South America Repeats Attempt to Integrate as a Bloc

Family photo of the meeting of South American leaders -in the center the host Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva- that produced the Brasilia Consensus to promote a road map that makes it possible to revive the integration of the 12 countries as a bloc that includes a free area trade. Image: Presidency of Brazil


HAVANA TIMES – The leaders of the 12 South American countries, meeting this week in Brasilia, established a “contact group” headed by their foreign ministers to draw up a “road map” aimed at promoting, for the third time, the integration of the region in a block, with free trade area included.

The “Brasilia Consensus” proposes regional integration “to face the shared challenges in building a peaceful world; strengthening democracy; promoting economic and social development; fighting poverty, hunger and all forms of inequality and discrimination.”

It also includes the “commitment to democracy and human rights, sustainable development and social justice, the rule of law and institutional stability, the defense of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.”

The meeting was called by the Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to openly address what each South American government wants in terms of integration. It was attended by 10 other heads of state and the president of the Peruvian Council of Ministers.

Lula and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández coincided in vindicating the experience of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which was born in 2008 with the 12 States of the region as members and was buried in 2019, after several right-wing governments defected and center-right then existing in the region.

“We let ideologies divide us and we all lost,” deplored the Brazilian president, adding that “what brings us together today (May 30) in Brasilia is the sense of urgency to take a collective look at our region again.”

He explained that with a population of almost 450 million inhabitants, South America constitutes an important consumer market and the fifth largest economy in the world, with a combined gross domestic product that will reach four trillion (million) dollars in 2023.

He proposed de-bureaucratizing foreign trade procedures, updating common infrastructure projects, reactivating cooperation in health, in the face of climate change, in the field of defense, creating a South American energy market, and activating a regional academic mobility program.

“As long as we are disunited, we will not make South America a developed continent to its full potential. Integration must be a permanent goal for all of us. We must refuse to spend another 500 years on the periphery. We need to leave strong roots for the next generations “, he stressed.

Faced with these emergencies, Lula proposed that the contact group made up of the foreign ministers draw up the roadmap to be followed in six months to achieve regional integration, but his peers preferred not to set such a peremptory deadline.

However, they pledged to promote trade and investment among the countries of the region, to overcome asymmetries, eliminate unilateral measures and increase economic cooperation, “with the goal of an effective South American free trade area.”

Other areas of cooperation included in the Consensus are health, environment, defense, infrastructure and logistics, energy interconnection and clean energy, digital transformation, security, and the fight against transnational organized crime.

Venezuela’s controversy with Maduro

The meeting could not avoid the ideological contrast, after on May 29, during a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Lula told him “comrade Maduro, you know the narrative that was built against Venezuela: that of anti-democracy, of authoritarianism”.

“It is up to Venezuela to show its narrative, and to return to being a sovereign country, where only its people, through a free vote, decide who should govern. And then our adversaries will have to apologize for the havoc they have caused,” he stated.

The presidents of Chile, Gabriel Boric, and of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, publicly stated their disagreements on this issue during the meeting in Brasilia.

“I respectfully stated that I do not agree with President Lula when he says that the human rights situation in Venezuela is a narrative construction. It is not a narrative construction. It is a serious reality,” Boric said.

Lacalle said that “you already know what I think about Venezuela and the Government of Venezuela. Now if there are so many groups in the world trying to mediate so that democracy is full in Venezuela, the worst thing we can do is cover the sun with a finger”, he asserted.

While Boric said that as a person of the left he maintained his criticism of Venezuela for the situation of human rights and democracy, Lacalle, of the center right, indicated that actions such as sending an ambassador to Caracas do not respond to supporting the government but rather the Venezuelan people.

The meeting in Brasilia constitutes the third push for South American integration as a differentiated and powerful block within the Latin American and Caribbean arc.

In August 2000, then Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003) brought together his South American counterparts to start an integration process based on developing infrastructure works and the convergence of the Southern Common Market and the Andean Community of Nations.

In May 2008, also in Brasilia, at the start of Lula’s second presidency (2003-2007 and 2007-2011) and after agreements the previous year on the Venezuelan island of Margarita, the founding treaty of Unasur was signed, to which endowed Quito with a general secretariat.

Between 2018 and 2019 six governments (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru) withdrew from the Union and Ecuador closed the headquarters of the general secretariat.

With the new wave of left-wing and center-left governments in the region, the idea of reviving the bloc has returned, under the weight of the “multi-crisis” (economic, health, food, climate and warfare) promoted around the world for the past three years.

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  • AMLO is a fox!

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