Former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner was chosen today to be the first secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) at a summit outside of Buenos Aires attended by heads of state and foreign ministers from the 12 countries that comprise the group. Speaking after today’s vote, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called Mr. Kirchner “a person with a lot of experience" and called his nomination “yet another step in the consolidation of the organization.”
The crucial vote in today’s process was that of new Uruguayan President José Mujica who, in the end, decided to abstain. At a similar summit last year, former Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed Mr. Kirchner’s candidacy to protest Argentina’s position on a dispute that has resulted in the blocking since 2006 of a bridge linking the two countries. Last March, Uruguay began adopting a more conciliatory tone and Mr. Mujica has friendly relations with Mr. Kirchner and his wife, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Seven of the region’s presidents were present for the vote. Other items on the meeting agenda include discussions on the recognition of Porfirio Lobo as President of Honduras, financial assistance for Haiti, a communal denunciation of an immigration law recently passed in Arizona, and the Falklands Islands conflict.