Sunday, December 7, 2014

Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Moves toward Continental Freedom of Movement ...Venezuela Makes “Equality” Call

By Ewan Robertson:

Mérida, 5th December 2014 ( – The 12 member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has taken a step toward creating South American citizenship and freedom of movement. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro also called for strategies to promote continental economic development, social equality and defence sovereignty.

The new proposals for South American integration were made during a UNASUR summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador yesterday. Today regional leaders are meeting in the Ecuadorian capital Quito for the opening of the organisation’s new permanent headquarters.

Taking place over two days, the summit in Guayaquil sought to design strategies to further develop regional integration.

“We have approved the concept of South American citizenship. This should be the greatest register of what has happened,” said UNASUR general secretary Ernesto Samper at the summit yesterday.

Part of this proposal is to create a “single passport” and homologate university degrees in order to give South Americans the right to live, work and study in any UNASUR country and to give legal protection to migrants – similar to freedom of movement rules for citizens of the European Union.

For Samper, who is a former Colombian president, they key word at the meeting was “convergence” to continue integration. “Convergence of citizens, convergence of similarities, and convergence of solidarity are the proposals of this effort to bring us together,” he said.

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, argued that the statutes of UNASUR should be changed and that majorities, rather than absolute consensus, should be the minimum necessary basis on which to advance important areas of integration.

In particular, Correa called for the advancement of financial integration and sovereignty, such as the Bank of the South and Reserve Fund, a currency exchange system to minimise the use of the dollar in intercontinental trade, the creation of a regional body to settle financial disputes, and a common currency “in the medium term”.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro agreed that the creation of new financial instruments was central to advancing regional integration and sovereignty.

“From Venezuela we believe that we must take the agenda of shared economic development into our hands; a new financial architecture [that includes] the Bank of Structural Projects, that converts us into a powerful bloc,” he said to media in Guayaquil before the meeting with other UNASUR leaders.

The two other priorities for the Venezuelan government at the meeting were to promote strategies for social equality and regional defence sovereignty.

On defence, Maduro said that Venezuela would support a “new South American military doctrine” based on a “system of education for South American militaries, below the guidance of the South American Defence Council,” in which the thought of the continent’s 19th century independence leaders would be present.

Another important event at the summit was the passing of the pro tempore presidency of the UNASUR from Suriname to Uruguay.

Outgoing Uruguayan president Jose Mujica made a passionate speech while accepting the presidency on behalf of his country, where he stated, “There won’t be integration without commitment, willpower, and political will, because the global obstacles are enormous and the past continues to constrain us”.

Meanwhile, respected former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva declared, "Today our main challenge is to deepen the construction of strategic thought of Latin America and the Caribbean. We can construct an integration project that is more daring, that takes advantage of the formation of our rich history, goods and cultures”.

The UNASUR was created in 2008. Its members are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Published on Dec 5th 2014 at 1.07pm