By Associated Press - Monday, January 14, 2019

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombian President Ivan Duque said he is talking with like-minded conservative leaders to create a regional bloc that would replace the Venezuelan-influenced Union of South American Nations.

Duque said in a radio interview Monday that he’s already discussed the idea with Chile’s Sebastian Pinera.

He said that the proposed group, to be called Prosur, would focus on defending democracy and free-market economies.

He reiterated a call for Unasur to be disbanded - partly for its failure to take against against Venezuela’s increasingly authoritarian government. The 12-nation Unasur was created a decade ago by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and other leftists to support regional integration efforts and counter U.S. influence in South America.

Duque announced Colombia’s withdrawal from Unasur in August and another five countries have suspended their membership.

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