Unasur (Union of South American Nations) chairman Ernesto Samper cautioned that recent oil and gas discoveries outside the region, a weaker demand for commodities from China and Europe and the 'evident strengthening' of the US dollar anticipate a slowdown of the region's economy.
But he also pointed out to the existence of strong points such as the strategic reserves of oil, nickel, copper, hydro power and water resources. But to all this we must inject added value, and the objective of Latin America should be to overcome the situation by launching an ambitious re-industrialization process.
The former Colombian president (1994/1998) underlined the achievements of the region such as the reduction of poverty, 70 million people in ten years, and the commitment, without exceptions of the region's governments with democratic rules.
I believe we have much to work in common, which makes unnecessary to be united against somebody or against something, emphasizing on the need to 'de-ideologize' and at the same time make Unasur more political.
Well aware of the existence of different political models, to reach a common objective it is necessary, plain and simple that those two visions that exist are not used as arguments against integration. It is possible to have a region and two visions on how to develop.
Samper has offered Unasur to help recover dialogue between the Venezuelan opposition and government, and to contribute to the peace process in Colombia, once the current negotiations between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrilla are over.
So far, he said, we have not received replies to these offers which in the case of Colombia should be post-conflict and concentrate in economic and moral compensations, (linked to pardons and guarantees of non repeat), in justice and the truth which should allow victims or their families learn about the conditions in which they were victimized.
Samper added that it was 'inevitable' that the ELN guerrilla group joins the peace conversations so they are integral negotiations, something which he admitted 'were on the right track'.
Regarding drugs, Samper said that from a personal point of view he favors an alternative policy, not based on the legalization as an alternative to prohibition, but rather gradually dismounting the prohibition norms.
”Nowadays we are tough with the peasants, with the 'mules' (that carry the drug), with consumers and we are weak with the criminal organizations said Samper who added he supported going after the criminals and criminalize, and not against the weak links of the chain”; and not by legalization but with mechanisms to help them get out of the problem.
Finally Samper referred to some of the achievements of his tenure and mentioned agreements to create a medicines prices bank and a mechanism to solve disputes between private investors and governments, which is more balanced and less exposed to controversy. Unasur is also working on a project to promote infrastructure works (roads, railways, fluvial transport) with a starting fund of 20bn dollars.
Unasur is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.