The map of Latin America remains geographically unchanged, solid. And there are no real threats to the contrary. This is not a sign of indifference to pending issues that may exist between neighboring countries, but of an extended – and exemplary – submission to the Law. Says good about our region.
In historical record, the recent “pending matters” due to border disputes between Latin Americans were all submitted to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Not referred, therefore, to the infantry, fighter-bombers or frigates, or to other warlike channels of processing. In the decade that has ended, 40% of the cases in The Hague, headquarters of the ICJ, have been contentious between Latin Americans.
In parallel, however, our multilateralism entered a centrifugal crisis. Rather, a dynamic of fragmentation and centrifugation prevailed in the last two decades. The same institutionalist force was not transmitted to this space and it has been suffering more than a decade of unfortunate ups and downs. Actually, more “low” than “high”.
This reached its dramatic height during the most tragic moments of the covid-19 pandemic. The inability of the governments of the region to agree on strategies in the face of such obvious and crucial issues as desirable vaccines cost many lives. After last year’s curve, the deadliest moment of the pandemic, and societies have been notified of the widespread impatience of people willing to vote en masse for change, a series of challenges arise that put forward the urgency of articulating common denominators.
How much of this alluvial force and social dynamics can be channeled towards a constructive and effective multilateral institutionality, which today is basically languishing and in crisis? At first glance, the space for Latin American multilateralism does not look very encouraging. Prosur and CELAC join the “alphabet soup” of an OAS already in crisis and of Unasur, which emerged in 2008 amid great fanfare. In this, however, not everything is discouraging, nor is this sum of acronyms just that.
By changing the political course in several of the founding countries of Unasur in the last years of the past decade, six of them (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru) withdrew in 2018. In this context, the 2019 Prosur emerged. , at the request of Presidents Duque and Piñera, in a step that was read as a project of an alternative ideological sign to Unasur. With a recent summit held in Colombia, Prosur at this point, however, raises few specifics and rather raises questions and doubts about its future within the panorama of changes in government that are taking place. Starting with the imminent one in Chile and the foreseeable Colombian government change – which would not prolong Duque’s –, whether Petro or Fajardo is elected.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), for its part, intends to cover the 33 countries of the region and, therefore, signify a larger and more ambitious space that should be given much more attention today. It could be the trick of the moment.
Created in 2010, as the successor entity of the Rio Group, CELAC held its first presidential summit in September last year at Chapultepec Castle, Mexico, after many years. From there, a fruitful dialogue was held with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and with Xi Jinping himself, President of China. Two clear signs of a vision of the indispensable interaction with the global world. The former president of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, rightly sees CELAC in 2022 as “a space in which the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean must think about how to respond to current challenges, and seek consensus and meeting points to dialogue with themselves and with others.
Looking ahead to the Summit of the Americas, to which President Biden is inviting for June this year in Los Angeles, there is no doubt that CELAC could – should – be the broad and coordinating space for a wide variety of countries in the region. . And, therefore, in the capacity –in theory at least– to coordinate common and articulated messages both before the United States and, in other scenarios, before the European Union and China. Based on this, it may be a good ground to move forward with the aim of structuring a common agenda around the four axes defined for the Summit: economic prosperity, security, human rights and dignity.
Looking beyond the “alphabet soup”, then, what was expressed in the Prosur forum last week by the Peruvian foreign minister until this Tuesday, Oscar Maúrtua. He hit the nail on the head in terms of fundamental guidelines. First, that it is necessary to “think of regional integration beyond the conjunctures and far beyond the ideological orientations”; second, “the dialogue must be inclusive and extend to all the countries of the region.”
In a scenario like this, then, the circumstances and demands of the hour will be able to decant the alphabet soup and find in CELAC a useful operational reference and an urgent concerted affirmation of regional policies.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.