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A new paradigm in regional integration

The world is changing. It is changing fast.The global financial system is facing the worst crisis in over 80 years. The recession that has begun in the United States is threatening to engulf the whole world. It is compared to the crisis of the 1930’s . Nay, it is even worse. Then the financial services industry was at its infancy. The whole set of derivatives and electronic transfers of wealth were then unknown.

The crumbling of financial giants has been associated with the fall of the very ideology that fostered them. Neoliberalism has received a fatal blow. Corporate giants are now knelling before the State which they had shunted to a backyard asking it to bail them out. Billions and millions have been earmarked for this rescue operation.

The masses throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries are yet to get relief. In this situation they are looking for alternative solutions. One avenue they are exploring is regional integration. Integration in itself is not devoid of problems. By experience they have understood that integration differs according to the terms under which it is forged.

For example, majority of Latin American nations have rejected the integration model of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAAA) as a means of perpetuating the region’s subjugation by te United States. In this context three Summits held last week in Brazil point to a new direction in regional integration, They are the Extraordinary Summit of the Rio Group, the MERCOSUR Summit and the First ever Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development.

Formed in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in December 1986 by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, its membership has now increased to 26.

MERCOSUR is the Common Market of the South which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as members with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru holding associate membership. Venezuela’s full membership is still pending ratification.

It was formed in 1994.

The general will of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean was best expressed at the First Summit of those countries. The very fact that they met without the presence of their Northern neighbour, the United States, points to a change in the paradigm of integration. Hitherto there has been no summit in which all those countries participated. The United States not only set the agenda it dominated them. As a result Cuba was excluded. Last week Cuba was fraternally welcomed to the Rio Group and was a member of the all Latin American and Caribbean Summit. As President Raul Castro noted “Bringing the leaders of Latin America and Caribbean together for the first time in a forum of just and noble pretensions, without exclusion or the presence of extra-regional countries, is an act of unquestionable significance”.

During recent years Latin America has witnesses a remarkable renaissance of the peoples. Fuelled by the enthusiasm and activism of the masses, especially the working poor and marginalised indigenous populations, broader participatory democracies have emerged with a pro-poor regimes. A new form of social contract is being forged to rid the continent of poverty and social injustice. For this purpose a struggle is going on to assert the independence of these nations and assert their sovereign rights over their natural resources. Progressive regimes are in office in Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Argentina, Bolivia.

These countries are fed up with the neoliberal economic model that has ruined their countries and led their people deeper and deeper into poverty. Incidentally the progressive regimes have made remarkable progress in poverty eradication, combating illiteracy and in healthcare. Venezuela and Bolivia have eradicated illiteracy through massive Cuban style campaigns in a remarkably short time.

The depemdence on their Northern neighbour is being gradually reduced through broadening their external relations. New relations have been established with Russia, China, India, Iran and Africa.

ALBA or the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and Petro-Caribe are also regional initiatives that consolidate the independence of these countries.

Cooperation between these countries are based on a new principle of solidarity where the stronger State offers concessionary terms of trade. For example, Venezuela is subsidising the oil bill of several members of the Petro-Caribbe organisation.

As the recent Summit of all Latin American and Caribbean states it was stressed that neoliberal globalisation, a global phenomena has to be countered by constructing an essential globalisation of solidarity.

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