WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner was unanimously elected secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) during a special summit in Campana, Argentina, earlier this week.
Kirchner, 60, the husband and predecessor of current Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, convinced Uruguayan President José Mujica, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Peruvian President Alan García to support his bid after they questioned his candidacy.
Argentina abstained from voting to pick a leader of a bloc that includes Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Kirchner pledged to fulfill his responsibilities and keep a close watch on all treaties and agreements among Unasur members.
Kirchner’s appointment comes two years after he failed to earn the job because Uruguay vetoed his candidacy.
But on May 4, Kirchner received plenty of praise from the presidents of Unasur who gathered to usher in their next leader. Uribe and García were absent from the summit.
“Without conditions, without anyone putting conditions on us, we join the consensus of the presidents” in favor of Kirchner, Mujica told EFE.
The selection of Kirchner also was praised by José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States.
“[Unasur] members have defined the strengthening of democracy and human rights, regional development, and regional integration and security as some of the large objectives of UNASUR,” Insulza wrote in a letter published by the Argentine newspaper the Buenos Aires Herald. “These goals also inspire the actions of the Organization of American States.”
Kirchner’s appointment also comes at a time when a divide is being forged across Latin America.
Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador may boycott the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean summit in Madrid, Spain, on May 18 if Honduran President Porfirio Lobo attends.
Many Unasur countries have not recognized Lobo’s administration because he was elected in November after former President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office by military officials on June 28. Zelaya was replaced by interim President Roberto Micheletti.
“We all want to go (to the summit in Madrid), but we do not want to abandon our principles, and we don't want the breakdown of the Constitutional order (in Honduras) to be minimized,” Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa told the Inter Press Service. “We feel belittled; many are acting like nothing even happened here.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who met with Zelaya in the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo on May 5, said he will not head to Spain “if Europe insists on inviting Mr. Lobo,” according to EFE.
Lobo said he plans on attending the event, but would change his mind if the summit’s host asked him to stay in Honduras.
“We leave it to Spain,” he said at a recent media conference. “We’re not going to be an element of conflict. We don’t need that, so if there’s a problem, we won’t go.”
The Spanish Foreign Ministry has not been informed by any Latin American presidents regarding their absence, according to EFE. The European Union’s 27 member states and the 33 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean region have been invited to the summit.
Argentina voted in favor of participating in the Madrid event during the Unasur summit this week. But Marco Aurélio Garcia, the foreign affairs adviser to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said Lula is one of “at least 10 Latin American presidents” who won’t be in Madrid if Lobo is present, according to EFE.