In a sign of tightening economic cooperation, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa signed 12 bilateral agreements yesterday in the Ecuadorian resort town of Salinas. Some of the agreements focused on creating joint ventures for housing and the production and sale of cocoa. Others covered the sectors of tourism, health, social security, and technology.
Furthermore, despite calls among Gulf Arab states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to escalate daily outputs by its members, both presidents rejected such demands while in Salinas. Correa claimed that OPEC quotas should not increase given current global demand levels, noting that “production will have to increase when demand grows.” Ecuador and Venezuela are OPEC member nations.
The two leaders also celebrated the victory earlier this week of Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala. They noted that Humala’s victory and yesterday’s bilateral agreements are further signs of regional integration. Chávez added that this integration is intended to turn Latin America into “a zone of peace and democracy.”
Talks between government officials and local leaders on Monday failed to end protests over an increase in natural gas prices in the south of Chile. Chile's Mining and Energy Minister Laurence Golborne travelled to the regional capital of Punta Arenas to offer a limit on the price increase to 3 percent, an improvement from the 17 percent originally estimated, and to continue subsidies for poor families. But the concessions were not sufficient to appease the demonstrators.
The protests began last week when Chile's state-owned national petroleum company (Enap) decided to reduce local subsidies beginning in February, causing the spike in gas prices. Gas is of particular concern to the residents of southern Chile, where the artic temperatures require more household heating than in other regions of the country.
Demonstrators have been blocking roads and ports, leaving hundreds of tourists stranded last week, though many have since managed to leave the region. The Chilean government is considering using state security if protests continue.