Pacific Alliance Offers Hope for Latin American Collaboration

The Accelerating Disintegration Process May Yet Reverse

EspañolThe disintegration of Latin America has been a slow but relentless process that began in the last century for several reasons — naturally because of political and economic differences among Latin American governments themselves. However, the emergence of Hugo Chávez’s populist, military regime in the early days of the new century contributed to the acceleration of the process.

As soon as he came to power, El Commandante restored the old dream of the Castroist left in the region: an alternative integration, a “Bolivarian” and revolutionary one, that, over the years, was openly described as “21st century socialist.” These individuals had in mind an exclusively Latin American, rather than an all-American or PanAmerican, integration. They have also sought an essentially political integration, in contrast to the kind of integration that had been sought during the 20th century: a classical, democratic, free-market view — primarily based on trade and various private relationships, and less on political alliances.

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UNASUR leaders gather in April of 2013 to support and legitimize Nicolás Maduro’s election in Venezuela. Source: Cancillería de Colombia.

This integrationist ideal — which, as Chávez stated himself, “aimed to create a bloc of alternative power in Latin America to curb the American empire, and to expand and institutionalize revolutionary socialism” — was promoted in every one of the already-existing regional blocs. All of these blocs then began a gradual polarization process towards internal divisions and conflict, from the oldest and most organized ones, such as the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), to the newest and least organized ones, such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

The decision made in 2006 by President Chávez for Venezuela to withdraw from the CAN was largely due to the fact that the bloc was not following his alternative integration model. This was also the reason for his many threats to leave the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as every other Regional-American organization. That included the Court and the Commission of Human Rights, which was partially put into practice on September 6, 2012, when his administration decided to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights.

Today, the ineffectiveness and stagnancy of the aforementioned blocs show how much the disintegration process has advanced in the last 15 years. The CAN — once a regional example for the largest degree of integration by virtue of having created a partial free trade zone — is in the worst situation of all. Last month, CAN members agreed to end the Andean Parliament due to its high costs and the growth, albeit with deep internal differences, of the UNASUR.

The MERCOSUR is stagnant; the CELAC is yet to be fully established; and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) — which was never really an alternative integration bloc, but rather a group of political and ideological allies — is undergoing a natural decline. ALBA has been too dependent financially and politically on just one of its members; that is Venezuela’s financing and the international leadership figure of the late Hugo Chávez.

In the midst of this predicament, it is of particular significance that we are seeing the consolidation of the Pacific Alliance, the youngest of the regional integration organisms. Created in April of 2011 by Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, Costa Rica is soon to join the group. They aim to achieve deep-integration as an influential mechanism for the free mobility for goods, services, individuals, and funds in order to better allow development.

In contrast to the existing regional organizations, this body has just concluded its negotiations to reach a 100 percent tariff reduction, sign a broad trade agreement that lays the institutional and legal foundation required for investment and free trade, and establish a significant fund intended to finance social, educational, tourism, environmental, and scientific cooperation projects, among others. This new integration bloc really has the potential to grow and foster modernization among its member countries. According to its sponsors, the Pacific Alliance already represents the 8th largest economy and the 7th largest exports supplier on a global scale. It also contributes 36 percent of Latin American economic activity, carries out 50 percent of the region’s trade with the rest of the world, and receives more than US$70 billion in direct foreign investment, which accounts for 41 percent of total investment in the region.

This week, the “revolutionary” presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela claimed that the members of the Pacific group are part of a conspiracy engineered “from the North” (that is, the United States) aimed at dividing the UNASUR. It is no coincidence that the politicians who, even if only through incompetence, foster Latin American disintegration are the ones who question the Pacific group, seeking to discredit and destabilize it.

There was no doubt that this would happen as the the Pacific Alliance grew and consolidated itself. So be it, since they have begun to reverse the disintegration process that the hemisphere has been suffering from over the last 15 years.

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