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LATIN AMERICA | 31-05-2023 10:31

Latin America's leaders and UNASUR: unity in the midst of divergence

Everybody was onboard with unity at the meeting of South American leaders in Brasília, but the presence of Nicolás Maduro caused divergence.

At this summit of South American presidents in Brasilia, the press experienced difficulties gaining access in due time and form to the speeches of the leaders. The only one heard live came from the Brazilian host Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. In all other cases the images appeared without sound, including President Alberto Fernández, who attended this regional huddle with Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero.

President Fernández agreed with the previous diagnosis of his Brazilian colleague: “We are coming out of a process of disintegration of Latin America. I cannot fail to mention the influence of the years when Donald Trump was president of the United States nor the creation of the Lima Group with the sole purpose of permitting military intervention in a South American country or that UNASUR was diluted to create in its place Pro-Sur because that was the logic proposed by Washington.”

Alberto was philosophical about the crossroads facing the world: “We are in a moment of change when globalisation is not as we have known it. What before was a process of relocation of industries is now being reversed with companies returning to their countries of origin. It’s an objective fact that today globalisation is under review.”

According to the Argentine head of state, this new context appears “when democratic institutions are showing their weakness in the region. And that worries us because the construction of democracy and the preservation of human rights is something which cost the lives of many people in South America and we cannot lose that.”

In his view the revision of the processes of globalisation could result in regions being strengthened.

“We thought that Europe was in an enormous crisis when Brexit happened and yet Europa is absolutely fortified, giving battle and facing up to the challenges to which we see it submitted by the dispute between China and the United States.”

“What does the world need?” he asked aloud to answer that Latin America has it all: “We have energy, both green hydrogen and gas to bridge the transition, and food. But we have to stop shipping out grain or seeds and start supplying industrialised food. Furthermore, along with Chile and Bolivia we have two-thirds of the world’s lithium, which represents a formidable opportunity.”

In line with the predominant discourse at the Summit, Fernández maintained: “They wanted to make us believe that UNASUR was an ideological bloc. I saw a UNASUR where [Colombian] ex-president Álvaro Uribe co-existed with President Hugo Chávez when they did not think the same. Because UNASUR is all about common interests which we must deepen and develop.”

But the truth about this summit was that it was lacking in any great convergence. Among those diverging were Chile’s Gabriel Boric and Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou, who both figured among the youngest presidents. The dissidence originated from the presence of Nicolás Maduro, about which the bluntest was the Uruguayan leder, who via Instagram said that the summit would be making a statement about human rights and democracy which they all had the intention of signing. He questioned whether either principle was respected in Caracas.

The Chilean was more delicate: “We’re pleased to see Venezuela returning to multilateral forums because we believe that problems are resolved there and not  by statements where we only attack each other. Nevertheless, that does not mean sweeping problems under the carpet or turning a blind eye to issues which are important principles for us.”

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Eleonora Gosman

Eleonora Gosman

27 años de cobertura en Brasil como corresponsal. Entrevistó a todos los presidentes brasileños desde 1995, salvo el último. Autora del site Brasil 7 días.

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