Former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner received Monday the unanimous support from country members of the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, to become the organization’s secretary general, overcoming differences of previous meetings.
“We have decided to propose to the UNASUR Council of Heads of State and Heads of Government the name of Néstor Kirchner, former president of Argentina, as candidate for the post of Secretary General,” announced Ecuadorean Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño during the UNASUR ministerial meeting in Argentina.
“This is a unanimous decision,” said Patiño following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council, in anticipation of the extraordinary presidential summit scheduled for Tuesday, in the town of Campana to the north of Buenos Aires.
Mr. Kirchner, husband of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is therefore one step from becoming the group’s secretary general, since Uruguay lifted the veto it had imposed under the administration of former president Tabaré Vázquez as a consequence of the pulp mills dispute with Argentina and the blockade of a bridge linking the neighbouring countries by Argentine pickets, originally government sponsored.
The nomination of Mr. Kirchner was proposed by Ecuador President Rafael Correa who currently holds the pro tempore chair of the UNASUR group created in 2004. Uruguay this time abstained from the vote, thus opening the way for the unanimous support received by Mr. Kirchner. The administration of Uruguayan president José Mujica—in office since March—made it one of the priorities of foreign policy “to normalize” and “re-launch” bilateral relations with Argentina.
Furthermore, he has a close personal relation with the powerful couple, contrary to his predecessor, former president Vázquez. Because of the pulp mill conflict, personal relations of Vázquez with the Kirchner couple soured and became quite acrimonious.
Kirchner, 60, is currently a member of the Argentine Lower House for the province of Buenos Aires in representation of his group Front for Victory (FPV) and is also chairman of the ruling Justicialist Party, a catch-all movement that has been hegemonic in Argentine politics for the last seven decades. Mr. Kirchner, according to his latest speeches and sources close to the couple has plans to again run for the presidency in 2011.
UNASUR is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela and was born in Cuzco, Peru, in 2004. However, only four countries have so far approved the May 2008 UNASUR Charter, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana and Venezuela. Four more ratifications are needed for the group to be officially constituted.
Former Uruguayan president and opposition leader Luis Alberto Lacalle said that UNASUR “does not exist”, and called for the ratification of the charter before voting on the nomination of a secretary general. “Unasur does not exist, it’s a project; legally, it must be ratified by at least nine of the signed-in members and so far only four have done so. Uruguay has not,” said Lacalle.
“I would favour sending a message with the UNASUR charter to parliament to show Uruguay is interested in completing the process. We would then wait for nine ratifications before voting on a secretary general,” insisted the opposition leader.