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South American nations form new regional group

By Renzo Pipoli
South American nations form new regional group
President of Chile Sebastian Pinera (R) welcomes his counterpart from Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, upon his arrival Friday at the Palacio de la Moneda, in Santiago, for a meeting at which presidents from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru worked toward creating a new regional integration group, Prosur. Photo by Alberto Valdes/EPA EFE

March 22 (UPI) -- Several South American leaders met Friday to create a new regional group after a previous decade-old attempt to achieve broader regional integration failed to achieve unity.

"We start Prosur, a forum without ideology or bureaucracy, but fully committed to freedom, democracy and human rights so that South American countries can have dialogue, cooperate, get our voices heard and advance toward greater freedom, integration and development," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera tweeted Friday.

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Argentina's Mauricio Macri, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, Colombia's Ivan Duque, Ecuador's Lenin Moreno, Paraguay's Mario Abdo and Peru's Martin Vizcarra met Friday with Pinera in Santiago to start a new regional organization named Prosur and replace Unasur as the biggest regional group, Chile's La Tercera reported.

Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, arrived a day earlier as part of a visit to Chile to help create a substitute the the Union of South American nations, or Unasur, Brazil's G1 said.

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Unasur, with headquarters in Quito, was formed about a decade ago by 12 members at a time when Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina had governments headed by left-oriented leaders, G1 added.

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The Unasur separation occurred as countries within the organization had disagreements about issues in Venezuela that deepened in recent years. Only Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela remain in Unasur, G1 said.

Unasur failed in part because members, confronted over Venezuela, couldn't agree in 2017 to name a new leader for the regional group that would satisfy all of them.

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In this context, the Group of Lima was created in 2017 by nations concerned about the unsettled situation in Venezuela, which led to decisions earlier this year to consider the presidency of Nicolas Maduro illegitimate on grounds that his 2018 re-election was illegal.

The meeting came only about a week after Ecuador, which hosted the headquarters of Unasur with a building specially constructed to be its home, quit the organization and asked for the home to return to Ecuador.

The meeting also came after the Group of Lima complained Thursday about raids and detentions of key political figures in Venezuela earlier that day. All Group of Lima South American members will be part of Prosur.

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Chilean politicians have criticized Pinera, saying that the new group appears to be built behind political convictions despite claims to the contrary, La Tercera reported.

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