Bolivian President Evo Morales has declared his distrust of the Pacific Alliance and the U.S. government as a conspiracy created “desde el norte” (“from the north,” meaning Washington) to divide the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a regional bloc of all 12 South American countries created in 2008.
Morales’ declarations, while inflammatory, have become staples of the head of state, who regularly accuses the United States and Western powers of orchestrating some conspiracy to overthrow him.
Moreover, the head of state also recently argued that the United States could try to carry out a military operation against the ALBA bloc, the brainchild of the late Hugo Chavez, of which Bolivia is a member.
Nevertheless, to specifically target the Pacific Alliance as part of this conspiracy requires a discussion of Latin American geopolitics in 2013.
As previously mentioned, the Bolivian President’s recent statement centered on the Pacific Alliance being part of aU.S.-conspiracyto stall UNASUR’s integration efforts and divide it.
A main reason for this argument is that UNASUR has not had a secretary general since August, when the Venezuelan Ali Rodriguez stepped down from this post, as its member states cannot not agree on a successor.
From Morales’ point of view, it is the Pacific Alliance members that also belong to UNASUR that are holding up this process.
Furthermore, Morales claims that this is an example of “well-designed policies” that are being carried out so that UNASUR will not advance. Furthermore, during his declarations to the press,Morales argued that“a small group of UNASUR presidents is no longer interested in carrying out economic, cultural and social integration.”
He also addressed the Pacific Alliance by name, stating that its aim is to advance the goals of the Washington Consensus, which have had little progress since the ambitious Free Trade Agreement of the Americas failed to become a reality. Hence, from Morales’ perspective, Washington is utilizing the Pacific Alliance as some kind of geopolitical weapon in order to derail UNASUR’s integration projects.
The Pacific Alliance and UNASUR
In aVOXXI commentaryon May 23, I explained that the Pacific Alliance is foremost an economic bloc that supports free trade among its members, not a political entity. Nevertheless, it should be noted that all of the members of the Alliance are U.S.-friendly nations: Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.
In addition, Costa Rica has been accepted to become a new member and it also boasts a Washington-friendly government (exemplified byPresident Obama’s visit to San Josein May).
Therefore, it is understandable that Morales recognizes that the aforementioned nations that object to UNASUR initiatives are also members of the Alliance, and because this bloc is known for having U.S.-friendly governments, then the U.S. may be somehow orchestrating UNASUR’s demise by using the Pacific Alliance as some kind of proxy.
The situation becomes more problematic as La Paz-Washington relations have been marred by diplomatic incidents during Morales’ presidency.
For example, this past May, the Bolivian president expelled USAID from Bolivia. Moreover, this past July, the Bolivian presidential plane, which was transporting Morales, was not authorized to fly over Spain; the aircraft was then forced to land in Austria.
The reason for this incident was that, according to Spanish authorities, Washington told Madrid that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may have been hiding in Morales’ plane as he returned from a summit in Moscow.
On the other hand, to assume that Washington is the sole reason why South American nations cannot come together under the UNASUR umbrella (i.e. trying to agree on a new secretary general for the organization), is an oversimplification of South American geopolitics specifically and Latin American geopolitics as a whole.
The alphabet soup of different regional blocs that currently exist in South America has a mixed record of successes which can be “blamed” on a number of issues that do not revolve solely on the U.S.
For instance, MERCOSUR’s inertia can be blamed on Argentina’s protectionist economy, while the Andean Community’s stagnation can be blamed on a lack of interest by its decreasing number of members to carry out joint integration initiatives (though the Andean Community passports are a novel idea).
Moreover, even though the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), begun with great fanfare, little has happened to integrate its numerous members of two very different regions.
Nevertheless, the recentDeclaration of Paramaribo(named after Suriname’s capital, where UNASUR held a summit this past August), provides examples of UNASUR members having a common stance on issues like Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands and Ecuador’s dispute with the oil company Chevron.
Ergo, for President Morales to assume that certain UNASUR leaders are no longer interested in regional integration, or that the U.S. has (once again) the role of hemispheric puppeteer, is an overstatement.