May 22, 2013
Ministers unanimously confirm former president’s candidacyTuesday, May 4, 2010
Kirchner proposed as UNASUR head
By Guillermo Háskel
The foreign ministers of the South American Nations Union (UNASUR) yesterday proposed that Argentine ex-president Néstor Kirchner be appointed Secretary- General, a decision which must be confirmed by a summit of the 12-member group to be held today in Argentina.
“The UNASUR Council of Foreign Ministers have agreed unanimously to propose, under Article 10 of the UNASUR charter, the name of the former Argentine president as a candidate for the post of secretary-general,” Ricardo Patiño, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador — the country which houses the temporary presidency of the group — said.
Later, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said that the decision had been made with the approval and consensus of all the members present.
“This is the only announcement we are making now and is intended to provide you with official information,” he added last night, talking on a closed circuit TV broadcast at a Greater Buenos Aires hotel. Patiño stressed that it will be the presidents and heads of state who will make the final decision.
The UNASUR ministers yesterday kicked off a two-day meeting proposing that the appointment of a Secretary-General top the agenda. Initial rejection of Kirchner eased, after Uruguay lifted a veto against him. Argentine Foreign Ministry sources said earlier in the day that Colombia and Peru, which had also expressed objections, were seen as falling in line with Uruguay.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s spokesman Marcelo Baumbach was quoted yesterday as saying that “considering that the name of former president Kirchner in the only one to be proposed, we suppose that he could be elected at this UNASUR extraordinary meeting.”
Other leading issues will be aid for Haiti and Chile after this year’s earthquakes.
Patiño said that 40 million dollars out of a promised 100 million had been already deposited in an account to help Haiti, devastated by an earthquake which killed more than 300,000 people in January. Also, the group was asking Chile to inform them how they can help it recover from an earthquake which killed 500 people in February.
The group was also to discuss the aftermath of the 2009 coup in Honduras, the Ecuadorean Foreign Minister said, recalling that two members — Colombia and Peru — recognized the Honduran administration of President Porfirio Lobo, who took office in January after president Manuel Zelaya was toppled.
Although Patiño failed to mention it, the foreign ministers were also expected to debate tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.
Patiño said that the “tentative agenda” would include several other issues such as that of energy, education, science, technology, drugs, Argentina’s sovereignty dispute with Britain over the British-controlled Malvinas Islands, the 30-day “state of exception” that Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo declared in five states where he sent 3,600 troops after the leftwing Paraguayan People’s Army rebel group killed four people, and an Ecuadoran proposal to debate the so-called Arizona Immigration Law.
Opening the meeting was Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who said that “UNASUR is alive and kicking.” However, only four out of its 12 members have ratified the Brasilia Treaty which created it in 2008.
Most UNASUR foreign ministers met to prepare a document to be signed today by most leaders of the group first launched in 2004 in Cusco, Peru, under the name of South American Nations Community.
Kirchner, a Lower House member and Peronist party chairman, is a man who many say actually co-governs Argentina with his wife and successor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
He had been facing the veto of then Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez, with whom he was confronted over an Uruguayan pulp mill which Argentina said was polluting its waters, and over blockades of bi-national bridges by Argentine environmentalists.
But new Uruguayan President José Mujica has said that he was lifting the veto. Mujica met with Fernández de Kirchner two weeks ago and both vowed to mend the relationship after the World Court ruled that although Uruguay violated a bilateral treaty by failing to report to Argentina that it was building the plant, Argentina failed to provide evidence that the plant was polluting its waters.
Remarkably, despite Kirchner’s efforts to be appointed Secretary- General, Argentina is one of the eight members whose parliaments have not ratified the Brasilia Treaty which launched UNASUR. Only Ecuador, Guyana, Bolivia and Venezuela have ratified.
Additionally, Kirchner, who ruled Argentina between 2003 and 2007, had even refused to attend the Cusco summit which created the group, saying at that time: “I only go to summits that I consider relevant.” Then Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa added that “some summits are a bit futile.” Kirchner sent in instead then Vice-President Daniel Scioli.
Kirchner’s statements replicated those he made domestically when long before being appointed Peronist party chairman, he had refused the post, arguing that he had “more important things to do.”
The UNASUR charter demands that a Secretary-General must have “exclusive dedication” to the post and Argentine Foreign Ministry sources said that could be solved by Kirchner’s possibly asking for leave from his Lower House seat. They added that at the request of Argentina, Ecuador would accept that the UNASUR headquarters, initially to be built in Quito, be built instead in Buenos Aires. One of the sources joked, saying that if Kirchner had any say, the venue would be “Olivos presidential residence.”
The foreign ministers are also expected to see what progress UNASUR has made to bring Colombia and Venezuela closer.
Last year Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez closed Venezuela’s embassy to Bogotá and sent troops to the border with Colombia after the Colombian army killed Colombian rebels on Ecuadorean territory. Chávez is a close ally of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who is the caretaker chief of UNASUR pending the appointment of a Secretary- General.
Chávez is fiercely confronted by both the United States and Colombia’s neoconservative President Álvaro Uribe and has harshly opposed Colombia’s decision last year to allow the US access to seven military bases on Colombian territory. Colombia is suffering intense activity from drug- traffickers and leftwing FARC guerrillas.
Attending the summit will be the presidents of Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile (Sebastián Piñera) and Bolivia (Evo Morales). Today’s summit will be chaired by Correa and co-chaired by host Fernández de Kirchner.
Neither Colombia’s Uribe nor Peru’s Alan García will be attending. Uribe is busy with the presidential election due to be held late this month and García alleged domestic difficulties to excuse his absence. Surinam and Guyana will be represented by Foreign Ministers Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk and Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett respectively.
Although the overwhelming majority of the regional leaders are progressive, the meeting is being held in a very luxurious hotel where even bathroom floors are made of marble.