Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Amerícas: Former Colombia President Ernesto Samper Becomes Secretary-General of UNASUR

According to The Latin American Tribuneformer Colombian President Ernesto Samper is to be sworn in this week as secretary-general of the Union of South American nations (UNASUR), Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced. 

Samper will take over the post from Ali Rodríguez of Venezuela, Maduro said Monday (September 8). “On Thursday (September 10), we will have an international event that is the official swearing in of former president Ernesto Samper as secretary-general of the UNASUR here in Caracas," Maduro said. 

Samper, who governed Colombia between 1994 and 1998, was appointed to the UNASUR job last month by the presidents and heads of state of the twelve countries comprising the organization. 

Speaking at the organization’s headquarters in Quito last week, the former Colombian president said that his agenda as the new secretary-general would include social, economic and political issues. He declared that he intended to create UNASUR advisory boards, the first of which would be made up of economists and presided over by former Colombian finance minister José Antonio Ocampo. 

Regarding his political agenda, Samper has said that he would try to strengthen UNASUR’s political role and said he hoped to create a regional criminal court to try transnational crimes. He has also stated that he hoped to speak with President Maduro about reviving the political dialogue between the government and opposition, a process facilitated by Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. 

The reconciliation effort “is not broken, only frozen," Samper said last week. 

COMMENT: UNASUR’s members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Perú, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The UNASUR Treaty was signed on May 23, 2008, at the Third Summit of Heads of State in Brasília. The Union's headquarters will operate in Quito.

On December 1, 2010, Uruguay became the ninth country to ratify the UNASUR treaty. 

UNASUR's intention was to model the multilateral effort after the European Union (EU), including a common currency, Parliament and passport, which should be possible by 2019.

The ministers of foreign affairs of each UNASUR nation will meet every six months.