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  • Bolivia’s Foreign Minister, Fernando Huanacuni, speaks at UNASUR's headquarters in Quito, Ecuador.

    Bolivia’s Foreign Minister, Fernando Huanacuni, speaks at UNASUR's headquarters in Quito, Ecuador. | Photo: @unasur

Published 21 April 2018
Opinion

Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay notified Bolivia they were temporarily suspending their membership.

Bolivia’s Foreign Minister, Fernando Huanacuni, announced Saturday he would call for an extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations' (Unasur) Foreign Ministers in May to solve the impasse that has caused six countries to announce their temporary withdrawal, citing “non-conformity with the situation the Union is going through.”

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“The pro tempore Bolivian presidency will seek an extraordinary meeting of Unasur Foreign Ministers so that in the framework of high-level dialogue we can appoint a new secretary general,” Huanacuni said after taking on Unasur's pro tempore presidency

Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin has also called for dialogue. In an interview with Telemundo, he confirmed Uruguay would remain in the union and reiterated the country’s commitment to facilitating an agreement, adding “it is time to reflect on the decision-making mechanisms in Unasur.”

Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry also affirmed the country's "total support to the Unasur integration process,” stressing its importance “as an integration scheme that meets the needs of the people.”

The official statement from Ecuador, the host of the organization's headquarters, also said: "The ideal instruments to resolve the recent institutional issues, as well as the election of the Secretary-General, is an objective on which Ecuador has been facilitating dialogue to find solutions "

During Saturday's press conference, Huanacuni denied claims that "the different councils, the internal mechanisms of Unasur" had been paralyzed stating that in 2017 there were over 100 meetings. Unasur has a joint council for interconnectivity and infrastructure in the region, for education, science and technology, and defense which allows its member countries to share experiences and implement joint policies and projects.

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Friday a letter signed by the foreign ministers of Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay notified Bolivia they were temporarily suspending their membership, arguing the organization was leaderless. Unasur has been without a secretary general since early 2017 when former Colombian president Ernesto Samper finished his term.

During a press conference, Saturday Huanacuni insisted the problem will be addressed in the next high-level meeting and stressed that these countries are not leaving the union.

The temporary withdrawal of six countries leaves only six active Unasur members: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.

According to a Peruvian diplomat who spoke with Reuters under the condition of anonymity, the problems run deeper. 

“Unasur works by consensus, but the differences between its members’ political and economic views are so great it can no longer operate,” he said.

The six counties that have suspended their activities in the regional body are currently headed by right-wing leaders who have joined the United States in condemning Venezuela’s upcoming presidential elections and supported the move by former Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to block Venezuela from participating in the Summit of the Americas.   

Unasur was created in 2007 as space for autonomous regional integration and cooperation, in which the United States, which has historically dominated the Organization of American States (OAS), has no presence.

The project began with the support of progressive leaders, among them Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, Nestor Kirchner from Argentina, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from Brazil.  

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