What use would a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States be
El Tiempo, Colombia
What Good is Latin America's New U.S.-Free 'Community'?
"The new community will
eventually have the academic utility of finally demonstrating that contrary to
all of the outdated and anti-imperialist speeches, the U.S. isn't to blame for
everything bad that happens in the region."
There are many reasons states
decide to create international organizations. They do so to overcome collective
action problems and obtain mutual benefits, ensure their own influence over a
group of countries (like the U.S. did when it created the Organization of
American States), create forums for discussion and exchange and to reach
agreements, or to institutionalize their desire to counterbalance the influence
of a hedgemon. The latter seems to be the reason behind the creation of the Community
of Latin American and Caribbean States.
The message of Latin
Americans to Washington by way of the new organization couldn't be clearer: The
region has no intention of remaining the U.S.' backyard, and it recognizes the
slow but unmistakable decline of the hegemonic power of the United States. Cuba
is in and Honduras is out. It would seem that Latin America is set on balancing
and counteracting U.S. power in the region.
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Although this political
maneuver is legitimate and partially meets the nationalist and anti-imperialist
demands of several countries in the region, the question is: why create this
new organization? The decision to gain "independence" from U.S.
influence is valid, but can this be achieved by creating an international
organization that excludes the country? Through what mechanisms? Isn’t it rather
a symbolic measure, with little substance in terms of action that would
facilitate such an effort by increasing the region's autonomy?
The other argument is that
the OAS is no longer good for anything and that we need a multilateral forum to
facilitate the resolution of many of the challenges confronting the region. This
implies that just because the U.S. isn’t present, the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States would work. The problem is that there's little
evidence to back up the assertion, that historically, Latin America hasn’t been
able to act collectively solely and exclusively because of Washington.
On the other hand, and as we
began to see thanks to the embarrassing spat between the presidents of Colombia
and Venezuela, it seems that it would be advisable to look more at the beam in
one’s own eye than the speck in our neighbor's. If anything, the new community will
eventually have the academic utility of finally demonstrating that contrary to all
of the outdated and anti-imperialist speeches, the U.S. isn't to blame for
everything bad that happens in the region.
Regrettably, however, at a
time when we should be thinking of ways to come together, the region has opted
for a confrontational and exclusionist formula.
Clearly, in the most
parochial political sense, Latin American presidents have discovered how useful
multilateral forums can be (with TV cameras on board). In that sense, no one
needs yet another organization.
*Sandra BordaGuzmán is a professor and
researcher in the Political Science Department at La Universidad de Los Andes.
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