Combatting poverty key to Latin America's future, says Merkel
The European Union should help the nations of Latin America in their efforts to reduce social inequality, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, dpa reported.
Successfully combatting poverty is the key to the region's future, the chancellor told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa ahead of a tour of four Latin American nations beginning Tuesday.
"In the long term, the governments in Latin America will be judged on how they deal with the social problems," the chancellor said.
But Merkel indicated that leftist polices pursued by leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was not the solution.
Pointing to the emergence of "left-wing populism" in some of the nations of Latin America, Merkel said: "Based on our experience in Europe, I don't believe that state-guided economies can provide a better or more sustainable response to such pressing problems."
Merkel is visiting Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Mexico during her week-long trip, the highlight of which will be her participation in the fifth European Union-Latin American and Caribbean Summit (EU-LAC) to be held May 16- 17 in Lima.
Poverty remains one of the biggest problems in Latin America where two out of five people, mainly those in rural areas, live on less than 2 dollars a day.
On relations with Cuba, the chancellor said further steps towards democracy were needed from new President Raul Castro before there could by any deepening of cooperation.
"The European Union and the German government are closely watching developments in Cuba," she said.
"The first indications of change now have to be followed by genuine improvements for the people. This includes the release of the considerable number of dissidents who remain in detention."
Merkel arrives first in in Brazil for talks with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was a guest at the Group of Eight (G8) summit hosted by the chancellor in Heiligendamm last year.
On May 15, she travels to Peru, which has not received a visit from a serving German chancellor for 30 years, to attend EU-LAC.
The summit, which has as its main themes poverty, inequality, sustainable development and the environment, is being attended by more than 60 countries from Europe, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
A visit to Colombia follows, and the last station on the trip is Mexico.