Ecuador’s National Assembly formalised the country’s withdrawal from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) on Tuesday, underlining the extent of the regional bloc’s decline in importance.
The organisation, created 11 years ago under the leadership of several left-wing Latin American governments has now been reduced to just five members, with little planned in the future in the way of activities.
With the support of opposition lawmakers, the Allianza País (“Country Alliance”) party managed to gather 79 votes in the unicameral chamber in favour of finalising Ecuador’s exit from the Unasur. The motion yielded 36 votes against and four abstentions.
"In May, I asked the [National Assembly] to begin the withdrawal process from #Unasur so that Ecuador would leave the bloc. Today, 79 lawmakers backed my request. We seek to foster strong relations with sister countries through regional integration based on democracy, freedom and prosperity," President Lenín Moreno tweeted after the vote.
Unausr, created in 2008 by 12 South American countries, has now been reduced to Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay agreed in Santiago, Chile last March to create the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur), a new regional initiative promoted by Chilean leader Sebastián Piñera.
"We reached a point where Ecuador's membership in Unasur was unfeasible. Ecuador no longer benefits from its membership in the organisation," lawmaker Fabricio Villamar, of the Creando Oportunidades (CREO, “Creating Opportunities”) party told the National Assembly.
Moreno first announced he intended to withdraw his country from the bloc back in March, arguing at the time that "there are no conditions in which Unasur can continue to work towards the goal of South American integration” as it had ran into a "dead end," due to a lack of consensus in electing a new secretary-general.
Some expressed opposition to the move.
"With Unasur, Quito became the capital of South America (...) Our people will succeed. We will resist, we will win," said former president Rafael Correa, who is locked in a bitter feud with Moreno, his former partner turned successor.
Ecuador also formally requested the return of the organisation’s headquarters, on the outskirts of Quito, which houses Unasur’s General Secretariat. The building has been without a tenant since 2017, after the end of Ernesto Samper’s term as secretary-general. The former Colombian president had held the post since 2014.
The construction of Unasur’s modern and architecturally renowned building cost about US$43 million, a sum that was fronted by the government of Rafael Correa.
The ex-Ecuadorean leader was a friend and ally of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, a huge proponent of the creation of Unasur.