Caracas, June 1, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Leaders from 12 South American nations have agreed to revive regional integration mechanisms during a summit held in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.
The meeting was marked by the welcomed participation of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro following years of diplomatic fissures.
Tuesday’s summit was inaugurated by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who called for integration to be a permanent goal, leaving aside political differences and focusing on the region’s challenges and inequalities.
“We need to leave strong roots for the next generations. Allowing disagreements to prevail would have a high cost […] as long as we remain disunited, we will not succeed in making South America a continent developed to its full potential,” said Lula from the Itamaraty Palace.
The Brazilian leader urged for the restoration of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), recalling that the body created in 2008 successfully implemented cooperation initiatives in areas such as healthcare, infrastructure, defense, and trade, reducing historical inequalities with hunger declining from 15 to 5 percent in two decades. UNASUR was effectively suspended following the arrival of right-wing governments in several member-states.
“Unfortunately, these advances have been interrupted in recent years. If today we take the first steps to resume dialogue as a region, the context we face is even more challenging,” explained President Lula naming the current climate crisis and the human suffering and economic hardships left by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lula added that a new roadmap for regional integration will be created by the countries’ foreign affairs ministers and presented in 120 days for approval.
The presidential summit concluded with the “Brasilia Consensus”, a document gathering nine agreements to advance the region’s efforts for unity. This includes maintaining regular dialogue among countries and promoting cooperation initiatives that prioritize health, food security, the environment, trade, migration, border security and integration.
“The presidents reaffirmed the common vision of South America as a region of peace and cooperation, based on dialogue and respect for the diversity of our peoples, committed to democracy and human rights [and] the upholding of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,” reads the text.
For his part, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that the Brasilia summit was an “extraordinary opportunity for rapprochement” and praised the respectful dialogue. The event was the first convened in nine years gathering all presidents from South America, except Perú.
“There will always be differences in proposals, criteria and ideas, but the most important thing is that there has been a debate, a dialogue with a spirit of tolerance and frankness,” stated Maduro to the press after the meeting.
The Venezuelan leader stressed that as the world advances towards multipolarity, South America cannot be left behind. “What prevents us from having a working agenda, a basic functional schedule to meet every six months and debate our region’s most fundamental issues?”, he asked.
During his visit to Brazil, the first since 2015, President Maduro held a bilateral meeting with Lula da Silva to seal the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Caracas and Brasilia. The two presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the agri-food sector and discussed future cooperation, including Venezuela’s potential application for membership in the BRICS bloc, a proposal that has been welcomed by Brazil.
For his part, the Brazilian president welcomed Venezuela’s participation in multilateral forums and criticized the US-led economic sanctions against the country, calling for their immediate removal. Lula also rejected the narrative about the Caribbean nation’s “authoritarianism and lack of democracy.”
Another meeting on the sidelines of the summit took place between Maduro and Colombian President Gustavo Petro. They reached an agreement to search for the remains of victims killed during Colombia’s armed conflict that were reportedly buried in Venezuelan territory, according to recent confessions by former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal.
Finally, the Venezuelan head of state revised the bilateral agenda with Bolivia’s President Luis Arce and shook hands for the first time with Argentina’s Alberto Fernández, reaffirming the countries’ efforts to normalize relations.