South American nations pledge to pursue regional integration

Brasilia, May 30 (EFE).- Leaders of the 12 countries of South America agreed here Tuesday to establish a ministerial-level working group tasked with devising a roadmap for regional integration.

But the final statement adopted at the conclusion of the one-day summit did not include Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s proposal that the working group be instructed to produce a plan in 120 days.

Consisting of nine points, the Brasilia Consensus proclaims that regional integration “must be part of the solutions to face shared challenges.”

The document includes a commitment to “democracy and human rights, sustainable development and social justice, the rule of law and institutional stability, the defense of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.”

That point prompted criticism from Uruguay’s conservative president, Luis Lacalle Pou, who said the reference to democracy does not correspond to the current situation in leftist-ruled Venezuela.

“Obviously, we don’t have the same definition … of respect for institutions, for human rights, and for democracy,” he said.

The declaration also calls for future South American summits to take place on a “regular” basis, though it does mention a date for the next gathering.

In the economic realm, leaders promised to promote intra-regional trade and investment, overcome imbalances, and eliminate unilateral measures with eye toward creating “an effective South American free trade area.”

Two of the presidents in attendance, Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez and Mario Abdo Benitez of Paraguay, will leave office in the next few months, while Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has yet to decide if he will be a candidate in the upcoming snap election he triggered by dissolving the legislature.

Peru, now led by provisional President Dina Boluarte, was represented at the summit by Prime Minister Alberto Otarola.

Opening the event, host Lula reviewed South America’s history of repeated unsuccessful attempts at regional integration and said that the population cannot wait any longer for their governments to set aside differences and work together to surmount inequities that have persisted “since colonialism.”

The 77-year-old Brazilian president advocated “putting regional savings at the service of economic and social development” through the creation of regional financial entities.

South American countries should likewise explore possibilities for trading in their own currencies to reduce dependence on the dollar, Lula said before turning to energy.

The 12 nations of South America include one – Venezuela – that sits on top of the world’s largest proven oil reserves and another, Bolivia, that boasts vast quantities of lithium, needed to make batteries for electric vehicles.

Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador are oil exporters, while Bolivia and Peru produce natural gas and Argentina is in the process of developing a massive deposit of shale gas Lula suggested the establishment of a South American energy market “to ensure supply, the efficient use of resources, juridical stability, fair prices, and social and environmental sustainability.”

EFE mp-ed/dr

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