Venezuela Takes over Leadership Role at UNASUR

Venezuela Takes over Leadership Role at UNASUR

Rodriguez is taking over the Secretary General role from former Colombian Foreign Minister, Maria Emma Mejia (right) (El Comerio)

Liverpool, June 14th 2012 ( – Former Venezuelan Energy Minister, Ali Rodriguez, has taken over the Secretary General position at the regional integration organisation, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). The politician travelled to Bogota, Colombia, on Monday for the official handing over ceremony, which was attended by Colombian President, Juan Manual Santos and Pro-tempore President of UNASUR, Paraguayan President, Fernando Lugo.

In his inauguration speech, Rodriguez pledged to reinforce integration within the region, as well as to reduce poverty levels.

“Bringing down poverty indexes in Latin America must be the objective, which means having the human being as the focus of all decisions,” he said. He also suggested that Latin American countries should use their natural resources for poverty reduction.

“We must take advantage of our strengths to combat poverty, to combat unemployment, and expand our internal markets. This is the way to provide positive results for the entire region,” he added.

Rodriguez is replacing current Secretary General, Maria Emma Mejia, a former Colombian foreign minister who took on the role last May. Although the Secretary General position usually lasts two years, UNASUR nations agreed in December 2010 that Venezuela and Colombia would share the role for a year each. Mejia has been praised for managing to give increased structure to the regional organisation, which was formed in 2008 in order to advance regional cooperation. The organisation includes; Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Although hesitant about the organisation when it was first formed, Colombian President Manual Santos said that he had been surprised by the organisation’s success and welcomed the new Venezuelan secretary general.

“When you are wrong, you must admit it and I acknowledge that my perception was wrong…today we have a stronger and more consolidated grouping,” he stated.

During the meeting on Monday, UNASUR nations also approved the formation of two new councils, as well as setting a budget of US$19 million for the organisation for the next year. The two new bodies will address electoral and security issues across the region, with the latter focussing specifically on transnational organised crime.

The two diplomats also confirmed that the new UNASUR electoral body will be sent to observe the Venezuelan elections in October, after the Venezuelan government previously declined an offer from the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a “robust” mission to monitor the elections.

A former Marxist guerrilla, Rodriguez has also served as the minister of economy and finance, as well as foreign affairs minister. He has also been secretary general of OPEC and president of state oil company, PDVSA. Following the ceremony in Bogota, Rodriguez travelled to Ecuador on his first official visit, where he met with Ecuadorean Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino.

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