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The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Chile at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, March 22, 2019 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

South America Attempts to Unite, Again—This Time Led by a Resurgent Right

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Last month, South American leaders, many of them politically conservative, gathered in Chile to launch a new regional body. Although they didn’t say it, they had come to bury Unasur, or the Union of South American Nations, the left-leaning bloc that has been led by Venezuela since its founding a little over a decade ago. They hoped that their new group, the Forum for Progress in South America, or Prosur, would set the stage for a new era of integration and cooperation in the Southern Cone. But critics were quick to predict the new group’s demise, arguing that the fledgling Prosur suffered from many of the same flaws as the moribund Unasur.

Unasur came about in 2008, at the height of Latin America’s “pink tide,” when the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led a wave of fiery leftist leaders who took power across the region. Energized by strong commodity export revenues that funded ambitious poverty-alleviation programs, Chavez—along with Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and others—quickly transformed the region’s economies and politics. The bloc they founded complemented ALBA, another Caracas-led regional group originally made up of Venezuela and Cuba, which had expanded its membership to promote regional integration with a sharply anti-American, anti-capitalist message. At the time of Unasur’s founding, Chavez declared that the United States—“the empire,” as he called it—was the bloc’s “number one enemy.” ...

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