South American Leaders Hold 2nd Summit for Integration

Leaders of South America’s twelve nations met late last week in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the 2nd South American Summit. On Saturday, they signed the Cochabamba Declaration, which they called the “cornerstone of the South American process integration.”

Caracas, December 11, 2006 (— Leaders of South America’s twelve nations met late last week in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the 2nd South American Summit. On Saturday, at the close of the meeting, they signed the Cochabamba Declaration, which they called the “cornerstone of the South American process integration” and which calls for a new model of integration for the 21st century.

The two-day summit was attended by the Presidents from Guyana, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, and Paraguay. The Nicaraguan and Ecuadorian President-elects Daniel Ortega and Rafael Correa, where also in attendance, including representatives from Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia and México.

“These are instruments that will permit us to work for our South America,” said Morales, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, while opening the first and only work session of the Summit.

According to the Declaration, which was signed on Saturday, “The regional integration is an alternative to evade that globalization increases with its asymmetries, and contributes to economic, social, political marginality, and attempts to take advantage of the opportunities for development.”

“The Construction of the South American Community of Nations looks for the development of an integrated space in politics, social, cultural, economic, financial, environmental and infrastructural. This South American integration is not only needed to resolve the great scourges that affect the region, in the case of poverty, exclusion, and the persistent social inequalities, that have transformed the last few years in to a center of anxiety for all of the national governments, but it is also a decisive step towards the achievement of a multi-polar, stable, just world, based on a culture of peace,” continues the Declaration.

According to the declaration, this new integration is based on six principles: solidarity and cooperation; sovereignty and respect for territory and self-determination of the people; peace; democracy and pluralism, “in order to consolidate an integration without dictators”; “universal, interdependent and indivisible” human rights; and “harmony with nature” for sustainable development.

Concretely, the declaration additionally establishes a Commission of High Officials to work towards, and implement the steps of South American integration in the themes of energy, infrastructure, commercial, financial, industrial and productive, migratory, culture and defense. However, the Caracas daily Últimas Noticias reported that according to Brazilian President Lula da Silvia, this Commission is only temporary, and established until next year’s summit.

The declaration pushes for the strengthening of the institutionalism of the South American Community of Nations (CASA), while stopping short of the creation of a General Secretary.

According to Últimas Noticias, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was disappointed that the creation of the General Secretary was not included in the declaration, but Brazilian President Lula da Silva explained that there was “no consensus.”

According to varying reports, the Summit was filled with agreement and disagreement. Bolivian President Evo Morales once again invited Venezuela back to the Community of Andean Nations (CAN), which President Chavez pulled out of earlier this year.*

There was also suggestion from some on the possibility of uniting South America’s two major trading blocks, CAN and MERCOSUR.

“With all due respect,” responded Chavez, according to Mexico’s La Jornada, “I think that the CAN doesn’t work, nor MERCOSUR. They are not adequate instruments for the time in which we live, they are instruments for the elite.”

Lula commented during the closing ceremony that although the region has many differences, there are also many convergences which will help integrate the region in a shorter period than the fifty years that it took the European Union. Chavez and Peruvian President, Alan García additionally shook hands and declared an end to the cold relations over the last seven months.

But the job ahead is not easy, considering the ideological differences between leftist presidents Hugo Chavez, and neo-liberal leaders, such as Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez , that has already signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

People’s Summit

Chavez, Morales, and Ortega greeted tens of thousands of activists and supporters late on Saturday, when they addressed the Summit of the People which took place simultaneously during the official diplomatic summit. Chavez reaffirmed his support for Bolivian President Morales, and stated that if the United States were to attack the Morales government, Venezuela would not “stay arms-crossed.”

The third summit of the heads of State of the CASA will be held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia in 2007. The Presidential Summit on Energy Integration will take place in Venezuelan in 2007.

* The CAN is made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador y Peru, while MERCOSUR is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Venezuela joined MERCOSUR in July, 2006.