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LATIN AMERICA | 21-03-2019 14:26

Regional leaders to bury UNASUR, launch new PROSUR alliance on Friday

Initially coined the Forum for Progress (Prosur), this new regional initiative was born amid the resurgence of the right in Latin America.

A decade after the now-dormant UNASUR was born during the golden age of leftist governments in Latin America, South American leaders will meet in Santiago on Friday to launch a new right-leaning regional organisation they hope will dominates the region.

The new body seeks to take the place of UNASUR, which was promoted by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and has been inactive for more than three years.

The countries will model their forum on the successful Pacific Alliance, according to reports, which is made up of  Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia.

Initially coined the Forum for Progress (PROSUR), this initiative was born amid the resurgence of the conservative right in Latin America. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and Colombian President Iván Duque have led the charge for a new alliance.

"Some say this is a new international body that adds to the long list of agencies in the region, saying that is a mistake,” Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said. "[But] we are promoting a forum without heavy bureaucracy, more inspired by the successful Pacific Alliance, replacing UNASUR and its difficult structure."

Foreign ministers from the region were meeting in Santiago on Thursday to lay the groundwork for the new body.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo praised the idea of ​​phasing out UNASUR. He said the bloc must be dissolved in order "for a milder body dedicated to concrete initiatives, such as physical integration [between countries]” to take shape in the region.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez and Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra, have already confirmed their countries’ likely participation in the new bloc. President Mauricio Macri and Lenin Moreno, from Ecuador, have not yet formally indicated whether they will join the alliance, though Argentina is expected to do so. Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez, will not travel to Santiago, but will be represented by Foreign Relations sub-secretary Ariel Bergamino.

Juan Guaidó, the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly who has been recognised by around 50 countries as the interim president of Venezuela, was also invited to the meeting, but will not attend.

Bolivian President Evo Morales will also not attend.

Success or failure

This new bloc is forming in circumstances far from the golden era of the South American left, which at one point saw leaders such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Néstor de Kirchner in Argentina and Chávez in Venezuela in power.

Still, South American leaders are preparing to get PROSUR off the ground in Santiago. The full proposal hasn’t yet come into fruition. 

"We think that a complex structure integrating the countries needs to be properly thought out. The next meeting will undoubtedly be an interesting starting point," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister José Valencia said of the meeting in Santiago.

His Bolivian counterpart, Diego Pary, warns that leaders have not yet approved "a declaration to start this organisation” despite two meetings held by national coordinators.

Analysts say that other regional organisations such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) or the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) could do the work that PROSUR is setting out to do, and that the new attempt at integration could be destined to fail. 

“A proposal for dialogue is always welcome, and there is no doubt that the region faces a series of challenges that demand a common response,” Thomaz Favaro, Brazilian analyst at Control Risks said. “But it is also true that many of these initiatives could be solved by organizations that already they exist."

"The strongest motivation for the creation of this new body (...) is replacing UNASUR, the idea of ​​annihilating that proposal that came from the left governments of the last decade,” Favaro added.

And experts say an excessive focus on ideology could lead to PROSUR's failure.

“As we saw with UNASUR, international institutions created with strong ideologies within the framework of democratic governments may already have death stamps," Lucia Dammert, a Peruvian analyst at the University of Santiago said.

The new regional initiative comes a year after Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Paraguay suspended their activities in UNASUR due to the lack of consensus to appoint a new general secretary.

Last week, Ecuador announced its withdrawal from the organization and requested the return of the building that houses the General Secretary in the outskirts of Quito. With this decision, UNASUR, which in principle was composed of 12 nations, was reduced to five: Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

-TIMES/AFP

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