Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

South American leaders 'must unite'

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa delivers a speech during the Unasur summit (AP)
Ecuador's president Rafael Correa delivers a speech during the Unasur summit (AP)
The South American leaders are meeting for the summit in Guyana (AP)

Members of a fledgling South American defence union should stop seeking solutions from the US and turn to their own leaders for answers, Ecuador's president said.

Rafael Correa spoke at the opening of a one-day summit in Guyana of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, which drew leaders including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Argentina's Cristina Fernandez and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Mr Correa said the region had looked to Washington for help for decades. "We need to rescue our own thoughts at this time," he said. "We have to think for ourselves."

Mr Silva called Unasur a global player whose members had co-operated with each other and survived an economic crisis still affecting some Western nations.

He said Brazil, which is soon expected to be the world's fifth-largest economy, no longer had to listen to "some third-rate" official telling the country what to do.

Unasur had strengthened its involvement in defence and health issues, but it needed to create an arbitration council to resolve differences between countries, Mr Correa said.

Mr Correa also asked that Unasur create a commission to investigate the events that led to a September 30 police revolt in Ecuador in which about a dozen people died and 270 were wounded. The uprising was led by police upset over a new law that would deny them promotion bonuses.

During the summit, leaders also approved a democratic charter that will serve as a guide for the 12-nation bloc if any of them faced an attempted coup. Mr Correa said the charter would have been an effective tool during Ecuador's revolt, adding: "If they (the rebels) had succeeded, they would have been ostracised immediately."

The charter called for economic sanctions and expulsion from Unasur if a nation broke its rules, said Ricardo Patino, Ecuador's foreign minister.

The Organisation of American States passed a similar democratic charter in 2001, but Mr Correa said Unasur's version differed by imposing sanctions.

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