The triumph of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil put the relaunch of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) on the agenda after, between 2018 and 2020, seven of its twelve members decided to retire.
The report “Towards a new Unasur”prepared by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, Guillaume Longand the legal adviser of the Ecuadorian National Assembly, Natasha Suñéargues that reactivating the regional body becomes urgent in a world marked by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and increasingly divided into blocs.
“There is a good political situation at the regional level to relaunch Unasur. I believe that Argentina and Brazil have to play a leadership role in this and they can do it,” he explains. Long in dialogue with Page 12.
The golden age of Unasur
This integration organization was born in 2008 promoted by the late President Hugo Chávez and supported by other regional leaders such as President Lula. His baptism of fire was that same year with a declaration in favor of constitutional order in Bolivia, in the midst of a political crisis with protests in the city of Santa Cruz in favor of greater autonomy that turned violent and left dozens dead.
Unasur also closely followed and denounced the coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, the police mutiny against the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador a year later, the coup against Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, dismissed by the Senate in an express political trial in 2012, or the impeachment against President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016, which would mark a before and after for the regional body.
The political and media wear of some progressive governments, in some cases with more than a decade in power, the fall in the price of raw materials and the start of a sharp economic recession between 2015 and 2017 marked I dreamed, A turn towards conservative governments in Latin America. Although these processes were later reversed in several cases, at the time they meant for Long the return of bilateralism with the United States.
The dismantling stage
In this context of growth of the right in the region, seven countries denounced the constitutive treaty of Unasur, and several of them did so unconstitutionally, outside of the procedures that their own domestic law enables. The most flagrant cases were those of Brazil and Argentina. “Brazil denounces the constitutive treaty through a decree by Jair Bolsonarowhen the Brazilian Constitution very exhaustively establishes that to get out of an international treaty you have to go through Congress. And in the case of Argentina, former President Mauricio Macri did not even sign a decree but sent a note to Ecuadorthe depositary country of the treaty, saying that Argentina was leaving, when the Constitution is also very clear in saying that it must first go through Congress,” Long details.
In both cases, added to those of Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, I know used the pretext of acephaly to leave Unasur: Indeed, there was no acting Secretary General since former Colombian President Ernesto Samper left in January 2017. To replace him, the then government of Mauricio Macri proposed a candidate, Ambassador José Octavio Bordón, who was ambassador to Chile and the United States. But there was no consensus among the twelve countries, and that is one of the problems identified in the report if one wants to think about a new Unasur. “Although that is not the spirit, consensus means that any country has a veto power: if any of the twelve oppose a decision, that decision does not pass. And repeatedly there was that problem with the election of secretaries and general secretaries. After Samper there was no way to agree on a name, but neither before,” Long says.
In any case, for the former Ecuadorian foreign minister, the official reason for leaving the organization was political and had to do with “the great turn towards a quite radical right during these years under the leadership of Trump in the region”which brought with it “a renewed monroism“The issue of Venezuela also had a strong impact on Unasur, because at one point it became important for the regional right to isolate the government of Hugo Chávez first, and Nicolás Maduro later, to seek to leave the organizations that Venezuela was in or remove it from blocs like Mercosur. Venezuela became a polarizing political issue and that is how, for example, the Lima Group was born.
It was precisely Nicolás Maduro and eleven other presidents of the region who were asked days ago by former presidents, former foreign ministers, former ministers, parliamentarians and South American intellectuals to collaborate in the launch of a new Unasur. The letter, signed by former presidents Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Eduardo Duhalde (Argentina), Ricardo Lagos (Chile), José “Pepe” Mujica (Uruguay) and Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), among others, states to Unasur as “the best platform to reconstitute a space for integration”.
Currently the regional body only retains five of its twelve original members: Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. The reality is that as long as at least two States continue to belong to it, Unasur will continue to exist legally at the international level. If the political will exists, there is no legal impediment for it to be relaunched by its member states.
A bet towards convergence
If the States choose to reactivate Unasur, it will have to readapt so as not to suffer the impact of a potential new wave of the right. This is how Long puts a strong emphasis on the need to resume the convergence agenda between the Andean Community, Mercosur and other regional organizations. It is also important to discuss the call coming from the circle of President-elect Lula in Brazil, to the creation of a common regional currencya project that would also imply the constitution of a South American central bank.
A revitalized Unasur could also boost a greater economic diversification, turn around the productive matrix to stop being a region that mainly exports raw materials. “I believe that at this point in our history and With a Cold War looming fast between the US and China, the global south has to generate regional blocs. Otherwise, we are going to continue with the usual bilateralism, and that in the first Cold War basically meant aligning with the United States,” Long insists, for whom the only way to negotiate on favorable terms with the great powers is as a bloc, imposing conditions and some type of regulation in economic, labor and environmental terms.
For Long, it is ultimately a “convincing exercise” in which Brazil and Argentina will have to assume a leadership role. “there is an imaginaryand I think that sometimes with bad political intent, that seeks to link Unasur to a radical or Chavista ideological political proposal. And I think you have to convince the center, even the rightthat Unasur is a strategic project for the region, that it is not an ideological project,” says the Ecuadorian diplomat.
The Brazilian example is clear: both Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula da Silva have been in favor of building a South American axis. The only Brazilian president who was really against this idea of South American integration was Jair Bolsonaro, since not even the former de facto president, Michel Temer, denounced Unasur. For this reason, for Long “South American integration has to move forward and I think we are finally going to see that with Lula.”