Maduro described the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Union of South American States (Unasur) as “substantially productive” and a firm step towards the consolidation of the regional bloc for years to come.
Friday’s discussions, which saw the participation of seven heads of state, focused on improving the alliance’s administrative efficiency and defining a work plan into the future.
Venezuela put forth a plan that would avoid what President Maduro called “the bureaucratization” of the continent-wide alliance by restructuring the organization’s different work commissions and finding ways to streamline innovative ideas that might boost South American unity.
“We are proposing that within the next two months, we are convened by [Unasur’s] pro tempore president for a discussion with a strategic agenda that will allow us to reap benefits and not lose positive ideas in the desks of functionaries”, he said.
According to the head of state, Unasur must avoid following the example of the United Nations which, while “greatly appreciated” has been paralyzed by inaction due to the innumerable interests represented by the institution. “When [the UN] tries to resolve a problem, there is nowhere to begin”, Maduro stated.
In contrast, the former union leader argued that the 12-member Unasur must focus on accelerating a common agenda and “take the necessary steps that are already underway in the areas of a defense council, education, culture, planning, science and technology”.
This includes consolidating the Bank of the South, which would serve as a common financial institution to fund cooperative development projects.
“We believe in South America as a world power in the areas of peace, politics, economics, culture and the military. [It is] a diversified power because we have different religions and ideologies but it is a power that shows to the world how to live in peace”, President Maduro said.
As part of Friday’s proceedings, Suriname took over Unasur’s pro tempore presidency and will hold the post for the next 12 months.
Turning the page with Paraguay
During the summit, Maduro met with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes for conversations that signified an important step in normalizing relations between Caracas and Asuncion. The encounter between the two heads of state lasted approximately 30 minutes and was arranged by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
“[It was] a good meeting with President Dilma and President Cartes in which I ratified my respect and love for Paraguay”, Maduro said following the dialogue.
Tensions between the two South American countries began with the blocking by the Paraguayan congress of Venezuela’s admission as a full member to the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) trade bloc.
The diplomatic row escalated in June 2012 when Paraguay’s senate ousted former President Fernando Lugo, a progressive ally of the Venezuelan government, in what many observers have referred to as “an institutional coup d’état”.
The impeachment of Lugo led to the temporary expulsion of Paraguay from both Unasur and Mercosur and opened the door for Venezuela to enter the latter as a full member.
With the recent election of the new Paraguayan head of state in August, the land-locked country has been re-admitted to Unasur, but re-incorporation into Mercosur has not yet been verified by the Cartes government, which still considers Venezuela’s entrance to the bloc as “illegal”.
Notwithstanding, President Maduro affirmed that both governments have decided “to turn the page” and, in doing so, work towards mending ties.
“[I told President Cartes] that Venezuela is prepared to initiate diplomatic relations and establish relations of all types: economic, energy, commercial, cultural, diplomatic and political with the Paraguayan people… We have been friends with great Paraguayans and we know that the country’s people are noble and sincere”, he said.
For his part, Cartes highlighted the need to fight poverty through unified action and stressed the need to respect the political differences that may exist between Unasur members.
“We need to show, with firm political will, our commitment to make Unasur a common destination. [That means] accepting our political pluralism, reaffirming the judicial equality of our states and the principles of international law as well as the permanent necessity to maintain dialogue between each and every one of us”, the Paraguayan president said during his summit address.
Against military intervention in Syria
At the end of Friday’s summit, member states signed a unified declaration which has rejected any military intervention in Syria “which is incompatible with the charter of the United Nations”.
The statement’s text makes “a firm call for peace, in hopes that the Syrian people, in exercise of their sovereignty, can find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the conflict”.
Referring to a proposed military strike by the Obama administration as “starting an incalculable violent conflict”,
President Maduro appealed to people everywhere to stand against a new aggression by the United States. “We can’t sit stand there with our arms crossed and say that there’s nothing that we can do. War is avoidable and needs to be stopped. We must all use Twitter and Facebook, the television, radio and street marches of a thousand kinds to stop the war”, he urged.