samedi 6 février 2016

Two Tendencies in Latin American Integration and Celac

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) greeting Bolivian President Evo Morales (R) at the recent CELAC

Two Tendencies in Latin American Integration and Celac

By: Francois Houtart

For centuries there have been two tendencies in the Latin-American integration process.
The Quito meeting of CELAC began with a particularly endearing speech by Rafael Correa. He was critical of market dominance, the main source of the inequalities in Latin America and denounced the myth of free trade and treaties by the same name. Moreover, he recalled the CELAC declaration of Latin America as a peace zone, under President Raul Castro. He also claimed that CELAC will eventually have to replace the OAS. The meeting was a success, confirming the possibility of a pluralist integration and some if not anti-systemic steps, at least anti-hegemonic, such as a new financial architecture and a better redistribution of wealth.

From the beginning there have been two tendencies in the Latin-American integration process. One that began with the Conference of Panama called by Simon Bolivar in 1824 and the other inspired by the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. The struggle between the two developed over the last two centuries. For the latter, integration into the North meant a process dependent on the imperial center. This model was institutionalized after the Second World War, with the creation of the OAS (1948) preceded a year earlier by its military wing, the TIAR (1947). The aborted FTAA project (1968) was to complete this triad function. The Alliance for Progress, launched in the 60s by President Kennedy was aimed at a series of reforms in favor of a North-South integration. Several other initiatives were initiated with similar aims, such as the Puebla-Panama Plan, in Central America and the IIRSA (Initiative for the Integration of Infrastructures in Latin America).

The last initiative with this political orientation was the Pacific Alliance of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, the United States, Canada and the countries of East Asia, excluding China and MILA, and the Integrated Latin American Market, created in 2011, to reduce capital costs, especially in mining, energy and transport. These latest institutions are clearly in opposition to other integration strategies, such as Mercosur, ALBA ,UNASUR and CELAC. With this integration aimed at the north, we should remember that there is such dependence in a range of sectors. For example, Latin America even losing its ability to produce its own food.

On the other hand, there have been other initiatives with different economic and political orientations. For a start, we can mention the CEPAL (1948) that was not instituted by Latin-American countries, but by the United Nations with a truly Latin American dimension. In 1964, the Latin American Parliament was created and began to operate in 1987 with 28 member countries. The affirmation of what Jose Marti called "Our America" was an incipient reality. In 1973, CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, with a fairly complete integration project that was not just economic but also administrative, including legal instruments, was founded. A first step in the continental economic arena was the SELA (1975) with 28 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The ALADI in 1980, focused on agricultural trade and environmental protection. The Rio Group (1986) was established as a consultative mechanism, at first with eight countries, based on the experiences of the Contadora Group on the conflicts in Central America. This last experience also resulted in the founding of the Central American Parliament, the Parlacen in 1987.

Mercosur, in 1991, brought together four major economies of the Southern Cone, plus five associates. On an internal regional basis the CAN (Andean Community) was born. In 2004, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America was founded, regrouping 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. UNASUR, the Union of Southern states, with 12 countries, was formally born in 2008. The SUCRE (Unified System of Regional Compensation) principle of decoupling from the dollar and the South Fund, aims to be a key tool for the operation of the South Bank which was officially formed in 2009, linking seven countries. In 2011, a new and important step was made with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), bringing together 38 countries in the region and inheritor of the Rio Group and the CALC.

The steps towards integration were not only political or for the market. Various sectors of civil society were also active in this regard. Just to cite a few examples, there was the CLAT in the Trade-Union sphere, the CLOC for the rural world, the CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council, the CLAR (Conference of Religious People). For the social sciences, the role of FLACSO ( Latinamerican Faculty of Social Sciences) and CLACSO, for research, has been very important. In the area of culture one can point to Casa de las Americas in Cuba.

Reflecting about the Latin American integration process leads us to discover a double dynamic. There is first a progressive evolution towards an autonomy of the continent against the North, which translate itself into a large number of both economic and political institutions, which are sometimes scattered and somewhat repetitive but show a clear line. This approach is faced with resistance and sometimes counter-offensives from the United States, with local partners who have economic and political interests as intermediaries. The internal and external crisis of the empire helps the Latin American continent to consolidate its autonomy, but the fight is far from over. In fact we are witnessing new offensives which strengthen the export model of fossil energy and minerals, because of their foreseeable depletion and moreover, promote agro-export industry, in the field of agro-fuels and animal feed.

The second dynamic is the passage of almost exclusively economic and political measures. These are expressed in the goals of various institutions. In this sense the CELAC meeting in Quito was a step in this direction.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:

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