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The bitter taste and the lessons from Santiago de Chile

After the recent Iberian-American Summit, it is possible to trace an interesting parallelism between the General Iberian-American Secretariat (SEGIB [1]) and Mercosur’s permanent secretariat: if these trans-state mechanisms, participants and processes are not reinforced, then the sphere of foreign relations will be nothing other than a collision of domestic visions and interests put in motion by the media.


(From Buenos Aires) LET’S TAKE RICARDO ISRAEL ZIPPER’S BALANCED AND COMPLETE analysis, which was published by this very own website and presented what could occur in the Iberian-American Summit, as well as Javier del Rey Morató’s eloquent and critical analysis of the outcome upon conclusion of the (in some respects failed) meeting. Furthermore, let’s look at, in this case, the glass half full and the lessons that the summit has left us with upon its completion. After what occurred, and taking into account the harsh confrontation between the King of Spain and the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, no one could say that nothing happened there, that it was another example of pure rhetoric far removed from the political and economic realities, conflicts, and interests that are at play in the foreign relations of the countries that comprise this heterogeneous community of Latino languages and pueblos. There was head-on dialog, anger that could not be concealed and tremendous failures, as well as compromises and lessons for the future.

“The gathering for the photo could have also had practical results, even if it were nothing more than the oiling of the squeaky gears of the bilateral relations”

This summit was very good in the sense that it drew back the curtain of illusions, in the process exposing the friction and strong differences that exist. Furthermore, this provided evidence for the notion that when the transnational scene is nothing other than the summation of national and political visions, it is very difficult to create regional or internationally integrated communities.

It is possible to trace an interesting parallelism between the General Iberian-American Secretariat (SEGIB) and Mercosur’s permanent secretariat: if these trans-state mechanisms, participants and processes are not reinforced, then the sphere of foreign relations will be nothing other than a collision of domestic visions and interests put in motion by the media. Case in point: the incident in Santiago de Chile was reduced to a historical and bilateral domestic discussion (the pro-coup attempt in Caracas in 2002 and José María Aznar’s role). In addition, the televised discussion ended up strengthening its contestants within their respective domestic fronts.

DELIBERATIVE POLITICS…WHICH ENDED IN HISTORICAL REVISIONISM

The gathering for the photo of King Juan Carlos, President José Luis Zapatero and the 21 Latin American presidents present could have also had practical results, even if it were nothing more than the oiling of the squeaky gears of the bilateral relations, which are currently producing exhausting friction. In such a case, each one should have given in a bit in regards to their respective positions in order to gain superior dividends.

“The summit’s central theme was social cohesion but it was in the hallways and the meetings away from the agenda where the greatest points of interest were concentrated”

But this is not what occurred; everyone won in this match, at the cost of everyone losing in the communal game. And they discovered that, as Javier del Rey Morató points out, at the end of the day, that is not a Hispanic version of a Commonwealth.

It was hoped that in Santiago there would be some type of advancement concerning the management of a pulp mill on the eastern river bank of the municipality of Fray Bentos, on the Uruguayan-Argentinean border. The king was committed to finding a resolution for the conflict between the two countries that arose after the installation of the mill, but it did not go well: the Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez hugged his Argentinean counterpart Néstor Kirchner, and a few minutes later it became known that a factory in Botnia had begun to operate, in the process slighting Spain’s role in the mediation of its management. Once again: a mediation trusted to exclusive inter-governmental channels without interference by a trans-state figure or agency with the effective power and command to intervene in the disagreement, which in turn follows the tracks of the International Court of Justice in La Haya.

 

“Cristina Kirchner will have to look at the current difficulties, conflicts, and challenges that confront her neighboring governments(…) Now there are fewer excuses to blame past errors and she will not have the benefit of an inventory of what she has inherited”

The summit’s central theme was social cohesion (inequality, the changes and the social policies necessary to achieve more inclusive societies in Iberia-America) but it was in the hallways and the meetings away from the agenda where the greatest points of interest were concentrated. A meeting between the hosting president, Michelle Bachelet, and her Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales could have culminated in some gesture or announcement concerning Bolivia’s century-old demand for an exit to the Pacific Ocean, which it lost during the war in the Pacific in the nineteenth century. Bachelet could also meet with the Peruvian Alan García, at a time during which Peru is preparing to send to La Haya its arguments concerning a dispute regarding its maritime border with Chile. But nothing transcendental occurred on these fronts.

In summary, this habitually insubstantial (from the point of view of its direct impact on the kaleidoscope of Latin American countries and realities) forum was, this time around, the scene of deliberative and active politics. The participants were able to adopt concrete and specific courses of action with respect to the principal challenges that confront the governments of the region. But they only got that far, and afterwards the summit showed its limitations and restrictions until it ended in a historical revisionism and reciprocal accusations competition, which came to involve the king himself.

CRISTINA AND HER PRESENTATION TO SOCIETY

This Summit was also the first presentation to society of the Argentinean Cristina Kirchner as president-elect, and the first opportunity for her to start getting ready to tackle the existent problems. This presents quite a change from both the euphoria of the electoral triumph and the era during which her husband governed and she was the First Lady.

 

“One hundred million feverish and imperialistic Anglo-Saxons are bustling in the north, all united in the most perfect harmony; to the south 80 million Hispanic Americans of unequal culture and activity agitate”

The state of things is advancing at an accelerated pace towards other scenarios, agendas and demands that are more focused on the year 2010 and the overcoming of what in general terms has been understood to be the consequences of neo-liberalism. In that sense, the president-elect will have to look at the current difficulties, conflicts, and challenges that confront her neighboring governments more than at those much more enthusiastic and hopeful times during which those governments were elected. Now there is less that remains and fewer excuses to blame past errors and, obviously, President Kirchner will not have the benefit of an inventory of what she has inherited.

One way or another, the words of the Argentinean poet, writer and intellectual Manuel Ugarte, upon evoking the contrast between North America and South America, continue to resonate: One hundred million feverish and imperialistic Anglo-Saxons are bustling in the north, all united into one single nation in the most perfect harmony; to the south 80 million Hispanic Americans of unequal culture and activity agitate, divided into twenty republics that in many cases ignore or fight each other”.

Now there are many more and they don’t ignore or fight each other, although during some moments it seemed like those out-dated tendencies would be revived; but what is necessary is that these countries find a way to accompany the integrationist rhetoric with institutions and an integrated culture that subsumes national interests and domestic policies in a fortified regional context and not only in a forum of national exhibitions, reasons, and passions, and rhetorical speeches.