Latin America Leaders Seek Mechanisms to Avoid Coups

[Source – Latin American Herald Tribune]

Leaders of the 12 members of the Union of South American Nations agreed here Friday to add an anti-coup clause to the charter of the organization known as Unasur, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.

In a statement to the press, Chavez stressed the importance of the measure for defending democracy in the region.

“It is an article of support for democracy and an attack against the coups d’etat and destabilization movements that continue to threaten the region and above all Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela,” he said.

The clause establishes sanctions, such as shutting down borders and the suspension of trade, against the country that suffers an attempted coup.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who survived a brief but violent mutiny by police in September, spoke strongly in favor of the clause during the gathering in Guyana’s capital.

Before adopting the democratic clause, the eight heads of state and four foreign ministers attending the summit decided to postpone a decision on who will succeed late Argentine President Nestor Kirchner as Unasur sectretary-general.

Kirchner’s sudden death from a heart attack a month ago has left a great vacancy in Unasur, which the member countries were unable to fill on this occasion since there are still no clear candidates.

“There was only one discussion of the matter,” Kwame McCoy, the spokesman for Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, said. “There were no formal candidates.”

Mentioned as possible successors were outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leaves office Jan. 1 after eight years, and former Uruguayan head of state Tabare Vazquez.

Lula’s aides have said he is not interested in the post, while Vazquez preferred not to give an opinion on the subject at this time.

The draft of the anti-coup clause establishes the closing of borders plus the suspension of trade and air traffic with the country facing a disruption of constitutional order.

It will be the government in danger that must request Unasur to impose these measures, a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity told Efe.

The clause establishes formally and permanently the sanctions that the group announced at an emergency meeting in Buenos Aires as the Ecuadorian police rebellion was in progress.

Lula applauded regional integration at his last summit of Unasur, an organization of which he has been a key driving force.

The president said in his speech that South America has learned to live democratically with diversity and gave as an example the relations between conservative-run Colombia and leftist-led Venezuela, which could not be more “harmonious” than at present, he said in the presence of Chavez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez spoke along the same lines, and called on her colleagues to strengthen the region.

“That doesn’t mean turning our backs on the world, or on globalization, but simply seeing the world from where we live, with our own formulas, projects and programs,” Kirchner’s widow and successor said.

Guyana, which took over the Unasur rotating presidency from Ecuador, is one of South America’s poorest countries, for which reason Lula has already announced that Brazil will provide assistance for Georgetown’s labors presiding over the regional bloc.