In light of the news articles on Latin American integration covered throughout this semester, several conclusions can be made. While regional integration still seems to be an appealing initiative for many states, current events demonstrate that there are several factors constraining successful integration in Latin America. Conflicting national interests along with dissatisfaction amongst states with their current situations are issues of particular concern. Yet the reality is not all negative, and certain news events show that potential for solidarity remains. The following section will examine both the challenges and successes of Latin American integration according to the news events covered in these past months. In speculating where Latin American integration will be headed in the future, this assessment concludes that although some hopeful prospects remain, serious obstacles must be overcome for effective integration to be achieved.
On the negative side, one important issue is that current organizations are not meeting all member states’ needs equally. This is exemplified by Uruguay’s criticism towards Mercosur, which it calls inefficient and stalled in trade, and urges the need to expand trade to outside actors such as the EU and US. The country’s desire to join the SUCRE currency also demonstrates its dissatisfaction with the current situation. This demonstrates that regional trade is producing suboptimal results, making it desirable and necessary to expand international trade beyond regional borders. Some countries are thus looking for other regional alternatives that could bring greater benefits their national economies. This is demonstrated by Uruguay’s desire to join the SUCRE currency, as well as by Bolivia’s approval to join Mercosur (which likely requires withdrawing from CAN). By following Venezuela’s steps and joining Mercosur, CAN’s long-term existence can be put to question as its two founding countries leave.
Challenges to a unified Latin America are also present in the events of the EU-CELAC Summit. Here, Chile emphasized the importance of stronger cooperation between South American and Caribbean nations by claiming that Latin America needs to present itself as a “single voice”. However, high economic differences and inequality, along with divergent state interests, make the Chilean President’s rhetoric more of an empty speech than a comprehensive plan of action to unite Latin America as one. It is clear that Caribbean nations would remain underrepresented in comparison to states with strong and internationally-linked economies, such as Chile.
Nonetheless, not all prospects look negative. The Pacific Alliance seems to be quite a successful trading bloc. The organization recently emphasized prospects to strengthen trade relations between member states, and both outsider Latin American countries and the EU voice their interests in trading with the bloc.
Another positive aspect that emerges is the idea of “solidarity amongst the South”, particularly amongst Latin American and African states. Here, cooperation spreads beyond continental boundaries, encompassing the larger North-South divide. In the several reunions that took place between Latin American and African representatives, both parties demonstrated their interests in strengthening solidarity as well as working together for development. The ZOPACAS meeting is one example, in which 21 African states along with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay agreed on the the Falkland Islands/Maldavinas issue and voiced the necessity of maintaining peace and security in the South Atlantic region.
Moreover, social development projects such as the border integration plans proposed by CAN show that regional integration initiatives can have benefits beyond trade.
While it is evident that countries do see the benefits of intra-regional trade and do continue to push for regional initiatives, the fact that organizations are not consolidated is a major issue. This leaves some member states to be both open to – and actively seeking – more favorable alternatives. At present, and in line with a history of difficulties in creating a unified Latin America, many of the news articles covered throughout the semester confirm that economic inequalities and divergent state interests remain difficult challenges yet to be overcome. Until there is a common desire to establish regional blocs that would equally benefits all member states, it seems likely that the region will remain fragmented so long as national interests continue to prevail.