Presidents of Brazil, Paraguay discuss transcontinental highway

Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, Mar 16 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Paraguayan counterpart Mario Abdo Benitez met here Thursday for talks about a project for a highway linking Atlantic and Pacific ports and about the future of the jointly owned Itaipu hydroelectric complex.

The two heads of state hailed progress on construction of the road connecting the Chilean ports of Antofagasta and Iquique to Brazil’s Santos via Paraguay and northern Argentina.

More specifically, the men discussed work on the Integration Bridge between Foz do Iguacu and the Paraguayan city of Presidente Franco, which should be complete by early July, according to a statement from Abdo Benitez.

They also celebrated the recent retirement of the debt incurred by their respective governments to finance the construction of Itaipu in 1972.

In a speech ahead of the meeting with Abdo Benitez, Lula said that Brazil will treat Paraguay respectfully in the upcoming negotiations on revisions to the treaty establishing the Itaipu joint venture.

“I am sure that will we achieve a treaty that will take very much into account the reality of the two countries and the respect that Brazil must have for an ally, our beloved Paraguay,” he said during the ceremony marking the appointment of the new managing director of Itaipu, Brazilian lawmaker Enio Verri.

The new accord, Lula said, “will be more beneficial for the maintenance of the development of Brazil and of Paraguay, and for the maintenance of good coexistence between the two countries.”

Brazil, “as the bigger brother,” has an obligation to ensure that the economies of neighboring countries grow along with its own, he said.

Under Annex C of the Itaipu treaty, Paraguay and Brazil are each entitled to 50 percent of the power generated by the dam, but if either doesn’t use its share, it is required to sell it to the other party at a favorable price.

Brazil, with 214 million people, is Latin America’s largest economy and the 12th-biggest globally, while Paraguay has a population of just 6.7 million.

Paraguay has long called for a modification to Annex C, complaining that it is being forced to sell electricity to Brazil at below-market rates.

During a meeting last week in Buenos Aires, Paraguayan and Brazilian officials agreed on a timetable for the negotiations on revising the treaty. EFE mp/dr

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