By Juan Gabriel Tokatlian (for Safe Democracy)

Juan Tokatlian says that Latin America is living two tendencies: the dis-institutionalization –after more than three lost decades– and the dis-integration in the mechanisms of political, economic and diplomatic unity (as the Andean Community, MERCOSUR and others). Furthermore, he claims that these two processes have lead the region towards fragile States, broken societies, feeble economies and inconsistent diplomacies. In such light, Tokatlian believes that only the effective expansion of the democracies may establish an internal and regional order, fairer, safer and with more justice.

Juan Gabriel Tokatlian is a sociologist and has a Master and PHd in International Relationships from the John Hopkins University, in Washington. He currently leads the Political Sciences and International Relationships career of the San Andres University (Argentina).

TWO SPECIFIC TENDENCIES ARE GOING THROUGH SOUTH AMERICA: the dis-institutionalization and the dis-integration. Both dynamic, and longstanding, they seem to sharpen at the beginning of XXI century. They go over, as backdrop, the current crisis of the area and may accelerate the process of social polarization, political implosion and territorial partition.

The des-institutionalization shows itself in the accumulation of three lost decades. During the seventies, Latin America lived a lost decade from a political point of view: the extension of authoritarian governments in the area- with few small islands of limited democracy- characterized by the power abuse, the law disrespect, the human rights violation, the elimination of a political generation of renewal, the political parties disarticulation and the devaluation of public ethics, meant an enormous institutional weakening.

During the eighties, the decade was lost in the economic field: the prevailing notes were low growth, high indebtedness, high volatility, increasing labour informality, poor technological capacity and collapse of the quality of life.


During the nineties, South America went over a lost decade in the social front: the inequality deepened, the struggle between classes and ethnic groups increased, the indexes of poverty and indigence kept at high level, the city violence increased, the unemployment multiplied, the education was neglected and the health deteriorated. It is unreasonable to believe that the sum of so many years of unrest can be indefinitely contained or resolved by force.

The dis-integration is observed not only in the processes but in the mechanisms of political, economic and diplomatic unity in South America. From a historical point of view, the experience is frustrating: the Latin American Coordination Special Commission (“Comisión Especial de Coordinación Latinoamericana”, CECLA) conceived as a diplomatic mechanism of regional articulation, had an ephemeral life; the two mainstays of the economic integration –the Latin America Free Trade Association (“Asociación Latinoamérica de Libre Comercio”, ALALC) and the Latin American Association of Integration (“Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración”, ALADI)– are, de facto, dead; the important space of economic consulting and co-operation –the Latin American Economic System (“Sistema Económico Latinoamericano”, SELA)– has been collapsing; while the more relevant conceptual nucleus for the projection of the region towards the world –the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (“Comisión Económica para América Latina”, CEPAL)– has stopped being, for some time past, an innovator reference to process and propose an alternative model of internal growth or a daring scheme of external insertion.

Currently, the Andean Community of Nations (“Comunidad Andina de Naciones”, CAN) is going through its worst time of fragmentation, Colombia and Peru already negotiated commercial agreements with US, Ecuador is trying to sign its own with Washington, Bolivia prefers to incline towards the South Cone and Venezuela announced its definitive abandonment of the CAN.

At the same time, the South Common Market (“Mercado Común del Sur”, MERCOSUR) lives its more still moment, without moving towards a perfect customs union nor seeking a minimal institutionalization, meanwhile Paraguay and Uruguay –through different ways but with similar objectives– threaten to abandon the MERCOSUR.

Beyond the rhetoric in favour of the union and convergence, the spaces, commitments and integration pacts in the region are seriously weakened, almost dying.

The conjunction of the dis-institutionalization and dis-integration has lead Latin America towards fragile States, broken societies, feeble economies and inconsistent diplomacies. The aggravation of these two dynamics predicts more instability and disintegration towards the future.

Probably, only the effective enlargement of democracy in the region may establish an internal and regional order, fairer, safer and with more justice.