By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Unity within the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was restored on Friday at the summit of the South American government leaders in Paramaribo, Suriname, with the return of Paraguay to the regional bloc after a suspension of more than a year.
“Through an extra effort from Suriname, Paraguay returned to a re-united UNASUR,” Suriname’s minister of foreign affairs, Winston Lackin told reporters.
“The issues within Mercosur were also resolved today. This has happened in Paramaribo,” the minister stressed.
Suriname President Desi Bouterse took over the rotating presidency of UNASUR at the seventh UNASUR summit on Friday in Paramaribo
Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse, in his bid to advance “unity and mutual understanding” in South America, facilitated the participating countries with outstanding bilateral issues with a neutral venue to resolve their differences. It was in this atmosphere that member states of the sub-regional trade bloc Mercosur also held discussions to clear the air within the organization after tensions flared recently between Paraguay and other partners over Venezuela’s allegedly illegal entry into Mercosur.
Initiated by Suriname, the presidents of Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay came together to discuss several matters. This was done, said Lackin, because of the Surinamese government’s conviction that conflicts and issues should be resolved through dialogue.
“Unity is our creed, therefore we should be able to resolve our problems,” the minister argued.
Since its establishment, UNASUR has demonstrated that member states are able to resolve their differences through mutual understanding and peaceful settlement, the Surinamese official added.
At the end of the summit Bouterse called on his peers not to relent in their commitment to advance the development and social restructuring of the region, pledging to provide decisive leadership during his presidency of the union.
"Colleagues, friends of South America, I can assure you that, as the pro tempore president , with determination and with your support, I will do my utmost best to contribute to our mutual desire to keep the momentum in our organization,” Bouterse said at the end of the meeting.
He said he is convinced that, if all leaders are committed as was demonstrated during the conference, UNASUR will eventually achieve its goals.