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LATIN AMERICA | 21-02-2019 11:00

Chile's Piñera sparks talks on Prosur, new union to replace fractured Unasur

The Chilean president said Prosur will be a body "without ideologies or bureaucracy" that will strengthen the economic integration and build strong trade relationships between countries in the region, excluding Venezuela.

President Sebastián Piñera confirmed on Tuesday that Chile will organise a summit of regional presidents in March for the creation of Prosur, a new South American forum that will exclude Venezuela. Chile’s Prosur initiative could replace the unsuccessful Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which has been practically without activity for three years, Piñera confirmed.

"In the month of March we will have a meeting of presidents in our country to give impetus to the Prosur project, which is a forum for the development of South America," Piñera said at a press conference at the La Moneda palace.

The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia (a country allied to Venezuela in the region) Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname are invited to this meeting.

The Chilean president explained that Prosur will be a body "without ideologies or bureaucracy" that will strengthen the economic integration and build strong trade relationships between countries in the region.

But he clarified that only nations that fulfil requirements such as "the full validity of democracy, the rule of law, and full respect for human rights and freedoms," may become members of the proposed Prosur organisation.

"You may note that only Venezuela is excluded, because Venezuela does not comply" with the requirements, said Piñera.

The new regional organisation began to take form last week in a meeting on "South American integration" in which representatives of all the nations of the zone participated, with the exception of Venezuela, in Chile.

International analyst Andre Serbin Pont said it’s hard to tell what Prosur’s new function would be from Piñera’s preliminary talks.

“At the moment it seems closer to a high-level forum than an international organisation — so did Unasur too, in its beginnings,” Pont, director of the Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales, told the Times.

Pont explained that Prosur’s creation is more about replacing the fractured Unasur than promoting any new or improved economic integration in the country.

“The focus of Prosur emphasises coordination in public policy, the defence of democracy and the market economy, and is presented as an organisation that will not be at the service of any particular country (in reference to Venezuela´s influence over Unasur),” Pont continued.

Unasur began operating in 2011 under the wing of the majority of leftist presidents who were governing at that time in South America, among them Inacio Lula Da Silva (Brazil) and Hugo Chávez (Venezuela). The Union was left leaderless with the departure of former Secretary General Ernesto Samper in 2017. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru suspended their participation soon after.

"Unasur has failed because of its excess of ideology and bureaucracy and has not achieved any result (...) Prosur will not be an ideological forum like Unasur was," Piñera said of the group’s recent demise.

Local media say that Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro would give their support to Prosur, according to local media. 

Pont said that the support of these leaders will be critical to Prosur’s success, and the direction of relations in the regions.  

"It will be key to keep an eye on Brazil's posture towards Prosur, as less than two months into [President Jair] Bolsonaro's presidency, the main priorities of his administration's foreign policy still seems unclear, particularly regarding regional processes,” Pont told the Times.

The new body could take its first steps to get the green light from the region’s presidents in the summit brewing for the end of March.

-TIMES/AFP

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