Whatever Happened to UNASUR?

Photo: Telesur

The ongoing Venezuelan crisis keeps making headwaves in the international stage: as the Lima Group has taken the initiative and the OAS discusses our situation (again), other regional groups become irrelevant.


The Union of South American Nations has been in decline, thanks in part to the absence of a new Secretary-General since the former Colombian president, Ernesto Samper, left the post on January of 2017.

And, as this article from Ecuadorian magazine Vistazo presents, Venezuela has a big chunk of the blame. According to lawyer, international politics expert and Caracas Chronicles colaborator, Mariano de Alba:

The collapse of UNASUR has a lot to do with Venezuela. The crisis in Venezuela exacerbated the differences between its member countries, and in 2017 the majority of them had a very critical position to what was happening and the government’s behavior. At the same time the institution didn’t have great confidence, as (former Secretary-General) Ernesto Samper wasn’t perceived as an independent person that could mediate or collaborate between government and opposition in Venezuela, but mostly as a firm government ally.

Efforts to find a suitable replacement for Samper have been in vain: since they took over the pro-tempore presidency last April, Argentina proposed the name of José Octavio Bordón, long-career politician and former ambassador to the U.S. during Néstor Kirchner’s first term (2003-07). Bordón has been the Argentinean ambassador in Chile since late 2015.

Venezuela and its allies rejected Bordón’s nomination. After all, there’s plenty of bad blood between Nicolás Maduro and Mauricio Macri, specially since Venezuela was kicked out of Mercosur. A recent report said that Macri was considering dropping out of UNASUR, but nothing has happened yet; Argentina’s turn ends in April and la Casa Rosada seems now focused in a higher-profile gig: the G-20 presidency.

The UNASUR vacuum is seen in the dialogue between the government and the MUD. When it first started, in October 2016, UNASUR was one of the main brokers. Fast forward to January of 2018, with the latest (and probably last) round being mostly a Dominican affair with Rodríguez Zapatero at the side (or at the helm).

But every now and then, UNASUR can get you attention: After been uninvited from the upcoming Summit of the Americas, Nicolás Maduro demanded an extraordinary meeting to “defend Venezuela’s truth.” It ended just like last year’s attempt in the CELAC.

The Union of South American Nations has been in decline, thanks in part to the absence of a new Secretary-General.

The regional organization is still functioning, sending an electoral observer in the recent Ecuadorian Constitutional Referendum. But surprisingly, the CNE hasn’t invited them to our recently postponed presidential election. Instead, the government wants the United Nations and the Caribbean Community.

Going back to the excellent Vistazo article, it’s quite notable how the B.R. of V. has pushed UNASUR back to the past. Bolivia and Ecuador have paid for most expenses (65 and 60 million dollars respectively), including infrastructure costs.

UNASUR’s main building in Quito has been recognized for its avant-garde design, but structures made as symbols of regional integration don’t pay for themselves. In Bolivia, the brand new UNASUR Parliament is under construction in Cochabamba. It was supposed to be ready last year, but the inauguration is now set for April.

The fading of UNASUR, like CELAC, PetroCaribe or the ALBA (now a lame excuse to have get-togethers in Caracas), is proof that the the “multipolar world” that the late comandante eterno once proposed was only a mirage built on the back of high oil prices.


  1. Just sounds like another boondoggle for the “elite” insiders to sponge off the public to travel around, eat and drink and act important. Like a mini Davos. Just a bunch of bullshit.

  2. One theme on this board is that Venezuela can only be saved by third parties, the notion that only a foreign country or a regional or international organization can rid Venezuela. More conservative types say Trump or Rex or the US military and the more liberal types think salvation lies in some international tribunal dealing with crimes against humanity. Little is suggested much less discussed about ways that Venezuelans can solve their own problems. Instead we hear that the Chavistas are all dumb or worse that the whole country is invested in a huge kleptocracy. But even if the American marines ended the reign of the Chavistas on day 1, Venezuelans would be forced to reach an internal reconciliation beginning day 2 and thereafter. This is not a slam about today’s excellent account about UNASUR and other regional organizations. The report is well written and I found it interesting. But, outside help without a demonstration of a common purpose among all Venezuelans is never going to be timely and will involve too much interim suffering. Could not Venezuelans turn out in every town and city in the country to peacefully request an end to the existing government and its ruinous policies. Call it a day of national reconciliation and renewal and the purpose would be to ask for an international body to supervise a financial restructuring leading to an internationally supervised elections and on an emergency basis provide food and proper medicine.

    • William –

      It was the upper classes that failed Venezuela. It goes back to well before 1976. The upper classes either left or caved in, and the Chavistas became the proxy for the upper class.

      Today there is no leadership coalition in the upper classes – that I can see. That’s the situation today, in today’s Venezuela. I’m not there, I don’t know the players, don’t know their histories, so this is just an outside observation, but a lot of people seem dissatisfied with the MUD. That doesn’t mean that every single one of the would be Unidad is corrupt or indecisive, it just means that a coalition isn’t there, and if it was there once, it was split by the Chavistas, possibly over the vote/don’t vote thing.

      Lower classes didn’t fail. The lower classes did not have the reins. They want to be led competently so that they can live their lives working at decent jobs that interest them, that they can perform without undue risk, be proud of, and get paid for. They want a chance at prosperity. In short, they “want to follow”. And yes, if you offer them a free car, they’ll happily accept. Same here in the U.S..

      As far “the day after” you are correct, and I said that many times here to deaf ears. There must be a plan in place. The Hotel Humbolt didn’t get built without a careful plan. “Get rid of the regime” is not a plan. That may be a necessity, but it isn’t a plan. It’s more in the character of a wish! Even on a simple emergency food relief basis, how the heck would 1) however many hundred tons of food make it from La Guaira or Puerto La Cruz, 2) to which distribution centers to be distributed, 3) by whom and 4) on what basis of priority? What happens to farmers and/or regular suppliers who are trying to sell, when they’re undercut by free food? Not that this isn’t solvable, but some thought has to go into it, and it isn’t a magic formula that magically drops a meal onto every bare table. And any emergency food relief is just step one of a long series of steps, each of which requires a solution. You can’t just indefinitely feed Venezuela, like some terminally ill patient on intravenous tubes and life support.

      There are people on the “white hat” side of things in politics in Venezuela, and there are “grey hats” there, too, but the “grey hats” must come to work with the “white hats”. MUST. Not tal vez. A leadership has to form in the upper classes.

      My observations and opinions, nothing more.

  3. Unasur? UnaCrap: utterly useless like all the rest. Unasur’s “avant-guarde” buildings in Bolivia and Quito? Tremendos GUISOS, you can be sure. CELAC, KleptoCaribe or the ALBA.. pathetic dens of thieves. Kleptozuela is World Leader in public and private Mega-Embezzlement, yes, but only because it had oil.. Other tropical shitholes like Ecuador or Bolivia are prolific thievery machines themselves.

    That’s what 2nd world and first world decent countries like Argentina, Uruguay or Chile have started to figure out. We are witnessing a huge schism emerging between progressive nations and the mojones Chabestia left behind: Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Haiti, Cuba, Klepto-Narcozuela.. and their miserable petro-leeches in the Caribbean Islands, saved only by tourism and halabolismo.


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