Once-ambitious South American bloc could lose headquarters

July 6, 2018

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno gives a press conference with the foreign media corp in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, July 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — An alliance whose backers once dreamed creating a sort of South American version of the European Union may lose its headquarters.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said Thursday he plans to ask the Union of South American Nations to give up its central office near Ecuador’s capital.

Half of UNASUR’s nations suspended their memberships this year and the alliance hasn’t had a secretary-general since early 2017.

“It’s absurd that a building that cost several dozens of millions of dollars has no usefulness. We have to ask UNASUR for the return of that building to give it a better use,” Moreno told a news conference. He said that doesn’t mean Ecuador will leave the group, however.

The headquarters was built under leftist former President Rafael Correa, an enthusiastic backer of the organization that was founded in 2008 to create tighter regional bonds.

Many backers initially hoped to create a regional parliament, a common currency and a common defense structure. While those goals soon fell away, it did serve as a structure to resolve several regional disputes and to promote development projects.

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was a major backer of the organization, seeing it as a counterweight to U.S. influence, and many of the founding nations were led by leftists at the time.

But enthusiasm for the group seems to have chilled, particularly under more moderate or conservative successor governments in several key nations.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru suspended their memberships in April.

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