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LATIN AMERICA | 27-09-2019 16:41

Statue of Néstor Kirchner removed from Unasur's headquarters in Quito

Moves comes as Ecuador requests return of headquarters and with countries quitting the bloc in wake of shift in regional politics.

A statue of former Argentine president Néstor Kirchner has been removed from the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in Quito and put into storage, the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry said Friday.

"With a view to a future reversion of the building to the Ecuadorean State, the administration of the General Secretariat of Unasur is storing the goods that were donated," the ministry said in a statement. 

He added that "among the stored goods is the statue of former President Nestor Kirchner, which is owned by Unasur."

Although there was no official pronouncement prior to its withdrawal, several images circulated on social networks of the statue's removal from the main entrance of the regional headquarters, which opened in 2014 just north of the Ecuadorean capital.

The withdrawal of Néstor Kirchner's statue occurs one week after the Ecuadorean Congress approved the country's formal exit from the bloc, made at the request of President Lenín Moreno. He also trailed the decision to remove the statue, though he had not set a date.

"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," Moreno tweeted after a vote in Congress last week.

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.

Ecuador also formally requested the return of the organisation’s US$43-million 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. 

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.

The countries that departed the bloc decided last March in Santiago to form the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur), moving away from the bloc.

– TIMES/AFP

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