The crisis in the region surpasses just the economic sectors and extends to trade, environment, institutions and governance, society and geopolitics. Changing that reality requires political change.
If governments put the resources of Latin America at the service of the people, surely these problems could be solved. This, however, has not been the case in more than 200 years of post-Colombian history.
That is what the head researcher at the Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (world economy research centre) Mariano Bullón, thinks. Bullón, recalls that the region has very abundant natural and strategic resources, as well as populations of more than 630 million inhabitants spread over 22.2 million square kilometres of territory.
These resources make the area desirable terrain for powers such as the United States and Europe, considered a great bloc. However, as Bullón said in an exclusive interview, Latin America has a high poverty rate, an unequal income distribution, high illiteracy and infant mortality rates, unemployment and low-quality employment, and a rampant health crisis.
In addition, there are numerous US military bases, uncontrolled and uncontrollable drug trafficking, ongoing human trafficking and growing immigration problems, among many others.
What are the benefits of instigating integration in Latin America?
The first thing is to consider that integration is not even seen in economic-commercial terms, let alone as an end in itself and with a pre-defined path set out in stages replicating the one that occurred in Europe.
The combination of political agreement, cooperation and integration is what could make the difference.
It is about integration, not per se in the interest of actors outside the Latin American and Caribbean subregion – the United States, especially – or extra-regional ones, but in the interest of the peoples, to solve their age-old problems. It begins with is political agreement, a consensus, which together with financing could make the dreams of the liberators of our America come true.
Integration, regarded in this way, could help to increase intra-bloc trade, the expansion of the regional market, the formation of regional production chains and regional value chains.
This would generate resilience in the weak economies when faced with external crashes and the nightmare of the pandemic caused by Covid-19, with its impacts on the economy, society, health and in the field of politics.
Cooperation on health matters, environmental protection in defense of the so-called Small Island Developing States is also important.
In science and technology, connectivity and satellite communication within the framework of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), it has already offered never before seen results.
What difficulties could Latin America experience in making integration a reality?
In my opinion, the region lacks the political consensus that existed in 2008-2011 in the period of the gestation and creation of CELAC, together with almost non-existent autonomous financing, and therefore depends on external sources and conditions. There is also the tradition of the asymmetric development of economies, due to their different size, scientific-technical accumulation, geographical position, greater or lesser dependence on the United States, and the colonial burden in its links with the old metropolises.
Likewise, there is the presence of various foreign interests, unresolved historical border disputes, the selfish and anti-national interest of the oligarchies. All of this makes it difficult to carry out regional integration processes.
This is aggravated by the multiplicity of cooperation and integration schemes or formats, which are divided into two large fields: those with a neoliberal matrix – the Southern Common Market, Pacific Alliance – and those with an alternative matrix –ALBA – TCP and CELAC.
How could the rise to power of leftist governments contribute to achieving more effective integration?
Some facts are not clear: the right wing has not been able to consolidate its project, despite the resources invested by the United States and the systematic violations of democracy, and open or covert coups d’état.
In addition to this, there is Lawfare and the excessive proliferation of false news on the networks.
Clearly the changes in the political map of the region show a swing to the left and progressivism, which could be favourable to integration.
This started from 2018 with the ascension of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the presidency in Mexico, followed by the triumph of the Peronist Alberto Fernández in Argentina, and Luis Arce in Bolivia and the recent triumph of Pedro Castillo in Peru.
In any case, whatever happens in the immediate future, it seems that we are witnessing a new cycle of progressivism in the region, and it remains to be seen what will happen in the presidential elections of Chile and Nicaragua in November, and in Brazil and Colombia next year. Let’s hope that the pendulum will follow its course to the left and progressivism. Then, reality in the region would be different. (PL)