By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — An important Association of Caribbean States events took place over these past few days in Havana, and many people find themselves asking: What do so many integration mechanisms actually do? Are they a strategic advantage or a sterile financial burden for our nations? Will it be productive to continue clinging onto Marti’s “Our America” in today’s globalizing context?
These are truly interesting questions and you can hear people both defending and speaking out against them. There is no doubt that there are more integration mechanisms in Our America than “unity” itself. And unity in just one mechanism would be a lot more productive than simulating this unity by continuously creating other new mechanisms, which don’t incorporate previous ones.
Another problem with “real unity” is the fact that not only the Left, but the Right too, want to ideologize it. Historically speaking, the influence of powers in defense of their interests within the region and the interdependence of these interests with the national bourgeoisie prevented the initial nationalism process that took place in other places and prohibited development to a great extent. Then, the USSR also came to export their extremist project of social justice here, which was unfeasible and brought about everything which we now know as the Cold War.
Post-war, it seemed like all of America should integrate with the Organization of American States (OAS), but there were vast asymmetries between the north and south, where it seemed more like Southern nations were being subjected to the US instead of entering a more fraternal relationship. Of course, the role of the OAS has changed as the political landscape has changed on the continent; it isn’t the same anymore, even though Cuba and Venezuela continue to say it is; because they want an accomplice community within the region to follow their already in motion projects of sovereignty.
Many international organizations were created gradually over time: the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the South Common Market, the Andean Community, the Andean Cooperation Agreement, the Central American Integration System, the Central American Common Market and the Union of Ibero-American Nations, which still doesn’t have legal status but has five active bodies and has held 25 summits.
Then, as a result of so many crises, a Leftist wave swept the region which began with Chavismo in the late ‘90s. The idea really took off and the culmination of this manifested itself in the creation of ALBA, PETROCARIBE, UNASUR and CELAC; which if they were accepted by all of its constituent members, it was because they were being driven by the Left. And so the Right also created a new mechanism: the Pacific Alliance. You don’t have to be a fortune-teller to know that so many organizations need to absorb each other and not pile on top of each other if they want to produce visible results.
A great promoter of this unity, Chavez himself once said, and then repeated it on many occasions, that governments were going from summit to summit while the general populations of the Americas were going from bad to worse. Maybe these weren’t his exact words but that was his message. The irony here though lies in the fact that the number of summits increased under his influence, and tangible results were more populist and ideological than united.
These grand meetings are very expensive and the general understanding is that they are more trips to distract attention away from other issues and are events where our leaders can socialize, rather than to solve our people’s problems; without denying the fact that they do have some benefits, but we have to ask ourselves whether they are worth such investment.
However, will the concept of a united Our America, dreamt up by our heroes, continue to be valid? A lot of us believe it will be. It’s fine to have a hemispheric organization such as the OAS, which unites the two Americas: instead of destroying it we should be reinforcing it. It is also right and fitting that there is an organization which links us to the Iberian peninsula, as we share a historic, cultural and economic past.
However, with regard to Our America, we need to really rethink our unity mechanisms. When CELAC was established, if it wasn’t going to void the rest of segmentary lineage mechanisms, it should have integrated them as part of the same framework. With so many international organizations already, our leaders won’t have time to govern our nations if they are going from “summit to summit”.
Our America doesn’t exist to cut us off from the rest of the world, nor does it need to unite because of this; it exists so that we can insert ourselves in this world in a more fair and constructive way because we share common interests. Regardless of our ethnicities, race, nationalism differences and asymmetries (like in the rest of the world), there are more than enough foundations and reasons for a common project, which differentiates us and also identifies us; even more than in other regions where they have managed to create greater unity. And this Latin American and Caribbean identity is being built more and more every day.
It’s like a part of this defeatist feeling, which belongs to this time of rearrangement that has come from the end of the Cold War; because of liberal economics triumphalism; because of the marked pace of globalization; because of individualism and alienation which extremely useful information technologies and the internet have encouraged, which are confused a lot of the time, literally!, with freedom or the sensation that borders don’t exist. Because of all of this: many good souls have given up on “our own”, and the contempt we have for the native is renewed; the value of unity is disregarded; and our leaders return to being “vain villagers” (1), as the Maestro himself sentenced.
Our America: isn’t homogeneous of course! Nor does human fraternity rule! Nor does everyone enjoy all of their rights in equal conditions! However, far from being an excuse for hate and contempt, this reality is a great reason for our unity and hard work to finally achieve all of the justice we can. I believe that this is our path.
(1)- Our America Essay. Jose Marti, Selected Works. 2. pg. 480