South America’s leaders met in Brazil’s capital on Tuesday for the first regional summit in nine years, aiming to boost cooperation on issues such as poverty, climate change, energy and security.
The meeting was hosted by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who invited his counterparts from the 12 South American nations to revive the regional bloc previously known as Union of South American Nations, or Unasur.
The summit was attended by 11 presidents and a top government official from Peru, where the president faces charges and cannot leave the country. Among them was Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, whose participation had caused several countries to withdraw from the bloc in the past due to his authoritarian rule. Lula, who met with Maduro on Monday, called their bilateral meeting a “historic moment” for both countries.
Lula, a former trade unionist and leftist leader, suggested at a news conference on Monday that he might consider floating the idea of a regional trade currency to rival the U.S. dollar, but he said nothing would be decided during the meeting. He said the main idea was to form a bloc that could work together on common challenges and opportunities.
Lula sensed an opportunity for integration because of the political affinities of the region’s current governments, which are mostly leftist or centrist. However, they also say that the bloc will face difficulties in maintaining its cohesion and relevance amid the region’s political swings and instability.