Ecuador scrambles to save Unasur after six countries suspend their membership

Apr 24, 2018

The decision of six members of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) to suspend their membership has left the Quito-based organization on life support.

Unasur headquarters,north of Quito

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru last week informed Bolivia, which holds the pro tempore presidency of Unasur, of their decision to end participation in the 10-year-old organization for one year.

“As far as we can see, Unasur no longer has a useful mission,” said Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero. “The organization has no focus and no longer has the authority to work toward resolving issues affecting South America.”

The post of Unasur secretary general has been vacant since January 2017, when Colombian ex-president Ernesto Samper stepped down.

Ecuador has proposed talks to keep the 10-nation organization together but only Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela, the remaining Unasur members, say they are willing to participate. “Unasur has proven an indispensable agent for integrating the interests of all South Americans,” said Ecuador’s foreign minister María Fernanda Espinosa. “We stand ready to work to resolve the issues of all member nations.”

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Unasur was founded in 2008 to promote the interests of South American nations, which the signees believed were unrepresented by such organizations at the U.S.-headquartered Organization of American States. At the time, the Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Chile were headed by leftist and center-leftist governments. Since then, centrist governments have been elected.

At the Summit of the Americas, held earlier this month in Lima, several Unasur members criticized Venezuela, also a member, for maintaining “undemocratic policies.”

The Unasur headquarters is located north of Quito in a $59.7 million building built during the presidency of Rafael Correa.

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