AMBASSADOR CONFIRMS US TRADE THREAT TO CHILE IN RUN-UP TO IRAQ WAR
By Rob Bartlett
(Sept. 27, 2007) Current Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations, Heraldo Muñoz, confirmed Wednesday that, in the run up to the Iraq war, the U.S. government made clear to Chile that it risked jeopardizing the Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries if it did not support a second resolution in the UN Security Council favoring the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In early 2003, as the ground was being prepared for the US-led invasion of Iraq, Chile held a non-permanent seat on the 15 member UN Security Council. The US wanted Chile’s support when it proposed a second resolution to the Security Council that would provide a secure legal grounding for the use of force against Saddam Hussein.
On Wednesday, Spain’s El País newspaper published the transcript of a conversation between the then Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and President George Bush when the two leaders met at Mr. Bush’s Texas Ranch on February 22, 2003 to discuss the new U.N. resolution and the impending war.
According to the transcript, Mr. Bush told Mr. Aznar that “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon need to know that the security of the USA is at stake, and need to act with a spirit of friendship.... [then Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos has to realize that the FTA with Chile is awaiting approval from the Senate and that a negative attitude on this issue could jeopardize its ratification.”
Ambassador Muñoz, who was serving as General Secretary to the Lagos Government at the time, told the press that “There were pressures...what has been reported basically corresponds to the truth...it was insinuated that the agreement with Chile would be delayed and would be disassociated from the FTA agreement with Singapore, which was being negotiated concurrently.”
However, he said “My perception is that the FTA was never at risk because the US and Chile had already invested a lot in several rounds of negotiations and they weren’t going to turn back...if they [the US] didn’t have a treaty with Chile, who else in Latin America could they reach agreement with?”
Despite the pressure from Mr. Bush, President Lagos refused to support the second U.N. resolution, which was then withdrawn. The war began, without UN approval, on the night of March 19, 2003.
Ricardo Lagos-Weber, the current government spokesperson (and who is also the son of the former President) sought to quell any controversy, telling the media that “sanctions were not applied,” adding that “the fact that these two elements were not mixed up together reflects well on the senate and on U.S. politics”.
Both the US-Chile and US-Singapore FTAs were implemented on January 1, 2004.
SOURCES: EL PAIS, LA TERCERA, EL MERCURIO