creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States reflects the
disorientation of the region's governments, locked as they are in the illusion
that snubbing the United States will do for Latin American integration what 200
years of history failed to do."
"The ideal of Bolívar, a united America, still lives ... It's
more alive than ever" -- Mexican President Felipe
Calderón. "We can say
that the dream of Simon Bolívar has come true" -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. "Historically transcendent" -- Cuban President Raúl
Castro. "A historic fact of great significance." -- Brazilian President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva.
Even by good neighborly
standards, there is a heartbreaking contrast between the rhetoric pouring out
to welcome the creation of a new multilateral entity in the region, and its
more than obvious limitations for integrating, "one and only one American
nation, united in its values of democracy, justice and equality," as
recited by Calderón.
He and 31 other heads of
State and government met for two days in Cancún for the Latin America and
Caribbean Summit and signed the birth certificate for an entity that the
Venezuelan [Chavez] wanted call the Organization of Latin American States to
distinguish it from the Organization of American States, which is controlled by
the "empire." But the Mexican [Calderón], the father of this shoot,
preferred the Union of Latin American and Caribbean States. On the suggestion
of Brazil, the first word was substituted with the more modest
"Community," which resulted in the acronym CLACS
(Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). This is yet another
contribution to a prolific regional alphabet for naming political initiatives,
the effectiveness of which varies inversely with the swagger of how they are
In no passage of the thick
88 pages that attests to Community's arrival in the world, which is the fruit of
the connection between CALC (the Latin American and Caribbean Summit) and the Rio Group (a consultative
mechanism with 18 member states created in 1986 - also without U.S.
participation), is there a description of what its structure and function will
be. These details, as well as the statutes of the Community, will be decided at
the next meeting of CLACS, set for July 2011 in Caracas. If Lula wants it, the
presidency of the unformed body could be his. Chávez has already proposed his
name, with Calderón welcoming him as the, "undisputed leader of our
region." The Brazilian didn't want to say goodbye to his peers, reminding
them that he would meet with them "in many forums" before December
31st - an unintentional reminder of the wealth of opportunities that remain to
praise one another - or to exchange insults, as happened recently - and to
stick their tongues out at the Americans.
To this can be add Chávez'
Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and, to some extent, the Union of
South American Nations (UNASUL).
The recently-created OAS of Brazil [a nickname for the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States], as it has inevitably been called, bars entry to
the United States and Canada and opens its doors to Cuba, which was excluded
from the original OAS.
This appears to be their only reason for being, aside of course from
serving as a stage for diplomatic songs of protest and parades of Guayabera shirts - the
official uniform of the new entity. In Cancún, the highlight of the show was
the unanimous condemnation of oil exploration by a British company off the
coast of the Falkland Islands. Amidst all the commotion, Lula raised his voice
against the United Nations for not supporting claims Argentina has had over the
islands since the 19th century. According to Lula, the U.N. favors the United
Kingdom because of its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council - the
greatest ambition of Lula's foreign policy.
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Presented as a reason for the
emergence of CLACS, the assertion of sovereignty and the quest to integrate its
33 heterogeneous members (32 that were present in Cancún, and when it's
rehabilitated, Honduras) this represents a triumph of rhetoric over regional
reality. It ignores conflicts such as the one between Venezuela and Colombia -
Chávez and Álvaro Uribe traded insults at the summit - and the friction between
Argentina and Uruguay, to name only the most notorious. "We were barely
able to implement UNASUL, which is restricted to South America - a clear
geopolitical unit," observes political scientist Ricardo Sennes.
"Imagine an institution that encompasses all of Latin American. What will
its identity be?"
CLACS reflects the
disorientation of the region's governments in relation to its problematic
environment and its lack of foreign policy direction, locked as it is into the
illusion that snubbing the United States will do for Latin American integration
what 200 years of history failed to do. Although not a creature of Brazil,
CLACS fits into the model of Lula's diplomacy and its obsession with harassing
the "Whites with blue eyes."