of the 32 Latin American leaders gathered in Mexico to launch
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a regional
the excludes the U.S. and Canada: Front row, left to right:
President Bachelet, Mexico President Calderon, Brazil President
Top row, left to right: Cuba President Castro, Bolivia President
Colombia President Uribe, and Costa Rica President Arias
La Jornada, Mexico
Latin America's Inexorable March Toward 'Autonomy from the Imperial Center'
its inception in 1948, the OAS has been subjugated to Washington's interests. …
The formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States concludes
a long cycle of seeking autonomy from the imperial center. Mexico and Central
America will no longer be pulled exclusively from the North."
Cuba President Raul Castro and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez at closing ceremonies for the launch of what is being called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Is this a victory for Hugo Chavez, in his feud with the United States?
The creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States is part
of a global and continental shift, characterized by the decline of U.S.
hegemony and the rise of a group of regional blocs that form part of the new global balance. Preparations for the creation of a body excluding Canada and the United States have been in the works for some
time, but they began to more actively take shape a few months after the notable
failure of the OAS (Organization
of American States) to resolve the crisis sparked by the coup in Honduras,
a country that, for the moment, doesn't belong to the newborn organization.
The decision, pushed during
the past two years by Brazil President Lula, completes a long process of
regional empowerment away from the superpower. Let’s look back and observe the
profound change this will mean for the region.
Since its inception in 1948, the
OAS has been subjugated to Washington's interests. When Cuba was expelled from
OAS in 1962, not a single member country voted against it to avoid problems
with the United States, although six abstained, including Argentina, Brazil and
Mexico. The establishment of the Contadora Group
(Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela) in 1983, created to find solutions to Central
American civil wars, represents the first attempt to give the region a voice apart
from the choir dominated by the White House and the Pentagon. It was the
intervention of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme that was so
decisive in the formation of the Contadora Group, which continued
to grow despite its rejection by Washington.
In 1990, the Contadora Group was
replaced by the Río Group
(after it was first renamed the Group of Eight)
with the addition of South American countries, plus the Caribbean Community and
Central American nations. In 2008, the organization acquired its present
composition with the incorporation of Guyana, Haiti and Cuba. And in 2010, the
celebration of its 21st meeting at the Unity Summit in the Riviera Maya was the
final step in the gestation of the new Community of States. It is the
culmination of two and a half decades of slow construction, which began when
the imperial offensive
against Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras seemed omnipotent, and which
coalesced under these new circumstances.
Signed by 32 presidents (with
only Honduras absent), the Cancún Declaration notes that the goals of the new
organization are "to deepen the political, economic, social and cultural
integration of our region," defend "multilateralism" and "speak
out on the great issues and events on
the global agenda."
In the section about the
economic crisis, the Declaration supports the building of a new regional or sub-regional
financial architecture, including, among other things, the ability to accept payments
in national currencies, evaluation of the creation of a common currency, as
well as cooperation among national banks to promote regional development. The
spirit of the document puts a clear emphasis on integration, but without setting
any deadlines. However, the two central and most concrete sections that were
signed by the presidents are those devoted to "energy" and the "physical
integration of infrastructure." It is proposed that confronting the
energy challenge by expanding renewable energy sources and "promoting the
exchange of expertise and the transfer of technologies that comprise national
programs on biofeuls," would, among other things, enable "smaller
economies and less developed countries to achieve fair, balanced and consistent
access to diverse forms of energy."
Regarding infrastructure, the
proposal is to intensify work on connectivity and air, sea, river and ground
transport, as well as intermodal transport [door-to-door movement of goods
under the responsibility of a single transport operator]. Speaking of
integration in terms of infrastructure and biofuels, one has to think of Brazil,
which leads the region in both categories and is the foremost producer of
ethanol in the world, along with the United States.
But the document also has a
section on "natural disasters," in which it calls for the creation of
mechanisms "to provide a rapid, adequate and coordinated regional
response." One can again detect here the hand of Brazil, scolded twice
after the anemic reaction of the OAS to the Honduras situation and then with
the brutal intervention-invasion of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in Haiti. While the
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States is still at the stage of a
declaration of intent, the first tangible steps of which will come when statutes are adopted at summits in Caracas (2011) and Chile (2012), the most important
thing is the mere fact that it has been initiated. Its creation should be viewed
from three angles.
In the short term, this puts
a break on the repositioning of the United States in Colombia and Panama with plans
for 11 military bases, but also in Honduras and Haiti. Let’s keep in mind that
when Colombia's attack on
Ecuador occurred in March 2008, with the bombing of the camp of [FARC
leader] Raúl Reyes, the process of creating UNASUR (Union of South American Nations)
and the South
American Defense Council accelerated. The second issue is long term: the formation
of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States concludes a long cycle
of seeking autonomy from the imperial center. It's no coincidence that two
great steps were taken during periods of grave tension: The Central American
wars of 25 years ago and the economic crisis and global polarization of today.
The third angle is geopolitical.
Mexico and Central America will no longer be pulled exclusively from the North.
The regional bloc confronts many problems and internal contradictions that will
slow it down. But none of these have impeded it from taking shape since the early 1980s, in a situation that began with the great weight and presence of the United States, which at first expanded and which is now beginning to consolidate. The long term is going about its work; slowly but inexorably, it pulverized
the short term.