Post COVID-19 Insertion Policies in Latin America
The Times of COVID-19
When asking ourselves about the COVID-19 effect in Latin America, there are some conflicts that challenge us in the immediate future and conditionalities that are maintained and transformed.
We continue to be the continent with the worst income distribution, existing in vulnerable but surviving democracies and with integrated instruments to respond to international impact; some democracies have been diluted, and others that have been organized around recent circumstances that continue to express our historic option for integration, weakened and resistant at the same time.
Regarding the integration agreements in force, the intense debate in Mercosur deserves to be highlighted. Thus, “Mercosur approved (…) an emergency fund of US$16 million to be added to the Plurinational project, ‘Research, Education and Biotechnology applied to Health’ to be fully allocated to the coordinated fight against COVID-19” (Nodal, 2020).
This is part of FOCEM which has been in operation since 2011 and does not imply payment of interest or refunds. Within the same criteria, the Ministers of Agriculture agreed on a sanitary plan to guarantee land transport of food, among other measures that address the situation.
And, to put the situation more into perspective, (Rivas Molina, 2020) there was a tension in the group due to the Argentine’s approach to not participate in or support an Agreement with the EU.
Beyond this tension, the challenge to everyone resulting from COVID-19 continues to generate joint responses based on understanding it as a problem that challenges everyone. The New York Times published an extensive article on Mercosur and its institutional role in the face of COVID-19 concluding that,
“Due to the regional reality and the immense challenges that the nebulous post-COVID horizon will open up, it is urgent that Mercosur modernize to jointly advance their development agenda. Integration mechanisms could become central spaces for a world that will need permanent coordination and dialogue like never before” (Albertoni 2020).
As for Parlasur, we must bear in mind that Mercosur has its founding countries and observer countries. That is why its diversity is significant. In any case, among so many issues, they agreed to raise the need for the vaccine to be free and to create an “Observatory to monitor the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The same profile has been adopted in a Declaration by PARLATINO, PARLACEN, PARLANDINO and PARLASUR on the COVID vaccine (June 26, 2020).
As for CELAC, operating since 2011, it is the structure promoted to strategically link and integrate all of Latin America. It was impacted by the drastic change of ideological and economic signs of many of the governments of the region and slowed down its progress.
The year 2020 began with the Pro-tempore Presidency of Mexico and in the new context the capacity for initiative on the most important issues was recovered (CELAC, 2020). Thus, after a Meeting of Experts, the Meeting of Ministers of Health was organized (including the Minister of China, as well as officials from international organizations).
All this led to a CELAC/CEPAL/FAO alliance regarding the COVID-19 issue and, to carry out complementary studies on malnutrition and social structure, it joined CLACSO to plan the issue more solidly and complexly.
The strategic significance of these decisions led the Foreign Minister of Mexico to say that “[in this health crisis] no country in Latin America and the Caribbean is unprotected, simply because it is part of CELAC” (CELAC, 2020, p. 5).
Regarding the Pacific Alliance, a group of countries that since 2011 decided to structure their Andean-Pacific integration opting for the logic of Free Trade Agreements. Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia are its Associate States and also have 55 Observer Countries. In that profile, what they register are their individual anti-COVID-19 policies, but there is no record of joint policies in this regard yet (ALIANZA DEL PACIFICO, 2020).
Regarding the Lima Group, constituted in 2017, it is composed of 16 Members and 4 Observers and the Puebla Group since 2019, associates Political Parties, former Presidents, Ministers and Officials, what we can say is that they arise in the tense climate generated since 2015 in the OAS and the region to corner Venezuela unsuccessfully trying to expel him and getting him out by his decision, according to the regulatory guidelines of the organization. They are antagonistic and express a change of time precipitated by the Venezuelan case.
The Lima Group (Declaration, 2020) was very intense in its attempt to take a leading role but did not have the profile to think or decide on COVID-19, beyond the individual difficulties of their countries.
The Puebla Group (El Comercio, 2020), on the other hand, became very active in a very short time. On July 10, 2020, it held a virtual meeting, for its first anniversary, under the title “A progressive agenda for the management of the health crisis and the post-pandemic: Progressive Agenda with 10 Central Points, of which the first two were: 1) Recovering the fundamental role for the State and 2) Health as a global public good.
The impact of the COVID-19 issue has been very clear.
“The great task ahead of us is to prevent the health crisis from becoming a food crisis. For this, we propose to complement the Basic Emergency Income (IBE) with the delivery of a Bonus Against Hunger (BCH),” indicated Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
“We can have a historic setback in the fight against hunger. We can lose what we have achieved in fifteen years in just a couple of months,” warned the Regional Representative of the FAO, Julio Berdegué (CEPAL-FAO, 2020).
To complete the analysis, it is convenient to consider what has been pointed out:
“The coronavirus pandemic has no borders, the solutions to its health and economic consequences should not have them either (…), if a country is not safe, no one is.”
This can be aggravated when considering a future perspective:
“We will face a scenario where countries, especially developed ones, will look more inward (…) resting on self-sufficiency, possibly with a greater dose of protectionism and less collaboration, at least for a while,” (Garcia, 2020).
And to this we must add that “the value chains are breaking, and it is not certain that they can all be put back together given their complexity” (Foreign Affairs, 2020).
Our objective has been to work on the Latin America-US bilateral link from its structural data situated in the link dynamics and the fourfold dimension of time knowing that there are some conflicts that challenge us from the immediate future… and old conditionalities that remain, and they transform.
In this context, we remain the continent with the worst income distribution, and we are democracies that have been violated but survive within a growing global damage to national and international value chains.
Wanting to understand where these realities arise from, we work by giving centrality to the concept of Predominance defined as, “the capacity to control results in international interactions in which we operate.” We believe that control capacity is built or deconstructed through instruments of domination, pact or crisis.
Within this we could say that Latin America has old and new circumstances to build itself and at the same time overcome the challenges that continental, hemispheric and global dominance entails.
We wanted to observe the United States-Latin America link from the axes of construction of North American dominance in the context of World War II, which led to the conception of essential natural resources such as South American rubber as a geopolitical border.
The Postwar period bore the mark of this circumstance and that of the Lend and Lease Law, designing a policy of predominance that combined the military industry with finance from a design that was later projected to the political conditionality that this predominance facilitated.
We examined the varied series of conflicts that projected that predominance and influence, and we were also able to point out the unstoppable persistence of the construction of institutional paths of integration from Latin America itself together with the recovery of “democratic simultaneity” since the 1980s.
That democratic homogeneity, integration and coordination are essential for us is very clear. What we would have to ask ourselves is what to do next, and how we are seen from our reality of natural resources to identify where the contemporary equivalent to Spykman’s “rubber frontier” is located. Venezuelan oil? South American lithium? Water? The Antartida?
There is a reflection by Carlos Escudé in a recent debate on Covid-19 that may be useful for these questions: “The very definition of national security is modified. To put it in simple and reductionist terms, there is no security if you do not have the autonomous capacity to produce a huge range of goods related to medicine and health” (Escudé, 2020).
It is in this context and in the diagnoses of ECLAC and FAO that Fernando Estenssoro’s reflection takes on special significance when he says, “only a unitary action will allow Latin America to take advantage of the contradictions that arise and will arise between their own communities for the benefit of their peoples and societies and the mega-powers of this new global North” (Estenssoro, 2019, p.207).
On this horizon we have the memory of the lucid reflection of Josué de Castro telling us from his Brazilian Northeast in the 1960s:
“…. In reality, this awareness does not represent a specific problem, exclusive to this Brazilian region, but rather is the regional expression of a phenomenon that is universal today: An awareness on the part of marginalized countries, of origins, the causes and the significance of its tragic political-social problems” (De Castro, 1963, p. 205).
We are in a stage of international crisis that involves global dominance, everything is affected, and the opportunities and results will depend both on the vulnerabilities and also on the available resources as well as on the diagnostic and strategic capacities of each one of the actors in the international system and it is in this context that we are asking these questions.
Bibliography and Suggested Readings
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Barber, James (2004) El Imperio del Miedo. Guerra, Terrorismo y Democracia, Ed. Paidós, Bs. As. ISBN 84-493-1581-6. CELAC (2020) En reunión con expertos define acciones y retos para enfrentar la pandemia,
CEPAL-FAO (2020) Como Evitar la Crisis
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Dr. Ana Mirka Seitz | Board Member, Latina Republic
Dr. Seitz has a Masters in Political Science, USAL; She is a Doctor in International Relations, USAL, Full Professor, International Relations, USAL, Emeritus Professor, 2020. Dr. Seitz is an IDICSO-CONICET / USAL Researcher and has served as a Research Director in the area of Latin American International Relations. She is a member of the Academic Council of the Mercosur Dialogues Magazine. Her recent project is focused on South American Natural Resources, Climate and International Relations: The case of the Antarctic System, Institutions, Agreements and Conventions and the South American Context: Sea, climate, resources, and protocols.