BRASILIA (AP) — South America’s leaders were gathering Tuesday in Brazil’s capital as part of an effort by the Brazilian president to revive regional cooperation in energy, crime-fighting and the economy.
The regional bloc previously known as Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, first gathered 15 years ago to boost cooperation between the 12 South American nations. But the group eventually fractured amid the continent’s political swings and polarization, and this is their first meeting in nine years.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva suggested at a news conference Monday that he might consider floating the idea of a regional currency to challenge the U.S dollar. But he said nothing would be decided during the meeting.
“The main idea is that we need to form a bloc to work together,” Lula said.
Seen by some as having a leftist bent, the regional bloc had fallen apart on disagreements over Unasur’s leadership. The participation of Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro led several countries to withdraw, including Brazil in 2019 under Lula’s predecessor, the rightist Jair Bolsonaro.
A sign that political winds have turned once again on the continent – the majority of its current presidents are leftist or centrist – Lula met with Maduro on Monday, calling the bilateral meeting a “historic moment” for both countries.
Aside from Maduro, another 10 South American presidents are attending the summit, as well as the leader of the Council of Ministers of Peru, where the president, Dina Boluarte, faces charges and cannot leave the country.
Political analysts say Lula, a former trade unionist, sensed an opportunity for integration because of the political affinities of the region’s current governments. The challenge, they say, will be having a bloc that can survive the region’s political shifts and instability.