Defence Minister Alberto Espina (l). | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 August 2018

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced he would talk to Colombian president Ivan Duque about Venezuela's "tragic situation."

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed a cybersecurity agreement with Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera Thursday before heading to Bogota for a meeting with recently elected Colombian President Ivan Duque.

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“A topic that is of great interest is cybersecurity, that is something for which Latin American countries are not well prepared, and we must recover lost time,” Piñera said during the ceremony in Chile’s presidential palace, La Moneda.

He also stressed Chile’s desire to “maintain its privileged relationship” with the U.S. as two countries that share a “commitment” to democracy and human rights. Mattis praised Chile for being a beacon of “democratic stability” in a sea of “uncertainty.”

Democratic stability is under threat in South America, particularly in Brazil where a parliamentary-led coup ousted democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party. She was replaced by Michel Temer who has promoted a series of anti-working-class policies and reforms.

Furthermore, Brazil’s judicial system has prevented former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also of the Workers’ Party, from running in the upcoming 2018 elections.

On Friday the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged the Brazilian state to “take all necessary measures” to allow Lula to exercise his full political rights.

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Brazil was the first stop on Mattis’ agenda. During his visits to Brasilia and Rio de Janerio, the head of the U.S. Pentagon called Brazil a democracy and said the South American giant should “lead the solution to the Venezuelan crisis,” in an open call for interventions against the Venezuelan government.   

Before meeting Piñera, Mattis met with Chilean Defense Minister Alberto Espin. During his previous visits to Brazil and Argentina, Mattis also met with defense authorities to strengthen military relations.   

Ties between the U.S. government and the governments of Brazil and Argentina have improved considerably. Brazil's unelected president Michel Temer has invited the U.S. to use the Alcantara missile and rocket launching base and to conduct joint military exercises in the Amazon, while Argentina's Mauricio Macri reached an agreement allowing the U.S. to build three bases.

A day before Mattis arrived in Chile, foreign minister Roberto Ampuero began consultations with his counterparts in the region to coordinate a definitive withdrawal from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the only regional integration body without U.S. or Canadian presence.

In a press statement, Mattis confirmed his last stop would be Bogota, Colombia where he will meet with president Duque Friday before returning to Washington. The U.S. secretary said they would talk about “Venezuela's tragic situation.”  

“(Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro has threatened the neighboring countries that have pointed out the regime’s failure. He should know that in this hemisphere problems are not resolved in that fashion,” Mattis, who represents a government that has openly called for a military coup against Venezuela and has led economic sanctions against the country, said.


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