South American Leaders Hail Closer Ties

by Dave


South American leaders gathering at the United Nations this week have been touting their own new political union, which was hailed as a coming of age for the continent.

The regional leaders gathered for a closed-door meeting Wednesday of the Union of South American Nations, a collection of 12 countries.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who hosted the body’s first emergency meeting last week, hailed the union as a signal that South America could finally manage its own problems.

Last week’s Santiago summit, which dealt with a political crisis in Bolivia, “tells us that the values of democracy, dialogue, human rights and peace are becoming stronger than ever in Latin America,” Bachelet said.

“It tells us that the region wants to leave behind the dark moments of its history,” she said in a speech before the UN General Assembly.

South American leaders offered strong backing to embattled Bolivian President Evo Morales at the Santiago meeting, warning the country’s opposition to refrain from staging a coup and splitting the country. The unrest in resource-rich eastern Bolivia has centred on the region’s demands for greater income from natural gas deposits and provincial autonomy.

Morales welcomed the support in his own speech before the assembly Tuesday and launched into a tirade against the United States, whom he accused of fomenting the unrest in Bolivia that has left at least 25 people dead. Bolivia earlier this month expelled the US ambassador from La Paz.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva echoed Bachelet’s remarks in his own address Tuesday. He noted that while advanced economies were battling a financial crisis, developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere were gaining strength and political power.

The South American union gave the region a capacity to find solutions to its own problems without looking to the continent’s northern neighbour, Lula said.

The bloc, launched in May, consists of Argentina,
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru,
Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Yet the region is still pushing trade ties with the world’s
largest economy. US President George W Bush on Wednesday met with 11
Latin American leaders at the Council of Americas in New York,
launching a new forum to boost trade between the two continents.