By Anahí Arizmendi – Jan. 10, 2023
Brazil has “fully and immediately” rejoined the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in the midst of a renewed interest in Latin America due to the energy and food crisis in the world.
After three years of Brazil’s absence from the regional forum, the presidential victory of Lula da Silva, and that of Petro in Colombia, fuel expectations about the re-invigoration of the largest regional integration forum that is independent of the United States.
Re-launch of the environmental and economic agenda
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, created on December 3, 2011, emerged as a political, economic and social proposal in a diverse and unequal Latin America, whose enormous natural resources have made it the center of coups d’état and destabilization attempts carried out by the United States and allied countries.
It is not without reason that Brazil’s return to the forum is accompanied by a declaration of the pro tempore president of CELAC [Argentina] condemning the violent assault on Brazilian democratic institutions by followers of the former president of that country, Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazil’s reincorporation into CELAC was applauded by regional authorities and described by the Argentine government, which holds the pro tempore presidency, as an event that “provides certainty and strengthens the region.”
The economic and political bloc of almost 600 million people has significant water resources, oil reserves, agricultural resources and the most biodiverse regions on the planet.
The triumph of López Obrador in Mexico in 2018 revived the regional forum after the convening of the 6th Summit of Heads of State and Government of CELAC in 2021, although amid strong debates about its role as an alternative or not to the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS).
In 2020, Bolsonaro’s government announced the withdrawal of Brazil from the regional forum, criticizing the alleged “lack of results in the defense of democracy giving rise to non-democratic regimes such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.” Bolsonaro also withdrew from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2019, claiming that it was a creation of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to impose leftist power in the region.
The post-COVID economic recovery, a regional health strategy, an anti-corruption agenda, food security, dialogue with extra-regional partners, integration of Latin American and Caribbean infrastructure, environmental cooperation, and improvement of the situation and condition of women in member countries are part of the agenda of the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of CELAC to be held in Argentina on January 24, 2023. The possibility of strengthening the initial objectives of the community in economic matters, strengthening the proposal for the creation of a common market, and the unification of banks, multinational companies, services and industries to face “the civilizational crisis of capitalism and imperialism” are some of the challenges of this intergovernmental body.
Brazil’s reintegration strengthens a market that is in the sights of the United States and the European community, as well as of emerging economies like Russia and China. The high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, claimed that the EU is a unique partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, and that the bi-regional relationship remains below its potential, despite the EU being the leading contributor of development aid to the region and with a foreign direct investment of almost €800 million, which is greater than the total EU investment in China, India, Japan and Russia combined. Until last year, EU had negotiated political association and cooperation or trade agreements with 27 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
However, CELAC is not just a space of great economic potential; consolidating its political weight regionally and beyond the continent remains a challenge. The return of Brazil under the leadership of one of the founders of the community could strengthen the debate on the strengths of an institution outside the power of Washington and could move towards even firmer positions in the face of unilateral actions by the US government.
Due to its relationship of dependence with the global economy, CELAC moves in a convulsive international chessboard. The ups and downs of currencies, the inflationary crisis and economic segmentation challenge the idea of a common market. In addition to the impact of the pandemic and consequently the economic slowdown and the growth of extreme poverty by almost 14% throughout the region, there is the confrontation between Russia, China and the United States and their allies, the unilateral coercive measures against countries of the region, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on prices of oil and gas, which are resources with significant reserves in Latin America.
It is also expected that a voice like Lula’s in CELAC would strengthen and unify the fight against the profound ecological deterioration suffered by the Amazon. As an environmental legacy, Bolsonaro left the Amazon deforestation at its highest levels in 15 years, in contrast to the reduction of almost 80% during the presidency of Lula da Silva according to data from the Prodesa project that monitors the phenomenon by satellite. The alliances between Bolsonaro and the transnational cattle ranching sector caused the deforestation of 34,000 square kilometers of the Amazon, an area larger than the size of Belgium, in the first three years of his administration.
The weakening of CELAC in the last few years, with the rise of neoliberal governments in the region, prevented stronger positions in the context of situations like the coup d’état in Bolivia, or the joint purchase of medicines and vaccines during the pandemic. The new integration models have been the target of attacks by the White House and object of interest for the European Union in its search for increasing its influence as a geopolitical actor in the region. As Borrell stated, “a space such as CELAC together with the European Union would represent almost a third of the votes in the United Nations.” The re-launch of CELAC comes with great challenges, but everything indicates that the efforts made by the governments of Mexico and Argentina, and the return of leaders like Lula, may strengthen the winds of change.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
- scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/March 3, 2024