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Unasur chief calls for concrete steps towards regional integration

Xinhua, May 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

The head of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) urged the bloc's 12 member states to implement existing integration policies, Argentine daily Pagina/12 reported Tuesday.

On a visit to Buenos Aires, Unasur Secretary General and former Colombian president Ernesto Samper spoke with the daily about the steps the bloc has mapped out to make integration a reality, including a common passport and the South American School of Defense in Quito, Ecuador.

"Unasur has been working on designing public policies to deepen the state of peace in the region, democratic continuity and human rights," the daily cited Samper as saying.

What's lacking, he indicated, are "the integration actions that will give the process greater legitimacy."

"We have to work on South American citizenship," said Samper, saying consulates could work together on consolidating the Unasur visa, as well as common passport.

In the area of military integration, Unasur has made some progress, but much more needs to be done, said Samper.

"The South American School of Defense has already been launched ... in response to the nefarious School of the Americas, at which for many years they tried to indoctrinate the region's high command in two sophisticated theses: first, that our enemies were the communists who would invade us (and) second ... that the conflicts existed among ourselves. Peru against Ecuador, Argentine against Chile ... that we were our own enemies," said Samper.

In contrast, at Unasur's last gathering countries proposed working on a "regional security doctrine" that will take on not ideological, but common threats, such as climate change "and the possibility of undue interference, like we saw in Venezuela's case, " said Samper, referring to allegations the United States has been funding efforts to overthrow the socialist government.

"If we want to give validity to a new (security) policy, military enclaves such as the Malvinas (Falklands) and Guantanamo have to end," said Samper.

Physical integration is also part of the process, he added, saying the bloc has approved seven projects that "involve more than two countries, from the highway that leaves Caracas ( Venezuela) and passes through Bogota (Colombia) to the inter- oceanic railroad (that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) and the waterway."

"Heads of state have already given their blessing" to the 27 billion-U.S. dollar projects, he said, suggesting the next move should be to fix starting and completion dates.

"The potential (for greater integration and cooperation) is great, given the agreement that exists among governments on certain matters, such as social inclusion," said Samper. Endite