A group of former South American presidents, foreign ministers, high-ranking officials, lawmakers, and intellectuals Monday sent a letter to Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro inviting him to join their initiative to relaunch the Union of South American Nations (Unasur for its Spanish name).
The signatories include former heads of state Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Eduardo Duhalde (Argentina), Ricardo Lagos (Chile), José Mujica (Uruguay), Dilma Rouseff (Brazil), and Ernesto Samper (Colombia).
In its letter, the group argues that the escalation of the dispute between China and the United States has created a new international scenario that calls for a coordinated response to the threat of global chaos and the use of nuclear weapons.
The Unites States' supremacy is challenged by the emergence of China, a millenarian nation governed in a centralized manner, while the European Union is seeking to defend its model of social cohesion and open up in a new fragmented scenario. The world is tending to reorganize itself around large regional blocs that ... become veritable fortresses as geopolitics tends to displace [the] economic rationale from the center of gravity. The group also outlined how Germany had become dependent on a power with which they have come into conflict for their energy supply.
With only 8% of the world's population, Latin America accounts for more than a quarter of the total number of COVID deaths, the leaders also underlined. The region's fragile productive structures, increased dependence, and weak democratic institutions amid political fragmentation add up to a common voice [prevented] from being raised.”
Former Uruguayan Senator Mónica Xavier of the leftist Frente Amplio (Broad Front) –also a signatory– told MercoPress that the document is to be forwarded to every president in the region regardless of their political stance. The recent Summit of the Americas in California showed how ideological differences prevailed over common interests, the group also pointed out while praising Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's initiative in September of 2021| reactivating the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), which had been created in 2010 and was paralyzed in
2017. Under its current Pro Tempore President, Argentina's Alberto Fernández, Celac tries to move on under the motto unity in diversity.
An integrated Latin America, non-aligned and at peace will regain international prestige and will be able to overcome the in which we find ourselves, the group insisted. We will thus be in a better position to confront the four major threats facing the region, they added.
With the cases of Chile, Colombia, and Brazil in mind, the group recalled that recent electoral processes have led to the triumph of governments and political coalitions that favor the revitalization of regional integration, the signatories went on while highlighting that starting in January 2023 all the larger countries will have governments favorable to the resumption and strengthening of the integration processes. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed because together we can make our voice heard and divided, we become invisible.
The group also underscored the difference between the integration process in Latin America and those such as the European Union (EU) or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Decades of frustrations have eroded the prestige of the very idea of integration and weakened the field of social and political forces called upon to sustain it.
While cultural and linguistic ties bind Latin America with Mexico, the latter's economy is largely focused on business opportunities with the United States, while South America is an entity in its own right, with its 18 million square kilometers and 422 million inhabitants, the letter went on to finally reach the topic of ”the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) through the Brasilia Treaty of 2008, which entered into force in 2011.
During its seven years of operation, Unasur developed multiple initiatives of interest. Its efforts in the management of political-institutional crises are especially valued, and the Defense Council made notable progress in this delicate area.
Progress was also achieved in health care and infrastructure projects. However, its weak implementation capacity, the absence of an economic, commercial, and productive dimension, and the abuse of the veto implicit in the rule of consensus in the decision-making process, including the appointment of the Secretary-General, made it easy to paralyze Unasur and try to replace it with the so-called Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur) in 2019, which was nothing more than an improvised and precarious venture with no operational capabilities.
Hence, the urgent need for an effective space for South American coordination. The signatories also claimed that the Brasilia Treaty was still in force for every country not having denounced it. The organization thus continues to exist to this day and is the best platform for reconstituting an integration space in South America, although it should not become a purely nostalgic reconstitution of a past that no longer exists.
A New Unasur must:
(i) guarantee pluralism and its projection beyond ideological and political affinities of the governments in office, like in the EU or ASEAN.
ii) Replace the rule of consensus, which ends up having a paralyzing effect, with a decision-making system based on quorum requirements depending on the issues to be resolved. The election of the Secretary-General cannot be subject to a country's right to veto.
(iii) Incorporate new players to complete the efforts of governments and parliaments, such as universities, technological institutes, cultural centers, trade union representatives, and large, small, and medium-sized companies. In their absence, integration loses vitality and tends to become bureaucratic.
(iv) Set up an agenda of the issues to be prioritized, which should include at least the following items:
- A sanitary self-sufficiency plan oriented especially to the production and joint purchase of vaccines and inputs.
- Agreements to facilitate orderly migration.
- An integrated program to tackle climate change in compliance with the Paris Agreements.
- Priority road, rail, and energy connectivity works.
- The recovery of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
- Development Bank of Latin America (CAF).
- Measures that favor cooperation between companies in the region, such as joint public procurement and regulatory harmonization.
- A common regional approach to global challenges to be presented to the G20 by the three Latin American countries participating in the Summit: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
- The establishment of a working group to advance toward a system of trade financing with a view to a future monetary integration when macroeconomic conditions so permit.
- A common approach to foreign debt and international financing for middle-income countries.
- Cooperation in the area of public security.
- Agreements to promote permanent education and training programs.
- Joint anti-monopoly policies
The signatories also hinted that a new Unasur could be a future projection of Celac.
We trust in your vision to make our South America a driving force for a new level of Latin American unity and integration, anchored in continental solidarity and in the permanent values of peace and democracy, the signatories told Maduro in a text to be forwarded to every other leader in the region.
In addition to various scholars and leaders from NGOs and other organizations, also signing the letter were:
Former Foreign Ministers: Celso Amorin (Brazil), Rafael Bielsa (Argentina), Belela Herrera (Uruguay), José Miguel Insulza (Chile), Jorge Lara (Paraguay), Guillaume Long (Ecuador), Heraldo Muñoz (Chile), Rodolfo Nin (Uruguay), Aloizio Nunez (Brazil), Felipe Solá (Argentina), Jorge Taiana (Argentina).
Former ministers: Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira (Brazil), Manuel Canelas (Bolivia), Adriana Delpiano (Chile), José Dirceu (Brazil), María Do Rosario (Brazil), Daniel Filmus (Argentina), Tarso Genro (Brazil), Fernando Haddad (Brazil), Jorge Heine (Chile), Salomón Lerner (Perú), Luis Maira (Chile), Aloizio Mercadantes (Brazil), Carlos Ominami (Chile), Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Brazil), Mariana Prado (Bolivia).
Lawmakers (present and past): José Octavio Bordón (Argentina), Guillerme Boulos (Brazil), Iván Cepeda (Colombia), Flavio Dino (Brazil), Marco Enríquez-Ominami (Chile), Gloria Florez-Schneider (Colombia), Jaime Gazmuri (Chile), Carmen Hertz (Chile), Vilma Ibarra (Argentina), Clara López (Colombia), Esperanza Martínez (Paraguay), Veronika Mendoza (Perú), Constanza Moreira (Uruguay), María José Pizarro (Colombia), David Racero (Colombia), Mónica Xavier (Uruguay).