The presidents of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) meeting at a summit in Guyana paid homage to former president Nestor Kirchner, agreed to incorporate a “democratic clause” to the group’s charter, left for next month a decision on who will be named the next secretary general and had a special mention to the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the UK. Argentina also revealed that the post should be occupied by an Argentine.
The democratic clause imposes sanctions on any member country of Unasur that breaks or attempts to break constitutional rule or the democratic system. Sanctions will be: suspension at the UNASUR; partial or total close of borders; suspension of commerce, air and maritime traffic, communication, energy provision and services; promoting penalization and political sanctions.
The clause has been taken as a priority after the recent conflict in Ecuador (when part of the police forces mutinied and attacked President Correa), and the coup in Honduras on June 28, 2009.
Regarding the Falklands conflict several articles of the final declaration state that all Unasur ports will be closed to vessels operating under the “illegal flag of Malvinas”.
This last statement and another referred to “vulture funds” or the organized hold-outs of sovereign bonds that do not accept debt rescheduling programs and demand full payment of capital and interest through international courts were seen as triumphs of Argentine diplomacy.
Before the official opening of the summit Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa (whose country held until Friday Unasur’s presidency) asked for a minute of silence to honour the memory of former Unasur Secretary General Nestor Kirchner who died of a heart attack a month ago. As the minute concluded the dignitaries present applauded and cheered.
In her speech Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner praised her husband’s will to walk down a path in the region from which there’s no way back and said that reaffirming the organization’s direction is the best way to honour his memory. “His goal was achieving growth and tirelessly fighting inequality and social differences”
Mrs Kirchner then thanked her peers from Brazil and Venezuela. “We have to remember him fondly. I would have loved to have him a few more years with me, but God only knows why these things happen. I would love to thank Lula da Silva, because along with him my husband could prove that there was no animosity between Argentina and Brazil. And also I would like to thank President Chavez for helping Argentina when no one would”.
Finally Mrs Kirchner recalled her husband as “a great creator of paradigms in South America and he was a unique, unrepeatable and wonderful man. He lived his sixty years intensely”. “Reaffirming Unasur direction is the best way to pay homage to Kirchner”.
Brazilian president Lula da Silva also praised the former Secretary Genral saying “he will always be a source of superior inspiration for the region’s politicians”, He added that “his dreams were shared by all South Americans”.
However in spite of the speeches and praise for Mr. Kirchner the presidents were unable to agree on a name for the next Secretary General.
Correa said “we must keep sounding and talking”, and recalled that when the post was created it was agreed it had to be a former South American president.
Several names had been originally floated: Brazil’s Lula da Silva who steps down next January and Uruguay’s Tabare Vazquez.
However Lula da Silva has his own plans to promote Brazil in Africa and Argentina would never accept Tabare Vazquez because of the long conflict over the pulp mills and it is known that there was personal animosity between the Kirchner couple and the former Uruguayan leader.
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez added that the next Unasur secretary general did not necessarily have to be a former president, “there are great personalities that could very well be nominated, but I won’t advance names”.
Nevertheless he agreed that a decision should be reached at the coming Ibero-American summit scheduled for early December in Mar del Plata.
Brazilian sources in Montevideo said that following talks with several Unasur countries, the name of Marco Aurelio Garcia was seen as a strong candidate. Garcia is President Lula da Silva’s foreign affairs advisor and has been the driving force behind the creation of Unasur and promoting other regional integration processes.
Under Brazil’s long term strategy, Unasur in a near future should begin talks to join up with the Caribbean and Central American group of countries.
The Georgetown summit ended with Ecuadorian president handing the Unasur pro-tempore presidency for the next twelve months to his Guyana counterpart, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Out of the twelve member presidents, only eight were present since heads of state from Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay could not attend.