Feature

Excluding the U.S. from the Americas

Latin America has just created a new bloc, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which excludes the U.S. and Canada. It is envisioned as the primary forum for regional cooperation.

So Latin America has just created a new bloc that excludes the U.S. and Canada. What’s the point of that, again? asked Bolivia’s La Razón in an editorial. Meeting last month in Cancún, Mexico, leaders of 32 countries agreed to form a new group, provisionally named the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which is envisioned as the primary forum for regional cooperation. While Honduras was absent from Cancún because of its recent coup, it too will have a place in the new bloc. Okay, we understand that the existing bloc—the Organization of American States, which comprises all the countries in the hemisphere—has a poor record of getting things done. But that’s hardly the fault of the U.S. alone. “And why has Canada been excluded? Is it because it is imperialist, or because it’s a highly developed country and therefore doesn’t fit in well with the Third World?” It’s fairly clear what has transpired here: The anti-U.S. agenda of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has triumphed.

Indeed, Chávez seems to have seduced his fellow leaders with a “beautiful dream,” said Brazil’s Estadão. He invoked the vision of 19th-century revolutionary Simón Bolívar, who wanted to see “one and only one American nation, united in its values of democracy, justice, and equality.” But that idea represents a “triumph of rhetoric over regional reality.” Many Latin American countries have bilateral disputes: Colombia has accused Venezuela of arming Colombian rebels, for example, while Argentina has protested that Uruguay is polluting its rivers. The creation of the new bloc shows that the region’s leaders are “locked in the illusion that snubbing the United States will do for Latin American integration what 200 years of history failed to do.”

Latin America has legitimate reasons for excluding the U.S., said Raúl Zibechi in Mexico’s La Jornada. “U.S. hegemony has dominated” our relations for too long, and the OAS is practically a U.S. puppet. Most recently, the OAS did nothing about the coup in Honduras, which many believe was supported by the U.S. The impetus for the new bloc didn’t come from Chávez alone—Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, pushed for it, too. And the summit was hosted by Mexican President Felipe Calderón, a conservative who came to power in part due to his anti-Chávez stance.

That’s why we shouldn’t dismiss the new bloc as a “Chávez-engineered populist plot,” said Jorge Heine in Canada’s Toronto Star. Nor should Canada or the U.S. resent being excluded. Rather, the new bloc should be seen as another manifestation of Latin America’s maturity. The countries of the region are now almost entirely democratic, and most of their economies are “well-managed and growing.” They want to continue the process of globalization, and that requires “a strong regional base.” Latin America is accomplishing that through various, overlapping organizations, including the Andean Community, the OAS, the Caribbean Community, and now this new group. Latin Americans have “opted for a flexible, postmodern, variable-geometry approach to intraregional cooperation.” That’s good for globalization and, therefore, ultimately good for all of us.

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