By: Raúl Zibechi
The nation or region that does not have a strategic project, and holds on firmly to the steering wheel in the worst geopolitical storms is destined to get dragged along by the dominant winds. Latin America is letting the opportunity to break with its subordinate role as the empire’s backyard pass by, precisely because of lacking two conditions: a project and political stability.
South America, the region that is in the best condition to break with the mold that the United States imposes, finds itself divided and the countries that could focus on new directions are paralyzed. As a group, they have lost weight in the international arena and in the principal forums.
The document 2015 United States National Military Strategy, recently published and focused on the contention of China and Russia, mentions all the regions of the planet in various passages, but barely makes side references to Latin America and the Caribbean. What it doesn’t means is that the Pentagon has no policy towards the region, but rather that it does not perceive bigger problems in its backyard, where it only worries about “the transnational criminal organizations.”
Two meetings are happening at this time in Ufa, in the southern Urals: the summits of the BRICS countries and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). For the Chinese newspaper Global Times, the double meeting –in reality its about the convergence of interests– reflects “a profound change in the Euro-Asiatic situation” with the ability to influence all of the world, through powerful mechanisms like the BRICS Development Bank, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Global Times, July 8, 2015). In both summits the role of the Latin American region is also marginal.
Latin America is not present in the international conjuncture, nor do the big global powers, the traditional ones or the emerging ones, take it into account as a global actor. It is certain that the region never had a global presence, although Brazil played a certain role years ago in various scenarios and in institutions like the BRICS, but what’s noteworthy is the regression, in particular of South America, as an independent actor. There are seven reasons that explain this step backwards.
The first and most important is the paralysis of Brazil, a fruit of a combination of economic crisis and political crisis. The powerful offensive of the financial sector, the right and the middle classes against the PT and the government of Dilma Rousseff, added to the corruption in the state-owned Petrobras, placed them on the defensive and it’s not easy for them to retake the initiative.
Brazil was the country that has been able to design a national and regional strategy, which includes the development of an autonomous military-industrial complex and an independent foreign policy. The prison of some noteworthy directors of the big construction companies, like Marcelo Odebrecht, president of the key corporation in the construction of conventional and nuclear submarines, puts all of the Brazilian strategy at risk. The role that Brazil had as a regional leader with strong infrastructure investment tends to be substituted with the growing presence of China.
The second is the Venezuelan crisis, in particular the economic, followed by the crisis of leadership, which impedes continuing being a referent in the region. The December parliamentary elections can aggravate the crisis that crosses through the country.
The third is the end of the Kirchner cycle in Argentina, whose succession can be resolved favorably in the next presidential election on October 25, but even so it will be difficult to recover the vigor that it showed until now, in particular in international relations.
The strategic Brazil-Argentina-Venezuela alliance forms the critical mass capable of leading the entirety of the region in a direction more independent from Washington, transcending South America with projects like the Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).
In fourth place is the paralysis of the Mercosur, where the Brazilian crisis opens cracks in the trade agreements with Argentina and Venezuela. The change of the economic cycle with the drop in commodity prices places the Mercosur in need of moving towards another productive model, which as of now is not registering in any of them.
In fifth place is the approach of Paraguay and Uruguay to the policies promoted by Washington. The first (Paraguay) is reviving an old alliance with a strong military imprint, while the second wants to join the Pacific Alliance. A sharp negative turn is registered in both cases with respect to the Mercosur and regional integration.
The sixth question is related to the difficulties that travel across the Unasur, which impedes playing an active role in the resolution of conflicts, as well as in the development of some processes of integration that appear paralyzed. The Bank of the South, infrastructure works and projects of the South American Defense Council are stalled or advance with too much slowness in relation to the geopolitical acceleration that the world experiences.
Finally, it’s appropriate to emphasize the lack of strategic debates in the region, which affects the specialized institutes, the academies, the progressive parties and parties of the left, and also the social movements. The urgencies of the moment have relegated the essential themes, which include from the insertion of each country and the region in a world that changes, to the different national projects. A decade has been lost, in large measure because of the “ease” of following behind the high prices of raw materials, which acted like narcotics paralyzing the will for structural transformations.
The movements are part of the problem. Social forums disappeared as spaces for meeting and debate; the Vatican is filling that space. Nothing good can come from a lack of strategic projects.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, July 10, 2015