BOGOTA – The Americas have been the scene of endless attempts at integration, often aborted, however, by some stumbling block or by a nation that won’t get along with the others. Prosur is the latest alliance seeking unity.
The following are, in chronological order, the principal Latin American and Caribbean organizations, processes or mechanisms of integration and dialogue in recent history, though they have seldom found the secret of success.
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES (OAS)
The OAS, with headquarters in Washington, was founded in 1948 by 21 countries and is currently made up of 35, which means all the nations in the Americas except Cuba, a founding member that was slapped with sanctions and expelled in 1962. From that moment, Cuba became the principal factor of debate and discord at the heart of the OAS, until the organization lifted the sanctions and invited the island to take back its place in the organization, an invitation that up to now Havana has not accepted.
The OAS has not directly resolved even one of the many conflicts in the region, and simply looked away, for example, from the various military dictatorships in South America as well as the armed conflicts in Central America.
The central issue at the moment is the situation in Venezuela, with the only result being that Caracas has announced its withdrawal from the organization starting this year.
ANDEAN COMMUNITY OF NATIONS (ACN)
The ACN had its origin in the Andean Pact, founded in 1969 by Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile, with the adhesion in 1973 of Venezuela. It basically set out to form a free-trade zone and a political alliance that has never managed to become a reality, amid the desertion of Chile and with Bolivia and Venezuela more interested in Mercosur.
CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
Founded in 1973 by Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, and later joined by another eight Caribbean countries, Caricom set out to create a free-trade area and facilitate the movement of people, all of which appear far from being achieved.
This organization originated due to the lack of action by the OAS in the Central American armed conflicts of the 1980s, which led to the founding of the Contadora Group by Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela to help establish peace in the region. In 1986, the Contadora Group became a Permanent Mechanism of Consultation and Agreement dubbed the Rio Group, which unified all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The group signed its death certificate in 2010.
COMMON MARKET OF THE SOUTH (MERCOSUR)
Founded in 1991 by Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina with the intention of maintaining zero customs duties, Mercosur never managed to attain full integration, expelled Venezuela in 2019, which had joined in 2007, has kept membership for Bolivia on hold, and survives wondering what Brazil, its main economic power, is going to do under the presidency of Jair Bosonaro, who seems more disposed to sign bilateral free-trade agreements.
CENTRAL AMERICAN INTEGRATION SYSTEM (SICA)
Founded in 1991, SICA has drifted along without any positive results, due to the abysmal political, economic and social differences of its members: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Dominican Republic.
BOLIVARIAN ALLIANCE FOR THE PEOPLES OF OUR AMERICA (ALBA)
Created in 2004 under the auspices of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, it got to the point of uniting a large group of Latin American and Caribbean countries of similar political leanings, or else dependent on Venezuelan oil. At present it has been reduced in practice to a political alliance of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
UNION OF SOUTH AMERICAN NATIONS (UNASUR)
Founded in 2007 as a mechanism for political agreement among all South American nations, it was left for dead after the withdrawal in 2018 of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, due to the impossibility for those countries to get along with the current Venezuelan government.
COMMUNITY OF LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN STATES (CELAC)
Created in 2010 as heir to the Rio Group, CELAC has not met since its 6th summit was suspended. The top-level meeting should have been held in El Salvador in October 2017, but was canceled because of differences about the situation in Venezuela among its members, 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In 2012, Colombia, Mexico and Peru sealed this alliance that has led to the elimination of more than 92 percent of customs duties on trade in goods and services among their countries. The bloc has 222.4 million inhabitants and its GDP is close to $2 trillion, 40 percent of the total in Latin America and the Caribbean.