Yet another talking shop

Monday, March 25, 2019

Is Prosur, the latest Pan-Latin American forum to emerge, doomed to failure just like past attempts to integrate the region like Unasur and Celac?

The group's first official declaration, signed in Santiago on March 22 by the presidents of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Colombia, plus the ambassador of Guyana, does not augur well. The document is, perhaps not surprisingly, awash with good intentions and vague platitudes about sustainable development, eradicating poverty, cooperation, equal opportunities, respecting human rights, strengthening integration, and so on and so forth. In other words, the kind of things everyone can agree on.

What is more, like the pro-leftist Celac and to a certain extent Unasur – and although its founding members inevitably deny it – Prosur clearly has an ideological motive, namely to marginalize socialist governments in the region, notably Venezuela. (Interestingly, Bolivia, whose President Evo Morales is a stanch ally of Nicolás Maduro, was one of the countries that sent an observer to the Santiago meeting.)

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As the 'pink tide' in South America waned – with Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador all turning to the right – Unasur and Celac faded into obscurity. Whether Prosur will do likewise as governments of the day change hands we'll have to wait and see, but at best it seems the forum is unlikely to be anything other than a talking shop. Now, talking is in itself no bad thing of course, and the topics mentioned in the Santiago declaration are certainly of the utmost importance and deserve to be discussed. But expectations for concrete results must be kept in perspective.

Integration is a great idea (the Santiago declaration includes the word or a form of it 14 times), but too many efforts to push the issue have come to nothing in the past and perhaps, to paraphrase Gabriel García Márquez, South America is destined to remain a continent of nations with their backs turned to each other.

As for having an impact on the chronic situation in Venezuela, Prosur is unlikely to enjoy much success on that front either. There's a certain amount of wishful thinking in the air that, given the plight of the country, Maduro is about to be toppled one way or the other. It's reminiscent of what people said about Bashar Al-Assad in the early days of the Syrian civil war, and now he's stronger than he has been since the conflict started, having effectively won the war.

Venezuela cannot, of course, be seriously compared with Syria, but Maduro does have one thing in common with Assad – they both have the backing of China and Russia, which has allowed them to hold on to power. For as long as that remains the case, Maduro may be going nowhere.