Lacking consensus, and lacking strong foundations, the recent creation of the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur) is considered counterproductive; and there are those who predict that rather than integrating, it could fracture regional unity.
Driven by the presidents of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, and Colombia, Iván Duque, on the 22nd of March, the Santiago Declaration was signed and Prosur was launched.
Although its promoters insisted on presenting the body as one ‘without ideologies’, the founding countries come from the self-named Lima Group, instituted in 2017 to join the United States in its crusade against Venezuela.
In fact, the new forum excluded the Venezuelan authorities from its initial meeting, and instead invited the self-proclaimed president of the country, Juan Guiadó, who ultimately did not attend the conclave. The declaration, signed in the Palacio de la Moneda, demonstrates the will to build and consolidate a regional space for coordination and cooperation, ‘without exclusion’, in order to move towards more effective integration.
But beyond what is reflected in the text, it is obvious that one of the forum’s purposes is to do away with regional integrationist processes, and with the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in particular.
The president of Brazil himself, Jair Bolsonaro, was instrumental in confirming this on his arrival in Chile, when he declared that, alongside other South American presidents, he would try to “seal the end of Unasur”.
In an article entitled ‘Prosur, the new mechanism for not integrating Latin America’, published in The New York Times newspaper, the researcher Juan C. Herrera opines that founding Prosur is the wrong solution.
He states that, in addition to dividing the region, Prosur is counterproductive on pragmatic grounds. In his view, “replicating regional entities causes overlap in both the objectives and functions of each institution. Rather than complementing one another, South American integrationist bodies clash or move away from each other,” he warns. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Guyana endorsed the creation of the Forum for the Progress of South America.
However, Prosur did not achieve consensus in Santiago, and countries such as Bolivia, Uruguay and Suriname did not sign the founding document.
After reiterating support for Unasur, Bolivian government minister Carlos Romero warned that, in his opinion, two conflicting conceptions exist: one which restricts integration to trade relations, and another which conceives the possibility of setting-up platforms where reciprocity, solidarity and complementarity between nations are the underlying principles.
Uruguay was also emphatic in advising that it will not join the recently instituted Prosur;
“not even as observers, we simply do not support it,” stated the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ariel Bergamino, in an interview given to Prensa Latina.
The diplomat was especially critical of the argument that Unasur was overly ideological, considering this an inadequate and simplified pretext.
In this regard, he recalled that in Santiago there were “interventions and speeches by presidents and ministers that were very ideological; to me such content did not seem to be a bad thing, but we don’t deny it,” he clarified.
Uruguay does not consider it necessary to create new institutions, when existing ones have not been optimised.
In Latin America there are numerous integration mechanisms, including Unasur, the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the Latin American Integration Association (Aladi), the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), PetroCaribe, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac).
Unasur emerged in 2008, and its achievements include the creation of a South American Defence Council, electoral missions, and the role it played in diffusing tensions between neighbouring countries.
Other contributions include the foundation of a dispute resolution centre regarding investments and the free movement of people, the fight against the global drugs problem, and the recognition of qualifications at a regional level.
Following the rise to power of right-wing governments across the region, several countries left the organisation and the number of members was reduced from 12 to five. Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In the present circumstances —in which Prosur aims to replace Unasur— it is worth remembering some of the implications that deactivating the Union of South American Nations would have for the region.
Amongst the most immediate are the abandonment of rights, such as the temporary permits for more than three million workers; the end of travel to another country with just an identity document, without the need of a passport; and the end of projects such as the regional medicine price bank. (PL)
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: email@example.com)