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Latin American Leaders Address Wide Range of Concerns at UN General Assembly


Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says his country is taking measures to counter drug trafficking but that the international community must work together to confront the problem.

President Uribe told the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday that Colombia suffers from violence due to illegal drugs. However, he said responsibility for the drug trade cannot be assigned exclusively to consumer countries.

Mr. Uribe noted that his government has extradited more than 800 people on drug charges and has been taking steps to eradicate coca crops. Coca is the main ingredient in cocaine. Colombia is the world's largest producer of the drug.

Other Latin American leaders addressed the assembly Wednesday, expressing concern about the global financial crisis, hunger, poverty, and climate change.

Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya addressed the problems surrounding the global financial crisis in his speech. President Zelaya told the gathering that one third of the funds being used to bail out the financial markets could be used to end poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He also said wealth could be more better distributed in society to help the poor.

Earlier, Cuban First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura criticized the disparities between the world's rich and poor countries, saying U.N. goals of reducing poverty are unreachable for the vast majority of the world's people. In his remarks at the U.N., the Cuban official also blamed the United States and other industrialized countries for soaring oil prices and accusing them of siphoning natural resources from the developing world.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon says reversing the effects of climate change is one of the key challenges facing the world community.

In his speech before the General Assembly, Mr. Calderon said climate change indiscriminately affects rich and poor countries. He said those that have contributed the least to it are often the most vulnerable.

Mr. Calderon said Mexico has proposed creating a U.N.-monitored environmental protection program, the Green Fund, that would give countries incentives to contribute financially to the initiative.

He also said nations must act fast to prevent the global rise in food prices from hurting efforts to overcome poverty.

Earlier, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said world hunger could easily be eradicated with the resources and efforts used in the bailout of the international banking system.

Ms. Bachelet said the economic crisis has shown that the international community has lost its determination to help the world's poorest. She blamed the economic uncertainty on greed and political negligence.

Another Latin American leader, President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, urged the world community to contribute more financially to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at sharply reducing global poverty by 2015.

He said close to $50 billion a year in aid would be needed to meet the goals, which include halving by 2015 the number of people living in abject poverty.

And Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo praised his country's election earlier this year that brought him to power, ending six decades of one-party rule.

Mr. Lugo said the election has led to state and economic reform, and allowed citizens to take part in the country's decision-making process.

Mr. Lugo was elected president in April, ending the 61-year rule of one political party, the Colorado Party. He was inaugurated last month.

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