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Even as MERCOSUR has grown, in a Dec. 8-9 presidential summit in Cuzco, Peru sought to forge a new level of South American integration with the creation of a 12-nation bloc--the South American Community of Nations. Presidents and high-ranking officials from 12 countries gathered in the ancient Inca capital to create the political and economic bloc The Economic Bloc (Ekonomski Blok HDU - Za Boljitak) is a Croatian political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the last legislative elections, 5 October 2002, the party won 1.  they hope will put them on a more equal footing with the US, Europe, and Asia, although the absence of four presidents--Ecuador's Lucio Gutierrez, Uruguay's Jorge Batlle, Paraguay's Nicanor Duarte Óscar Nicanor Duarte Frutos (born October 11, 1956) has served as the President of Paraguay since 2003.

Born in Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazú, Duarte grew up during the Stroessner administration and was affiliated with Stroessner's Colorado Party at the age of 14 while attending
, and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner--led to questions about the strength of the commitment to form another regional bloc.

Twelve nations unite, eight presidents attend

The leaders met to sign an accord establishing the South American Community of Nations. The two-day summit was the group's third meeting since 2000. Proponents of the new organization expressed optimism. "In the last 30 years, we have sought a Latin America Latin America, the Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, and French-speaking countries (except Canada) of North America, South America, Central America, and the West Indies.  with the capacity for effective international action, and we have not achieved it because the countries of South America South America, fourth largest continent (1991 est. pop. 299,150,000), c.6,880,000 sq mi (17,819,000 sq km), the southern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere.  have been scattered, not unified," Peruvian Foreign Minister Manuel Rodriguez said. "With this new community, Latin America will be fortified fortified (fôrt´fīd),
adj containing additives more potent than the principal ingredient.

Rodriguez said the South American bloc would complement the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Central American Common Market Central American Common Market (CACM), trade organization envisioned by a 1960 treaty between Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The treaty established (1961) a secretariat for Central American economic integration, which Costa Rica joined in 1963; .

The 12 nations in the bloc are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, along with Guyana and Suriname, two countries that were participating for the first time.

"Today we have a new country with 361 million inhabitants
:This article is about the video game. For Inhabitants of housing, see Residency
Inhabitants is an independently developed commercial puzzle game created by S+F Software. Details
The game is based loosely on the concepts from SameGame.
," Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo Alejandro Toledo (Alejandro Celestino Toledo Manrique) (born 28 March 1946) is a Peruvian politician. He was President of Peru from 2001 to 2006. He was elected in 2001 defeating former President Alan García.  said in welcoming seven presidents to the historic summit in the ancient Inca sun temple of Coricancho.

The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay did not attend and instead sent representatives. Their absence raised doubts among critics of the new organization, who questioned the firmness of the commitment to form a powerful regional bloc. However, the absence of Uruguay's outgoing Batlle probably does not reflect the feelings of President-elect Tabare Vazquez, who supports South American integration and has large-scale popular support (see NotiSur, 2004-11-12).

Toledo was optimistic about what the bloc could mean to development. "The South American Community of Nations, which is born today, should help us confront the challenges of globalization globalization

Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world. Factors that have contributed to globalization include increasingly sophisticated communications and transportation
 so that it is fairer, more equitable."

Peruvian Foreign Minister Rodriguez said South America's combined GDP GDP (guanosine diphosphate): see guanine.  exceeds Canada's and "is much greater, by more than US$200 billion, than that of the famous Asian tigers."

In a preliminary step last year, South America's two major trade blocs--the Southern Cone The term Southern Cone (Spanish: Cono Sur, Portuguese: Cone Sul) refers to a geographic region composed of the southernmost areas of South America, below the Tropic of Capricorn.  Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Comunidad Andina de Naciones (CAN)--signed pacts to gradually create a free-trade zone free-trade zone

Area within which goods may be landed, handled, and re-exported freely. The purpose is to remove obstacles to trade and to permit quick turnaround of ships and planes.
 across the continent, creating a common market of 350 million people (see NotiSur, 2004-04-23).

The Cuzco meeting did not establish a timeframe for achieving results. "If things turn out reasonably well, in 15 years we will have a new map in the region," Allan Wagner, secretary-general of CAN, said during a meeting of the smaller trade group.

Critics of the new regional organization are many. They note that Latin America already has several political and economic blocs and argue they have little to show for their existence.

Blasco Penaherrera, a former vice president of Ecuador and ambassador to the Organization of American States Organization of American States (OAS), international organization, created Apr. 30, 1948, at Bogotá, Colombia, by agreement of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti,  (OAS OAS

See: Option adjusted spread
), said the regional meetings deal with general themes like improving education and battling poverty and never bring concrete results. "The presidents live from summit to summit," Penaherrera said. "They're going to turn into mountain climbers, passing from summit to summit."

Penaherrera also was skeptical about South American nations creating a common market, noting that in many cases they export the same products. "The trade situation among South American countries is tremendously negative," he said. "There is no real possibility of increasing sales because they compete with the same products."

Will it be strong?

Whether the community will turn out to be the fulfillment of the dreams of independence hero Gen. Simon Bolivar is debatable. The leaders put their hopes on the huge potential of the region, with a GDP of US$973 billion and exports of US$181 billion. The new community also represents--geographically--45% of the Americas, has about 25% of global water reserves, about 8 million sq km of forests, and huge oil and gas reserves.

But the numbers against it include a huge incidence of poverty and external debt. More than 40% of the inhabitants of the South American Community live below the poverty line. An external debt of more than US$300 billion hampers the group, and many of its members are still trying to emerge from financial crisis. It has poor infrastructure, especially in roads, and the political process is still very unstable in some countries.

Using existing financial institutions, the leaders of the group are planning deeper integration of energy and transport networks. They have identified--through the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA IIRSA Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America )--31 infrastructure projects to be executed between 2005 and 2010, with a cost of US$4.3 billion.

MERCOSUR head and former Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde (2001-2003) brushed aside the skeptics, saying the new group would not only respond to an old integration dream but also to modern requirements. "Our countries cannot face the challenges of the new economic and political world order alone," said Duhalde.

To emphasize this move toward greater integration, Peru and Brazil signed a US$700 million agreement to create a road linking the two countries to be finished by the end of 2006.

MERCOSUR expands

The establishment of the community was also in line with the growth of MERCOSUR the following week. The MERCOSUR trade bloc expanded to where it now encompasses nearly all of South America, in a show of vigor that stands in sharp contrast to the complaints of "asymmetries" among its members and the difficulties in reaching agreement on the prompt implementation of certain key decisions.

Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela joined Bolivia, Chile, and Peru as associate members of MERCOSUR in the three-day meeting that ended with a Dec. 17 summit in the southern Brazilian city of Ouro Preto.

The four full members of MERCOSUR, which was created in 1991, are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Now Guyana and Suriname are the only South American countries remaining outside of some form of membership in the bloc. French Guiana is an overseas department of France.

The associate members now outnumber the full members, noted Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, who proposed doing away with the distinction between the two, arguing that it does not contribute to the aim of deeper, and not merely trade-oriented, integration in the region.

Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista (born April 1 1947 in Mexico City) is a Mexican politician.

Upon assuming power in December 2000, President Vicente Fox chose him to serve as his Secretary of Economy.
 also expressed their countries' desire to become associates of MERCOSUR, with Panama proposing to act as a kind of "bridge" to the other six countries of Central America. [Sources: El Comercio (Ecuador), (Bolivia), 11/24/04; Notimex, 12/05/04; La Opinion (Los Angeles), 11/15/04, 12/07/04; El Comercio (Peru), 12/06/04, 12/08/04; Associated Press, Clarin (Argentina), La Jornada (Mexico), El Mercurio (Chile), El Tiempo (Colombia), 12/08/04; BBC BBC
 in full British Broadcasting Corp.

Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927.
 News, The Miami Herald, 12/09/04;, 12/10/04; El Nuevo Herald El Nuevo Herald is a McClatchy newspaper published daily in Spanish in Miami, Florida, in the United States. The Herald's sister paper is The Miami Herald, also produced by the McClatchy Company.  (Miami), 12/08-10/04, 12/17/04; Inter Press Service Inter Press Service (abbreviated: IPS) is a global news agency. Its main focus is the production of independent news and analysis about events and processes affecting economic, social and political development. , 12/14/04, 12/17/04, 12/22/04]
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Publication:NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs
Geographic Code:30SOU
Date:Jan 14, 2005

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