Bolivian Foreign Minister Fernando Huanacuni criticised the Argentine government this morning, saying Buenos Aires was to blame for the crisis gripping the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) bloc after it left "pending issues" on the table during its leadership of the bloc.
"The PPT (pro tempore presidency) of Argentina left us with pending issues, which deserves to be resolved," the diplomat said in comments reported by the state-run ABI news agency.
Huanacuni pointed to the failure to appoint UNASUR new secretary general as among the reasons. The position has been vacant since January 31, 2017, after ex-Colombian president Ernesto Samper’s term in charge ended. Since then, the members of the UNASUR have been unable to agree on a successor, with a decision needing to be unanimous.
According to reports, during its leadership of the group, Argentina sought to appoint a candidate, but was able to win the full support of the group for its nomination, José Octavio Bordó, Argentina's ambassador to Chile.
On Friday, six members of UNASUR – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru - said they would suspend their involvement with the bloc until the leadership situation was resolved.
"We have received a note from the six countries saying they will not participate in UNASUR meetings for a period of one year" until the leadership issue is resolved, Huanacuni said on Friday, as he confirmed the news.
The self-suspended nations may return once a secretary general has been decided, Huanacini said. He called again for an extraordinary general meeting of foreign ministers in the coming months to resolve “pending issues.” The remaining active UNASUR members are Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guyana and Suriname.
Taiana angry at abandoning of bloc
Speaking to Pagina/12 over the weekend, former Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana (2005-2010) called the decision of the six nations “a stab in the back,” saying they had chosen to “abandon the bloc.”
Taiana said he was concerned about the bloc being weakened and potentially ended.
There have been several attempts to revive the UNASUR bloc, which was set up a decade ago as a way to counter US influence in the region and was championed by late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and the Kirchnerite governments (former president Néstor Kirchner was appointed the organisation's first secretary-general).
But the loss of half of its membership overnight will serve as a damaging blow to its dimplomatic prestige, as well as its funding levels.
Speaking Monday, Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero addressed his nation’s decision to suspend its leadership, saying the UNASUR "does not lead to anything, does not help integration and is not able to resolve the issues" facing the region.
It is an institution that "has been paralyzed for more than a year and a half," Ampuero told Cooperativa de Santiago radio, adding Chile spends more than $800,000 on the bloc each year.
"It does not lead to anything, it does not help integration, it is not capable of resolving issues, it works by veto, it is a situation that for countries is unpresentable before our citizens," the diplomat added in condemning language.