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,
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
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.