The mainstream US media pays little if any attention to South America. Aside from the sports coverage of the soccer championships in Brazil, most of us are hard pressed to remember any major news stories about nations to the south of Mexico. Not only do we tend to ignore geopolitical events in South America, we don’t realize there is an alliance organization of South American nations. This organization is a potential game-changer for the United States and the rest of the world. Why aren’t we interested in it?
South America has a long history of income disparity, internal conflicts, weak national political institutions, and submission to the influence of the United States. Ongoing problems like conflicts among themselves regarding international borders, trade tariffs, and subregional alliances have gotten in their way of organizing themselves into an organization that maximizes their shared interests.
Until recently, it has been difficult for South Americans to make themselves heard and to compete among the major players of the rest of the world, especially those powers in North America. In order to survive and thrive in the global community, the region needs a more integrated infrastructure and more harmonious social networks.
This reawakened interest in regionalism is partially a reaction to globalization and the carving up of the world by corporate powers. There are new efforts to focus on a secondary level of governance between global interests and state governments. The nations remember their histories of submission to the wishes of the superpowers during the Cold War years. The first instances of regionalism emerged as a reaction to the efforts of the United States and the Soviet Bloc to integrate with one or the other to form alliances, often times by subterfuge.
The economic and political dysfunction along with long standing social distortions have worsened as a result of globalization. The answer to many of these problems is increasingly being seen as a regional alliance. Some analysts have likened the new regionalism to the philosophy, “manifest destiny”. The idea claims that stronger regional integration will better meet the challenges of the “New World Order”. The alliance should be able to better focus on those challenges.
To peacefully, yet assertively address these concerns, twelve nations initially came together to propose and plan a new organization of countries and sub-regional organizations. They hammered out the details of an organization named “Unión
Sudamericana” (USA) “South American Community of Nations” (CSN). On December 8, 2004, the presidents of those twelve countries signed the “Cusco Declaration”.
The document, formally titled, “Preamble to the Foundation Act of the South American Community of Nations” was a two-page declaration. The Cusco Declaration outlined the need for a regional parliament, a common currency, and a common market. The organization would be modeled after the European Union. The tentative date for possible consolidation is 2019. One major feature of the organization, was to not add another layer of bureaucracy. The organization is set up to integrate the offices of the previous trade blocs.
One year later, the name of the organization was changed to prevent confusion between “Unión Sudamericana” (USA) and USA, the nation. The new designation became, “Union of South American Nations (USAN)” in English. In Spanish, it is “Unión de Naciones Suramericanas” (UNASUR); in Portuguese “União de Nações Sul-Americanas” (UNASUL); and in Dutch, “Unie van Zuid -Amerikaanse Naties” (UZAN).
On May 23, 2008, the UNASAR Constitutive Treaty was signed in Brasilia, Brazil. USAN/UNASUR/UNASUL/UZAN became a fully legal entity on March 11, 2011. The organization’s headquarters is at Quito, Ecuador; the Parliament is at Cochabamba, Bolivia; and the Bank of the South’s main administrators are in Caracas, Venezuela.
At the May 2010 summit in Argentina, former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner was elected to a two-year term as the first Secretary-General of USAN.
USAN/UNASUR/UNASUL/UZAN is comprised of nearly every nation on the continent. The combined population is approximately 377,000,000 people. The domestic market is worth some US$1,500,000,000. There is enough fossil fuel to last at least 100-years. And the region contains about 27-percent of the planet’s fresh water.
The major organizational goals are improvement and integration of the infrastructure to focus on energy, transportation, and telecommunications. The creation of a free trade area is dependent upon those aims. In the end, USAN/UNASUR/UNASUL/UZAN hopes to coordinate efforts to increase influence and international prestige so South America can interact on an equal playing field with the rest of the world.
It will be interesting to see if South American nations can overcome their numerous past rivalries and disputes to make this organization a viable success.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Venezuelan race driver, Pastor Maldonado. “I’m used to having a lot of criticism. It’s normal. It’s normal when you come from South America, when you have a country pushing very hard in your back.”