Year XXVII, 1985, Number 2, Page 121

 

 

 

PROCESSES OF INTEGRATION IN LATIN AMERICA
 
 
When the national States were formed in Latin America, ideas grew up about their unity, just as they did in Europe after the French Revolution. These ideas symbolically foreshadowed the future even though at the time there was no immediate possibility of implementing them. In 1815 Simon Bolivar wrote: “How grandiose is the idea of making the New World a single nation, with a bond that ties its parts together and to the whole. Already with a single origin, a single language, the same customs, traditions and religion, the New World ought, by virtue of this, to acquire a single government confederating the individual States as they gradually come to be created”[1] Even though we are still very far from this objective, we can now see the first signs of a nascent process of unification.
Behind this process lies the growing development of supranational integration on a world-wide scale affecting human behaviour in such fields as the economy and information among others. On a strictly political level, what has encouraged the process of unification is the birth of a world system of States characterised (transiently) by US-USSR bipolarism. The dominance of the world stage by the US and the USSR and the consequences of this for all the countries in the world, have led Latin American countries to try to free themselves from US protection by moving towards the Third World and Europe.
Common values and common interests were rediscovered. Just like Bolivar, Southern America saw its common destiny with Europe and looked on Europe to generate a movement, firstly, towards regional integration and, subsequently, towards subregional integration. This new outlook made the dialogue between the republics more sustained, more dense and made it possible to assess the difficulty of the undertaking, the great political will it requires, the fundamental need to free oneself from old mental forms and to face problems with new eyes. But it also brought about a realisation that, for every country or group of countries, the time had come to shoulder one’s responsibilities even at regional level and to express oneself with a certain degree of harmony.
The Falkland-Malvinas war and the prevailing crisis in Central America acted in such a way as to make this clear evolution apparent. The evolution was apparent, but not decisive, in the case of the Falkland-Malvinas war. The conflict emerged as a result of the action of the Argentinian generals who were urged on, in all· probability, by an internal situation which the democratic Latin American republics neither accepted nor approved. In this phase, the solidarity shown to Argentina was limited but, subsequently, as a result of the British intervention, a Latin American fibre which seemed dormant began to vibrate.
With Central America, the phenomenon is different. The five countries in the region[2] suffered great hardship as a result of the increase in oil prices, which led to a crisis in their economies and compromised their development. Mexico and Venezuela, nearby oil producers, decided to reduce their oil bills by setting aside funds or “oil facilities” to be used to finance development plans drawn up by the beneficiary countries.[3]
Subsequently, Mexico and Venezuela joined Canada and the US in developing an integrated aid programme to the Caribbean countries. Columbia eventually participated in the plan which was signed in New York on March 15th, 1982.
A surge of solidarity was felt vis-à-vis the Sandinista revolution struggling against Somoza’s dictatorship and the diplomatic activity of the Andine Group of countries[4] and other countries in the continent certainly contributed to easing the transition towards liberty. Subsequently, Mexico and Venezuela granted the “oil facilities” mentioned above and, together with Columbia, they joined Canada and the US in a Panamerican initiative. But the situation in Central America, where a variety of political regimes live side by side with difficulty, deteriorated day by day and the surrounding countries became aware of their regional responsibilities and decided not to act in a Panamerican context but to confine their action to Latin America. Thus the Contadora Group[5] grew up between Columbia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela which, with ups and downs, but admirable perseverance, tried to overcome the divisions between the Central American countries and to obtain a reduction in arms and the number of “advisors” who were in no way connected with the region. They also attempted to re-introduce trading and, in a long term outlook, they tried to re-introduce efforts designed to strengthen cooperation in the various economic and industrial sectors.
The Contadora Group was certainly the first concerted, organised and sustained attempt to help neighbouring countries to rediscover peace in the American sub-continent. It had the support of the EEC from the outset. Widening the geographical horizon to south of the Panama isthmus, we find other solidarity movements. Within the Andine Group, Columbia and Venezuela united their forces to encourage the return of democracy in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia who, in fact, organised free elections in 1979, 1980 and 1982. And in America itself, where the presence of a number of dictatorships had led to, or had at least facilitated, the proliferation of other dictatorships, the advent of democracy in the three Andine countries sent a wind of liberty which rekindled the cult of democratic values, enflamed the peoples and opened up the way for the return of liberty in Argentina, Uruguay and the return of civilians to power in Brasil. Chile and Paraguay in 1985 remain the only military strongholds and the dictators realise that their days are numbered.
In the same way that the beginning of the 19th century heralded the birth of Latin American republics, the end of the 20th century is for them the equivalent of the rediscovery of liberty after a long period of dictatorship. Unfortunately, the combined effects of the generals’ management and the international economic situation have placed the economies of all these countries in a critical condition and the giants of South America, Argentina, Brasil, Mexico and Venezuela have a national debt of various thousands of millions of dollars despite their exceptional natural resources. In the Columbian city of Cartagena, a special group of Latin American debtor countries has been set up to discuss matters with the creditor countries.
The dialogue has led to the development of new ties between Latin America and the European Community: a regional cooperation agreement was signed between the European Community and the Andine Group while others were signed with Brasil and Mexico. Another is being drawn up between the Community and Central America as a result of the ministerial meeting held in San José in Costa Rica on September 28th and 29th 1984.[6]
In this last part of the century and millennium, Latin America has rediscovered freedom, has returned to the democracy which its founding fathers desired and more than ever has realised that those who fought for its liberty went from one country to another to place their swords at the service of this ideal. The bicentenary of the birth of Simon Bolivar was solemnly evoked in 1983, particularly in a moving session in the Andine Parliament on July 22nd, 1983 in the Venezuelan Senate. The Libertador’s thinking and works were perfectly up-to-date and must serve as a stimulus towards a more coherent and more efficient organisation of the Latin American continent. But how can we overcome the nationalistic drives, how can we cancel the aftermath of past conflicts, how can we avoid the recurrent danger of territorial claims along the frontiers? As mentioned above, Latin America has looked upon Europe and has followed with enthusiasm the establishment and development of the three European Communities, the fusion of their executives, the election of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,[7] the consolidation of political co-operation between the member States outside the sectors covered by the treaties, the subsequent enlargements and efforts designed to bring about political union.
The medium and small-sized countries in Latin America have chosen the same road of subregional integration, particularly after the unhappy experience of an over-ambitious attempt at the regional level of the continent. In the first five years of the Central American Common Market’s activity a number of results were achieved in the economic field but, since then, the high level Committees for the relaunching and restructuring of the general integration treaty have followed one after the other without success, which is hardly surprising given the region’s political situation. In the Andine territory, the results achieved have been greater in the political field, particularly after Chile’s withdrawal, Venezuela’s participation and the relaunch decided in 1979. But the five countries, faced with the well-known phenomena of economic recession, inflation, unemployment, were not able to overcome purely nationalistic interests and lay down common action designed to create a true area permitting new, rational and lucrative industries to be established and developed in a unified market.
And yet it did not escape the attention of these Andine countries, nor the Central American countries and Argentina, Mexico and little Uraguay that every isolated effort is vain, and that the maintenance of areas of conflict has the sole, unedifying result of ‘justifying’ huge purchases of arms which are every day more sophisticated and deadly and removing funds from their natural objective of creating employment and prosperity. Only Brasil, almost a continent in itself, may be able to stave off the deadline whereas, for the others, perhaps with differing degrees of intensity, time is fast running out.
Latin America has a place to occupy in the world of the year 2000, which probably will not be made up of isolated States but regional groups of States, organised according to various formulas desired by the interested parties but able to express and negotiate with a single voice and at least in perfect harmony. The first steps have already been taken at least on paper. Within the South American mosaic there are already signs of the development, side by side with the three big countries, of a central area made up of the five central American States and perhaps Panama, too, and an Andine area enlarged to include Chile when democracy has been restored there.
The New World has probably realised that the Republic of Republics desired by Simon Bolivar cannot be constructed with an association of States so dissimilar from each other like those that the geopolitical map today shows. Without losing sight of Simon Bolivar’s objective, a number of intermediate steps are necessary to ensure that the equilibria achieved with the birth of the new republics are progressively replaced by other more stable and long-lasting equilibria. In this perspective, everything which has been done so far seems to be coherent and opportune. It is vital not to stop half way but to proceed resolutely along the road, thinking of the third millennium in the awareness of the new structure that society is taking on.
The general return to democracy and renewed attempts at integration which we have mentioned need to be listed among the highly positive facts of the 20th century and require every possible help and co-operation by the EEC starting with the concrete example of a clear awareness of the greater integration needed. But beyond this, these attempts must be matched by a thorough overhaul in the attitude of democratic parties. Despite their internationalism, they continue to think and act according to the logic of national power, sometimes confusing the national State’s historical crisis with its contingent forms, without heeding the fact that the great processes of regional and, embryonically, world integration are the only terrain on which the world balance of power can possibly be altered (to the advantage of all peoples) and on which democracy can be developed in such a way as to bring about international democracy.
 
Armando Toledano Laredo


[1]Simon Bolivar, Letter from Jamaica, September 6th 1815.
[2]Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
[3]As a result of the agreement signed at San José, Costa Rica, August 3rd, 1980.
[4]Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
[5]From the name of a tiny Mexican island where the representatives of the four countries met for the first time.
[6]The five Central American countries, the four Contadora Group countries, the European Community and the two candidates for EEC membership, Portugal and Spain, participated in this meeting, called at the Latin American countries’ request.
[7]Chile, a founding member of the Andine Group established by the Cartagena agreement in 1969, left the Group on October 30th, 1976, after three years of dissent with the other member States after the military coup d’état.

 

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