Chile Declares Latin America & the Caribbean a Priority

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The Constitutional Convention’s latest approval in its plenary session, relating to an article about international relations and declaring Latin America and the Caribbean as a priority area for Chile, is not only good news for the entire region, but it also marks a before and after in the role Chile could play in different spheres.

Nevertheless, certain negative reactions have come to light after this approval, coming not only from Chile’s Right (which was to be expected), but from groups within the former (center-left) Concertacion, which have pointed out that an article like this one doesn’t need to be present in Chile’s new Constitution.

In a letter written by three former foreign ministers during the former Concertacion coalition (Soledad Alvear, Alejandro Foxley and Ignacio Walker), they pointed out that it wasn’t necessary to give the region priority in the new constitution, because it’s “obvious”, and the approved article could even “play into” human rights violations, in countries such as Russia, Cuba or Hungary.

If you closely analyze the approved article, it explicitly states that Chile commits itself to recognizing and protecting universal Human Rights, which doesn’t mean they will directly intervene in other countries, violating their sovereignty, like the former chancellors seem to be suggesting.

We can’t forget that one of these former ministers, Soledad Alvear, supported the coup d’etat in Venezuela in 2002, pushed for by the US and Venezuelan far right, when she was a member of President Ricardo Lagos’ administration. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the much-needed critique of power concentration and human rights violations in this country after Nicolas Maduro’s regime came into office.

In other words, these former ministers are using human rights to suit their own ideological interests, to criticize human rights violations in just some countries, but they aren’t saying anything about the United States’ many interventions across the globe, along with NATO, which have also left thousands of people dead and many countries in ruin, like Chile was in 1973.

Regarding the argument that it’s clear that the region will be given priority, it’s quite interesting, to say the least, considering Chile is one of the few countries in the region that has never had a constitutional clause about regional integration. Over the past forty years, it has prioritized a completely neoliberal foreign policy, focusing on free trade agreements with great powers and major global markets.

At the same time, you just need to take a quick look at Chilean History – from Diego Portales onwards – to see how the State positioned itself outside the rest of the region with its 1833 Constitution, and as the “best in the neighborhood”, as if we were a superior country, more civilized in our institutions and closer to the so-called “first world”. 

Thus, the strong centralist, monoculture, and racist character of the Chilean State throughout history, has led it to scorn all of the other countries in the region. It has tried to instill that we were the jaguars in the region or the Englishmen of Latin America, which ended up isolating us and leaving us outside of what was happening around us.

I therefore celebrate the approval of an article like this one. It opens us up to great international challenges and cross-border cooperation, in terms of promoting Human Rights and Rights of Nature, and pushing forward universal policies on gender equality, social equality, indigenous populations’ rights, cross-cultural education, socio-environment education, gender-neutral education.

In terms of giving priority to Latin America and the Caribbean, it opens up the possibility for us to push forward with the construction of a plurinational, feminist and eco-friendly regional bloc, that addresses a world threatened by both the climate crisis as well as great imperial powers today (China, Russia and the US), which given the United Nations’ weakness, will do anything they can to control smaller countries, both with military and economic means.

This is why building a Latin American and Caribbean Union, that learns from the mistakes and successes of the European Union (going much further, of course), might be the beginning of a path, where issues such as the migration crisis, health crisis, food crisis, water crisis, energy crisis, organized crime and a lack of participation and democracy, can be worked on with collaborative efforts and not from a competitive standpoint between countries.

Lastly, it would also be good to adopt a Lain American and Caribbean mindset in terms of subordination and dependence between central and outlying countries, as well as existing alternatives, which has been rejected so much in a country like Chile – both on a political and academic level -, and leaving behind the Eurocentric views that have dominated the country.

Latin America and the Caribbean have a long history of critical thought, that ranges from theories on dependence, regional feminisms, Andean philosophy, Afro-Caribbean philosophy, Latin American cultural studies, the decolonial twist, Latin American political ecology, and other movements that can help us to build a region with good intentions.

One of these people was from Chile, Enzo Faletto, a dependence theorist, and maybe the most important sociologist the country has ever seen, who has been one of the intellectuals to contribute the most to thinking of the region as a geographical location, so it may be the time to go back to this kind of thinking and to our shared history, which they’ve wanted to deny and erase in the past.

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