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Before a crowd of over four hundred people gathered together for the 28th Mercosur Summit in Asunción, Paraguay, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez laid out a framework for the construction of a new model for Mercosur, which is removed from imperialist influence and based on social justice would integrate the region.

Chavez’s proposal rejected commercial integration as the base for linking Latin American countries, advocating that commerce and competition must take a backseat to cooperation and complementation. It also recognized that the struggles of the Paraguayan and the Venezuelan people, as well as all the peoples throughout Latin America, are one and the same and installing a system based on economic rivalry would only hinder, if not destroy, integration.

“Commercial integration is impossible because it is based on competition... If Mercosur does not transcend the mercantile vision with which it was born, if the Andean Community of Nations does not transcend that same vision, there will be no integration,” Chávez affirmed.

Deputies, senators, diplomats, intellectual leaders and social organizations from across Latin America listened attentively as the Venezuelan President shared “a few words heavy with reflection, anguish, passion and a few ideas to feed that passion in the search for the paths of the new century and the new fatherland.”

Describing the legendary Paraguayan writer Augusto Roa Bastos as the “conscience of Paraguay,” who continues to echo in the “words, realities, struggles, battles and in the depth of the souls of the people.” Chávez affirmed that one of the most urgent tasks faced by Latin Americans today is to “return to our roots.” According to Chávez, Latin Americans have “erased [their] memory” and in order to recuperate it, it is necessary to “be radical.” “I fear that if a survey is taken in Latin America and we ask all the men and women and all the youth about Superman and Roa Bastos, regrettably Superman would win...,” he lamented.

The Venezuelan President explained that although the term “radical” has been misused to the point in which it has been satanized, what it essentially means is to challenge the status quo and to be, as Roa Bastyos was in his time, a “rebel against power.” Chávez’ words were met with a sustained applause.

Criticizing the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas as an imperialist and colonialist project, Chávez explained that integrationist projects proposed by the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) such as Petrosur, an energy cooperation agreement, and Telesur, a new Latin American new channel, are initiatives that permit “the participation of everyone; a true democracy.”

Chávez then put several new plans on the table, such as an “energy cone” or a network of gas and oil pipelines that would stretch from Venezuela’s coast to the countries of the Southern Cone and the creation of a Bank of the South and a University of the South.