Chilean president proposes Venezuela-less alternative to UNASUR

By February 21, 2019

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera issued a Twitter statement on Monday, February 18, outlining his intentions to create a new regional bloc which will put an end to UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) on account of its “failure,” which he attributes to “excess ideology.”

A replacement coalition, which has now been proposed by both Piñera and Colombian President Iván Duque, will be an “ideology-less” union named ‘Prosur,’ comprised of all South American nations apart from Venezuela.

Formed in December of 2008, UNASUR was spearheaded by Brazilian leadership during the socialist presidency of Lula da Silva at a time when Latin America was experiencing a surge in leftist leadership owing to the likes of Cuban President Hugo Chávez, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Its original 12 member countries constituted Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela, with Panama and Mexico acting as observing states.

According to the Constitutive Treaty signed in 2008, Quito-based UNASUR’s original objective was to “build, in a participatory and consensual manner, an integration and union among its peoples in the cultural, social, economic and political fields.”  

Since its formation, however, member nations have expressed their dissatisfaction with what they believe to be the union’s founding ideologies and its attempts to distance the United States from Latin America. Brewing discontent, along with the sustained absence of a secretary general, saw six member states–Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru–suspend their membership in 2017.

According to Piñera, the alternative union will exclude Venezuela on the grounds that member states must comply with requirements such as democracy and respect for the freedom and human rights of citizens.

Striving to create the opposite of what he called an “ideological forum,” Piñera claimed that Prosur’s purpose will be to offer “better coordination, cooperation and regional integration, free from ideologies, open to everyone and 100% committed to democracy and the UN’s Universal Human Rights Declaration.”

UNASUR is but one of a group of left-leaning coalition blocs formed around the same time, including CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para las Américas) which have also lost momentum over the years. In the meantime, Mercosur and the Lima Group still remain strong.

Given that political ideologies across Latin America remain disparate, Piñera’s attribution of UNASUR’s failure casts doubt on whether creating a new alliance will solve the problem of a union being governed by an “excessive ideology” or simply mask it.