UNASUR: A Latin American Success Story
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, 16 Jul 2012
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador, who liberated Bolívia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela from the yoke of Spanish colonialism, had already envisioned a federation of Latin American nations as early as the beginning of the 19th century. Two centuries later, the Liberator’s dream has come true.
In December 2004, the presidents of 12 South American nations signed the Cusco Declaration, announcing the intent of founding a South American community which should include a common bank, currency, parliament and passport.
The first annual meeting took place in Brasília, Brazil in September 2005. The second summit followed in December 2006 in Cochabamba, Bolívia, focusing on the fight against poverty and social inequalities of the region. The Commission for Integration worked on five themes: energy, finances, institutions, physical and social integration.
Regarding energy, plans for a joint gas pipeline between Argentina, Bolívia, Brazil and Venezuela were adapted. Guyana and Surinam signed PetroCaribe agreements with Venezuela. The Brazilian state of Roraima began buying electricity from neighboring hydro-electric stations in Venezuela, on the other side of the border.
The Venezuelan Government suggested creating the Bank of the South to stop South American de-capitalisation. The savings of all member states should be placed in the Bank of the South instead of going to foreign overseas banks.
On the 23rd of May 2008, UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, was finally legalized. The UNASUR Constitutive Treaty was signed by representatives of 12 member states with an overall population of 380 million inhabitants: Argentina, Bolívia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez, one of the driving forces, stated, “Only in unity will we have complete political, economic, cultural, scientific, technological and military independence.” Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, suggested the institution of a Defense Council for regional security. Bolívia’s President, Evo Morales, pointed out the organization’s multi-ethnic character, “UNASUR is being born with the immense contribution of our indigenous peoples, afro-descendents, mestizos and whites, which is why we are in a plurinational continent in South America.”
The idea of a Defense Council became a reality in May 2010, when the Center for Strategic Defense Studies was created at the UNASUR summit in Guayaquil/Ecuador. Its aim is to develop common mechanisms of transparency in defense policy and spending.
With the negative experiences of the coup d’état in Honduras (2009), and the attempted coup d’état in Ecuador on the 30th of September 2010, the Defense Council adopted a strong stance of opposition against further attacks on democracy. At an emergency meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, one day after the failed coup in Ecuador, a “democracy clause” was established which affirms the “strong commitment for the preservation of democratic institutions, rule of law, constitutional order, social peace and full respect for human rights.”
In November 2010, representatives from all member states of UNASUR came together in Georgetown/Guyana to sign a pledge to apply sanctions to nations breaking the democratic and constitutional order. The pledge permits UNASUR to take concrete steps immediately, such as suspension of membership, border closures, suspending air traffic, trade, energy services and other supplies.
This democracy clause and pledge enabled UNASUR to react quickly to the recent coup d’état in Paraguay, where the right wing congress and senate ousted the democratically elected President, Fernando Lugo, replacing him by the imperialists’ puppet, Federico Franco. The UNASUR member states immediately suspended Paraguay’s membership until constitutional order and the rule of law will be restored. They also withdrew their ambassadors from Paraguay.
Ecuador’s President suggested closing the borders to Paraguay, which has not been done yet. Also UNASUR did not impose any economic sanctions because Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, argued that this measure would only hurt the people, not the regime. Venezuela has stopped its oil supplies to Paraguay, though.
UNASUR also helped to restore peace and good relations between Colombia and its neighboring countries, Ecuador and Venezuela, which had been severely disturbed by Colombia’s previous right wing leader, Álvaro Uribe, another imperialist puppet. With Manuel Santos’ inauguration, however, things took a turn for the better.
Hugo Chávez and Manuel Santos are in regular contact with each other and entertain friendly relations. “The word war is not in my dictionary,” President Santos of Colombia declared. Hugo Chávez calls him a “man of peace.” Thus, they cooperate in the surveillance of the shared 1.375 mile borderline between Colombia and Venezuela.
UNASUR has proclaimed South America a “region of peace,” trying to keep disturbances at bay which are incited ever and again by the belligerent would-be-imperialists of North America. So far, the dogs of war have been kept on chains, but the progressive Latin American nations feel the constant threat emanating from the northern continent where warmongers continuously plan and plot how to regain their former, lost influence.
In August 2011, UNASUR took a further step of unification with the creation of the Economic and Finance Council at a meeting in Lima, Peru. By placing limits on the speculating activities of foreign capital and by increasing regional trade, South America shall be protected economically. “It cannot be that foreign capital comes and goes, damaging us all,” Colombian President Manuel Santos emphasized.
A few weeks later, at a summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the UNASUR Board of Economy and Finance was installed. It allows addressing problems cooperatively with the development of a regional fund for all UNASUR member states. Local currencies and the new common currency Sucre are being used for Latin American commercial transactions.
In spite of the global economic crisis, UNASUR member countries have done remarkably well. The region’s economy is growing at a 4.5 percent annual rate, their USD reserves total 600 billion.
In October 2011, UNASUR went global by joining the United Nations with observer status, adopted unanimously by 193 member states of the UN.
The latest report of UNASUR’s Center of Strategic Defense Studies (CEED) was issued in May this year. It shows that from 2006 to 2010 UNASUR member countries spent 126 billion USD on defense. Brazil had a share of 43 percent, as Latin America’s largest country, followed by Colombia with 17 percent and Venezuela with 11 percent. The report also detailed the costs: 58.7 percent was spent on personnel, 23.5 percent on operations, 17.3 percent on investment, 0.5 percent on research.
Since June this year, the new UNASUR Secretary General is Alí Rodríguez. The Venezuelan politician formerly served as Secretary General of OPEC, later as president of Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA. His objectives for UNASUR are “bringing down poverty indexes in Latin America” by “using natural resources for poverty reduction.” He also sees the need to expand internal markets and to build a modern railway system, comprising all of Latin America.
Two new councils have been formed as the latest feat of UNASUR. The Security Council will focus on security issues, especially transnational organized crime. The Electoral Council will be sent to observe elections in member countries.
The Electoral Council has already been invited to monitor the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela on the 7th of October, where disturbances can be expected coming from the right wing opposition and their colorless, luckless, mediocre candidate who might want to substitute his lack of popularity with all kinds of shenanigans from the script of the would-be-imperialists in the northern hemisphere.
“UNASUR has a promising future,” Alí Rodríguez stated in a recent interview for El Ciudadano. “It is not necessary for all members to think alike, but if they agree on the main common projects of UNASUR, it will guarantee social stability and felicity.” The new Secretary General described UNASUR as an “integrating organism which places the human being at the center.”
Forming a humane society, where human beings are treated in a humane way – this is UNASUR’s Latin American vision for the 21st century.
The website of UNASUR (in Spanish): http://www.unasursg.org/
Sources: Blog Hugo Chávez, Correo del Orinoco, El Ciudadano, Patria Grande, Prensa Latina, Venezuelanalysis.
Prepared for publication by Lisa Karpova.
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