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LATIN AMERICA | 14-03-2019 16:50

Ecuador's president: 'Néstor Kirchner does not represent our values'

Lenín Moreno announces he will withdraw his nation from the UNASUR bloc, will seek to retake control of expensive headquarters on outskirts on Quito and remove statue of ex-Argentine president.

Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno has declared that he will withdraw his nation from the UNASUR regional bloc and take down a statue of Néstor Kirchner that stands at the bloc's headquarters on the outskirts of Quito, declaring the former Argentine leader "does not represent the values ​​and ethics of our peoples."

Earlier today, Moreno announced that he would also seek to regain control of the bloc's expensive, architecturally renowned headquarters, seeking to nationalise it and hand it to a local university.

In comments that underline the regional shift that has seen the bloc – and its headquarters – fall into disuse, Moreno said the statue of Kirchner, inaugurated in 2014, would be taken down.

"Néstor Kirchner does not represent the values ​​and ethics of our peoples. South America has a plethora of heroes and heroes who do represent us," the president said in a video he posted on Twitter.

He added: "As everyone knows, my intention is that the US$-40 million building that our country delivered as headquarters for Unasur goes to the Indigenous University of Ecuador."

'Definitive withdrawal'

The Ecuadorean leader, who replaced former ally Rafael Correa as president in 2017, said Wednesday that the decision to withdraw his country from the UNASUR bloc had been made.

"Today I want to communicate to Ecuador our definitive withdrawal from Unasur," Moreno said in a radio and television interview, adding that he plans to request the building be returned to the country.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Paraguay suspended their activities related to the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) bloc in 2018, in the absence of an appointed general secretary. With the abandonment of Ecuador, the grouping, which in principle was to be composed of 12 nations, has now been reduced to a group of just five: Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In recent weeks, Chile President Sebastián Piñera has indicated that he wants to set up a new bloc named PROSUR. This month he will host a meeting in his nation to that end, with the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname having received invitations.

Ecuador's shift in position implies that Moreno will also stop his government contributing financially to the agency. The headquarters and their construction were funded by the Ecuadorean state under Correa, who served in office from 2007 to 2017. Moreno was his vice-president up until 2013.

"We will stop participating in all the activities of that organisation, we will not give a single peso more, nor one more contribution, to the budget of the organisation," Moreno said today.

"Ode to waste"

The Ecuadorean leader indicated that the return of the headquarters – which were inaugurated in 2014 at a ceremony attended by the then-leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela – was the ultimate priority. The building, designed by Ecuadorean architect Diego Guayasamin, cost around US$43 million to build.

"As the legitimate owners we have also asked for the return of the headquarters building to Ecuador," said Moreno, in the video he posted online.

Moreno described the building, which is designed in the shape of a condor, as an "ode to waste."

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), created under the impulse of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, has fallen into decline as Latin America witnesses an electoral turn to the right. Since 2017 – and the departure of its general secretary, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper – no activity has taken place.

- TIMES/AFP

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