The stumps in the road to Latin American integration


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Photography of Xavier Muñoz Aray

“Eventually, countries should worry about taking better advantages of the traditional processes of integration, while strengthening new initiatives, so that all can engage in their respective areas to the international reality”.

MADRID – Valeria Michelle Larco

Latin America is a developing region known for its multiculturalism and plurinational nature. A history based on inequalities, disorganized growth and unstable governments have led to different challenges for the society and democracy in general. Xavier Muñoz Aray is an expert on the region and he talks about these problems that Latin America has to face nowadays. He was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador; he is an economist and has worked in the Peruvian consulate, today he works in the Ministry of International Relations of Ecuador as the first secretary of the Ecuadorian External Service.

The most important challenges that the region is dealing with is promoting human rights, reducing social inequalities, fighting against corruption and a responsible exploitation of non-renewable resources, he says. The political parties have to have a high level of representation of the population and that is why their role should be based on attending social concerns and necessities in a frame of a broad social debate.

When referring to the socio-economic situation of the countries, democracy is always the one that has been affected by these irregularities. He defines democracy as a system centered on communal wills; this is why a high level of social convulsion and a general discontent is always a risk for this system. Nevertheless, nowadays governments have given more importance to the reduction of inequalities and promoting social inclusion especially from the countries that have adopted a new “socialist” tendency.

The left wing in Latin America and the rise of Socialism of XXI Century have changed the dynamic of the region. “I consider that as in economic issues, politics is cyclical”, Xavier says. The left wing here is not a generalized tendency and we need to recognize that Socialism of XXI Century has taken advantage of the deterioration of traditional political parties. It was also a new proposal that emphasized on the grating of human and social rights, which were historically forgotten. On the other hand, the governments that follow this tendency have been involved in confrontations with different media and opponents, which have led to a higher investment of resources trying to protect their image and levels of popularity.

At the same time these progressive changes in society are accompanied with an important approach of Latin American countries with China in terms of economy. As an economist, Xavier recognizes that “China is nowadays the economic power with higher projection, whereby this economical rapprochement is beneficial when talking about a huge market for Latin America”. However, the conditions established by China have not been the best for the region and that is why they have to be careful in the long term with the excessive indebtedness. In case of not applying responsible policies, this would have implied an unnecessary rupture of the relations with some traditionally creditors, without a substantial improvement of the credit or exchange conditions.

In effect, mainly by left wing governments, there has been a lot of criticism of the United States and the international lending agencies, according to the policies that were applied based on the Washington Consensus. That distanced speech has helped maintain their popularity. Currently, because of the crisis, these countries have been forced to accept less favorable financing conditions. Anyways, I don’t think there is a correlation between an improvement in the relationship with that country and agencies, and the fact that the democratic or economic environments are strengthened, the expert says.

One of the countries that have separated themselves from this tendency is Brazil, leaving their left wing ideology to the side to undertake a more pragmatic policy according to their international objectives. Brazil is an emerging power and with Mexico it is the most representative economy of the region, nonetheless and unfortunately the levels of corruption and crisis have stopped the economic growth of the country. Furthermore, despite having international prestige, Brazil suffers from severe internal social problems, which is again one of the main challenges of the region

At the same time, the normalization of the diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States answers to a clear political will to overcome historical impasses. “This not only opens a new chapter in the relations between Cuba and the United States, but also with all Latin America. The antagonist position will attenuate and this could affect the speech of the countries that have criticized the United States for their management of their relation with Cuba”, says Xavier about the new prospects on the region.

As an overview of the situation, he stated that regional integration processes arise from the will of its members. Due to the size and political importance of Latin American countries in the world order, it is important to strengthen regional blocks. That is why today the traditional processes such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Andean Community and Mercosur are going through difficult moments, mainly by the ideological differences of the members. The emergence of new initiatives such as UNASUR and CELAC are important, although they have failed to take off completely, and they are not even near to what the Andean Community and Mercosur have reached.

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