Mérida, November 29th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – At a presidential summit in Georgetown, Guyana, on Friday, member nations of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) signed a pledge to apply sanctions to nations that alter the democratic and constitutional order.
According to the agreement, signed by the foreign ministers of the nine UNASUR nations, the regional integration bloc may respond to coups d’état and other threats to constitutional democracy with economic sanctions, the closing of borders, and suspension of membership in the bloc.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the agreement was the continent’s answer to the United States government’s efforts to halt the progressive changes underway in the region. “[The U.S.] is trying to divide UNASUR, and our answer is this meeting which all member countries attended and we have approved a series of documents to strengthen integration,” Chavez said.
“UNASUR is achieving accord and union, in contrast to the Organization of American States, which is weakening,” Chavez added, referring to the longstanding hemispheric organization that some analysts consider to be dominated by the U.S.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who ended his term in the rotating UNASUR presidency at Friday’s summit, recommended in a speech that member nations create more stringent laws to stop political destabilization efforts by private for-profit media outlets in the region.
Correa said the region’s largest private media constitutes “power without counter-power, without democratic legitimacy, defending not the common good, but particular interests.” He encouraged countries to “seek the appropriate legislation to combat the clear excesses of certain parts of the press and achieve a greater citizen control over that public service, which should be independent.”
The Prime Minister of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, who assumed the UNASUR presidency on Friday, said these “democratic protocol” adopted by the bloc should be “applied without conditions.” Referring to coups d’état and other destabilization efforts, he said, “We must assure that this does not happen again in our region.”
Jagdeo said the fact that such a small and poor nation as Guyana can occupy the presidency of a regional integration bloc such as UNASUR “demonstrates the value of the organization, where nations and countries are treated with equality, without giving importance to whether they are rich or poor.”
“I see UNASUR as crucial to achieving our continental destiny… As a South American, I am proud and I have hope that we will have a better world,” said Jagdeo in a speech.
Jagdeo also said the bloc “must construct our economy through democratic institutions, making decisions to open our economies, reconstruct our social services, and promote common infrastructure.”
Several heads of state, including outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, spoke about the achievements of UNASUR over the past two years in building trust and collaborative relationships among member states.
“In these years, we were able to do what many leaders tried to accomplish for decades and decades and were unable to do so,” Lula remarked. “We learned to respect each other. We learned to live side-by-side democratically in diversity… now in Latin America we have more sovereignty and self-determination.”
Lula highlighted the recent revival of diplomatic and economic relations between Venezuela and Colombia following a bitter break in late July. “Nobody in this room could have imagined five months ago that the relationship between President [Juan Manuel] Santos of Colombia and President Chavez of Venezuela would be as harmonious as it is today,” he said.
The remark was followed by an enthusiastic standing ovation and a spontaneous handshake between Santos and Chavez in the middle of the conference hall.
Outside of the hall, President Chavez told the press: “Who, unless they are crazy, could suggest that we are interested in war? No, what we want is union, respecting our differences… I will repeat what Santos said in Caracas: We must not allow ourselves to be derailed, we must follow the track of friendship and respect, and the construction of unity between Colombia and Venezuela, and unity of South America.”
Lula also highlighted the failure of economic policies backed by the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the success of progressive, democratically-elected governments in creating progress in the region. “[The IMF] knew just how to resolve the Argentine crisis, they knew how to resolve the crisis in Peru, Mexico, and Brazil, but when the crisis is their own, they do not know how to resolve it,” Lula said.
During the summit, the heads of state paid homage to the late Argentine Ex-President Nestor Kirchner, who became one of the region’s first presidents to defy the IMF’s prescribed policy package. Kirchner was the general secretary of UNASUR at the time of his death from a heart attack last month.
Current Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the late Kirchner’s wife, spoke of Mr. Kirchner’s leadership. “He led South America’s great battle to forge its own system of economic growth, giving us tools in the midst of crisis to be able to advance,” said Kirchner.
The UNASUR nations agreed to organize an extraordinary summit in the coming weeks in Mar de la Plata, Argentina in order to elect a new general secretary.
The UNASUR member nations are Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The only nation whose parliament has yet to ratify the constitutive treaty of the integration bloc is Uruguay, which announced during Friday’s summit that it expects to hold a vote on the treaty in the coming days.