We have grown used to thinking in terms of European intergration, and modern Europe is a highly intergrated market that provides an example for a regionalist alternative to mass globalization. Mercosur is the name of the common market ortganization formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in the early 90’s. And on Friday this group was expanded with news that Venezuela will join Mercosur.
Hugo Chavez who has been a vocal opponent of the proposed FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) has made clear that he intends to leave his mark on the group saying:
“We have to politicise Mercosur,” he said in Montevideo, Uruguay, at a meeting of the group’s leaders convened to mark Venezuela’s formal entry into the trade bloc. “We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies.”
It used to be that they called Stalin the father of European integration, because the Soviet threat made clear that unless Western Europe worked for peace and a common defense against the Soviets, they would be crushed. President Bush seems to be serving a similiar purpose for our friends in the southern hemisphere, with the Chavez-Lula-Kirchner team now united in an economic block that stands to rival the proposed FTAA. This should be interesing to say the least.
Chavez strongly believes that his movement is an heir to Simon Bolivar, who sought to unite South America as he liberated the continent from Spanish rule. South America is a continent now dominated by the left, with the strong likelihood that the wave of leftist victory will soon bring socialists to power in both Chile and Bolivia. Given allegations that the US has been building secret bases in Paraguay to attack Bolivia should the indigenous socialists leader Evo Morales win in upcoming elections, it should be interesting to see how this poltical Mercosur responds. The US has a tremendous interest in Bolivia because the country has the largest natural gas reserves in the western hemisphere, and has has horrible expriences at the hands of the Washington Consensus crowd.
Morales likely will win. The US likely will not respond favorably. Now comes the time to ask how Sr. Chavez and the rest of the Mercosur pact will respond.