Latin America, Brexit and Trump: The Consequences

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 06/27/2016

Like waves caused by a faraway hurricane, big global events eventually tend to wash up on Latin America’s shores. In the 2000s, the rise of China and its appetite for commodities gave rise to a new Latin American middle class and a “pink tide” of left-leaning leaders who handed out the spoils. In the 1990s, the collapse of the Berlin Wall resulted in the “Washington Consensus” of free-market dogma and the growth of me-too trading blocs such as Mercosur, NAFTA and the Andean Community. And in preceding decades, the Cold War helped foster any number of dictatorships, guerrilla uprisings and midnight coups.

So what will be the fallout from “Brexit,” the rise of Donald Trump, and other manifestations of the new nationalism sweeping Western Europe and the United States? Will Latin America once again serve as a peripheral theater to the convulsions of the rich world? Or has the general prosperity and democratic consolidation of recent years bolstered Latin America’s own center of gravity, giving it the ability to resist – or perhaps even push back against – developments thousands of miles away?

There’s a distinct irony to all of this: The rich world is turning inward at precisely the moment when Latin America feels more open to trade and integration than it has in 20 years. The election of more outward-looking presidents in Argentinaand Peru, and overtures to trade by Brazil’s new interim government, have signaled a shift away from the leftism of the past decade. In broad terms, the region’s Atlantic coast is more actively embracing the trade-friendly ethos that has served the Pacific, Asia-facing countries so well in recent years. The tragic implosion of Venezuela and the opening of Cuba have only accentuated the belief in capitals from Mexico City to Buenos Aires that the future lies with more globalization, rather than less.

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Brazil looms larger

Renaud Lambert – Le Monde Diplomatique, 06/28/2013

João Paulo Rodrigues and Rubens Barbosa seem to have little in common: Rodrigues has been involved in the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement (MST) since childhood; Barbosa was Brazil’s ambassador to the UK, then the US, from 1994 to 2004, and is now a consultant. I met Rodrigues at a small house in São Paolo; Barbosa’s offices are on the very chic Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, where helicopters ferry chief executives between skyscrapers. Rodrigues had just been leading a training session for MST activists; Barbosa managed to “take a few minutes out” between calls from clients who wanted to know about the terms of a government tender — presumably ahead of everyone else (that’s what it sounded like to me).

But these men sometimes agree in what they say. When Rodrigues talks about MST’s political aims — “overthrowing neoliberalism and building a fairer economic system” — he identifies regional integration as a priority. Barbosa dreams of Brazil “transforming its geography into a political reality”. He sees Latin America as “Brazil’s backyard, the natural territory of Brazilian businesses” (1). He too identified a priority: “defending our own interests” and reinforcing the process of regional integration.

Since the Great Liberator, Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), dreamed of unity, there have been many attempts to promote collaboration between Latin American countries and further their integration into a larger entity, bringing different countries together depending on the ultimate goal — independence in the 19th century, regional industrialisation after the second world war, neoliberal alignment in the 1990s.

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On multilateralism, sovereignty and the western hemisphere: concepts in jeopardy

Luigi Einaudi, 11/08/2012

The Organization of American States Charter declares that “the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty.”  In reality, of course, the Americas have never been united except in the western mythology of the New World.  Its countries have shifting relationships, sometimes drifting apart, other times coalescing sub regionally. It is nearly sixty years since the historian Arthur Whitaker declared that the Western Hemisphere Ideal, theproposition that the peoples of this Hemisphere stand in a special relationship to one another which sets them apart from the rest of the world” was in irreversible decline.So a question arises:  Do hemispheric relations still have a unique place in this globalizing world?

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The bully from Brazil

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky – Foreign Policy, 07/20/2012

ISIBORO SÉCURE NATIONAL PARK AND INDIGENOUS TERRITORY, Bolivia — Delmi Morales Nosa never imagined she’d need her family’s bow and arrow for anything other than hunting. But when construction started last yearon a highway set to bisect her homeland, Bolivia’s second-largest national park (known here as Tipnis), she reconsidered. “The road will ruin our way of life, and we will defend ourselves by any means necessary,” said the indigenous Yuracaré mother of two, as she shoved wood into her outdoor adobe oven. Having survived centuries of incursion by the Spanish, rubber traders, and loggers, the park’s residents say the road — which environmental impact studies predict could contaminate the Isiboro and Sécure rivers and push 11 endangered species toward extinction — represents the gravest threat yet. Surveying the remote wilderness around her, Morales Nosa said Tipnis residents are preparing their traditional weapons: “We will not let the bulldozers in here,” she said.

But what Morales Nosa doesn’t realize is that stopping the road might require somewhat more formidable weapons. Bolivian President Evo Morales touts the project as vital to the country’s future. “Thankfully, [the highway’s detractors] are only a few, while the great majority of Bolivians support this project because they know that highways bring development,” he said a year ago. Although this may be true, the controversial 152-mile stretch of pavement-to-be is also vital for something much bigger: a continentwide infrastructure network championed by neighboring Brazil, the region’s dominant power and economic engine.

Dreams of an integrated South America date back to the days of Simón Bolívar, the continent’s 19th-century independence hero. But geography has always been a hindrance. The planet’s longest mountain range, the Andes, practically slices the continent in two, complicating east-west roadways. Two-thirds of the landmass is tropical, with soft terrain that makes constructing durable roads costly or virtually impossible. The Amazon and its numerous tributaries should have alleviated the impasse problem (moving goods by water can be 30 times less expensive than by land), but these rivers have portions too narrow or shallow for large cargo ships, and their muddy, constantly shifting banks make terrible ports. Stymied by insufficient means to reach its resources, South America needed a bold solution if it was ever going to find its way out of the backwaters of underdevelopment.

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Latin America: Trading and investing together

Shannon K. O’Neil – Council on Foreign Relations, 07/19/2012

Economic ties lead Latin America’s integration efforts. Promising some of the greatest concrete benefits—larger markets, improved livelihoods, and enhanced global economic power—leaders and communities alike have tried to integrate the region through three main means: trade, infrastructure, and investment.

In the post-WWII era, governments began creating ambitious trade organizations, such as the 1960 Latin America Free Trade Association, or LAFTA, and its successor, the Latin American Integration Association, or ALADI. Both focused on (and never achieved) an integrated common market. Less ambitious (but more successful) have been the over fifty trade agreements negotiated over the past fifty years between Latin American neighbors, setting the stage for greater economic interchange.

A look at the two most prominent economic-based agreements—the Southern Common Market, or Mercosur, and the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA—highlights the different paths. Created in 1991, Mercosur brought together Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, and later granted associate membership (allowing market access with no voting rights) to Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru (and most recently granted full membership to Venezuela). Its goal was more than just trade, envisioning coordinated macroeconomic policies as well as a functioning regional parliament. Despite the ambitious vision, intra-bloc trade peaked in the mid 1990s. Stymied by the protectionist tendencies of its two largest economies, Brazil and Argentina, regional integration through Mercosur has floundered.

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Brazil makeover helped Humala shed his Chávez image

Matt Moffett and Paulo Prada – WSJ, 06/07/2011

Leftist candidate Ollanta Humala won Peru’s presidential election in part by borrowing a page from its Brazilian neighbor, which also stands to expand its influence in the region.

Mr. Humala, who lost the election in 2006 because he was seen as too closely tied to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, adopted Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as his model this time.

Mr. Humala’s campaign sought inspiration in Mr. da Silva’s makeover from a leftist who was rejected three times by voters to a moderate who won two terms in office and left beloved by Brazilians.

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Uruguay‘s ratification gives Unasur legal status (nine out of twelve)

MercoPress, 12/02/2010

Uruguay became this week the ninth country to ratify the Unasur (Union of South American Nations) foundation charter thus giving full legal effectiveness to the twelve-nation group.

On Tuesday the Uruguayan Senate with the votes from the ruling coalition and part of the opposition sealed ample political support (20 to 6) as was requested by President Jose Mujica.

Last week the government could have mustered just enough votes to have the Unasur founding charter and constitution passed but gave time to the opposition hoping for a broader support, as happened.

Nevertheless there was a strong debate with those opposing the initiative arguing that Unasur is a Brazilian diplomacy “hegemonic” instrument which not only could end “competing” with the Organization of American States but would seriously undercut Mexican influence in other regional blocks in Central America and the Caribbean.

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Lula da Silva and Vazquez candidates for Unasur secretary general chair

MercoPress, 11/17/2010

Brazil’s Lula da Silva and former Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez are the most probable candidates for the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, secretary general chair, according to Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa. Ecuador currently holds the rotating presidency of Unasur.

The job is vacant since the death of former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, Unasur’s first secretary general. President Lula da Silva steps down after eight years in office next January first.

According to the official Ecuadorean news agency Andes, the issue was discussed by Correa with Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica currently on an official visit to Ecuador.

“We will have to continue with the consultation round; there’s no consensus yet, we’re involved in a flush of ideas, that’s what we’ve been talking with (Uruguayan president) Pepe Mujica”, said Correa.

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Mercosur and Unasur need an institutional framework to keep advancing

MercoPress, 11/18/2010

Brazilian president-elect Dilma Rousseff must inject more life to the institutional strength of Mercosur and the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, and then push for integration with Central America and the Caribbean, said Marco Aurelio García, President Lula da Silva advisor on foreign affairs.

“Both Mercosur and Unasur will have to strengthen their institutions so that we can have a common energy policy and beef up infrastructure, particularly in the current global scenario”, said Marco Aurelio addressing an academic forum in Sao Paulo.

Marco Aurelio who was one of the coordinators of Ms Rousseff successful presidential campaign and has been tipped as a possible Foreign Affairs minister in the next cabinet, said that the administration of President Lula da Silva was very effective in advancing continental integration, “but still needs to give the process the necessary institutional framework”.

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Lula da Silva’s name sounds strongly as next Unasur secretary general

MercoPress, 10/30/2010

Following the death of former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, the Union of South American Nations, Unasur must find a new consensus leader and the outstanding figure and possible candidate is Brazilian president Lula da Silva recognized as a great promoter of regional integration.

Kirchner became Unasur secretary general after months of negotiations fro a consensus candidate among the twelve countries of the region which became possible last March when Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez left office.

Vazquez and Kirchner were involved in a frustrating conflict over the construction of pulp mills in shared watercourses that only ended with the election of a new government in Uruguay under President Jose Mujica who abstained in the decisive voting round for Unasur first secretary general.

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