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Wed. July 24, 2024
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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

IA-Forum: Prof. Cynthia McClintock

International Affairs Forum: Does UNASUR have the potential to become an economic and/or political bloc similar to the European Union?

Professor Cynthia McClintock: I think that would be a lot to ask. The primary emphasis of UNASUR is political, it focuses more on South American defense arrangements and dialoguing about these arrangements. Of course one significant problem is that Colombia declined to join and which is problematic as Colombia is a key country due to the presence of FARC and US security systems. EU is an extremely successful international organization and I think it would be tough for UNASUR to reach the high bar that the European Union set, which doesn’t mean it can’t make a contribution and become a success but to reach the EU’s level is a lofty goal.

IA-Forum: What kind of threat does the concept of the Bolivarian Revolution, espoused by many of the nations in the Andean Community, pose to the ideology of MERCOSUR's member nations?

Prof. McClintock: Venezuela wanted membership in MERCOSUR but that has been essentially vetoed, it is not something that the legislature in Brazil has welcomed and there are doubts in Paraguay and in the other nations. I think both of these questions have to be seen in the context of Latin American division. A question for UNASUR is the division Venezuela causes relative to free market countries. There is significant division at this time because Colombia and Peru are Andean Community nations with free market and pro-American policies. Alternatively Lula and Brazil are trying to moderate all of this. I think that Lula is supported because he’s trying to build unity between Colombia and Ecuador. In terms of Venezuela and its relationship with MERCOSUR, it has such a different approach to economic policy making that is at odds with the policies advanced in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile.

IA-Forum: Does Hugo Chavez's call to FARC leaders to lay down there arms and disband represent a significant change in the political mindset of Venezuela's president?

Prof. McClintock: I thought that was fabulous news when Chavez made that announcement and certainly it’s a radical departure from what he’s been saying in the past. The evidence is that there has been support from Venezuela to FARC, as in providing safe haven within Venezuela, and who knows exactly what the relationship is between FARC and Ecuador. We can’t clearly see what levels of Ecuador’s government authorized FARC to be within the nation. Chavez has been supportive of FARC and this represents a dramatic departure and an extremely welcome one at that. This is a new change in policy, persuading FARC towards negotiation and giving up political violence.

IA-Forum: Additionally, Hugo Chavez has experienced some considerable political setbacks recently, including losing a referendum in December and the revision of the "Gestapo Law" after an outcry by human rights group. What does this mean for the future of Chavez's reign in Venezuela?

Prof. McClintock: The referendum was a very important shift in the political trajectory of Venezuela and I think that prior to the referendum Chavez had won a number of elections and the fact that he didn’t win the referendum definitely signifies Venezuelans being wary of a project that had been more aggressive. While the people are fighting back Chavez was overreaching in the referendum as it would have allowed multiple election victories, endless terms, and the power to appoint a separate set of governors, which would have been very corrosive of democracy. Presumably the referendum should have been a signal of stoppage and the peoples warning to not overreach and stay within bounds of what Venezuelans want which is government, economic development, an end to corruption and good shortages.

The intelligence law represents a good example of Chavez’s ability to overreach and implement repressive, draconian measures. Venezuelans are now on the alert for these incursions in democratic conduct of policy. The fact that he did this despite the referendum means it is not 100% clear what will happen. He’s smart and wily but not 100% consistent over time. My best guess is that we’ll continue to see ebbs and flows in his authoritarian proclivities. Also hopefully the next presidential elections will be moderated by the international community and Chavez will not be his party’s candidate.

IA-Forum: How detrimental to national unity and security have the recent rise in export taxes on Argentinean agricultural products been?

Prof. McClintock: Well the unrest poses problems for Kirchner. Argentina has been a country to build political unity and they have suffered a great deal of problems, mainly the financial collapse of 2001-2 was only a few years ago and people are still worried about their economic future. Nestor Kirchner, when in office, manipulated the economic rules and today there is a lot of concern as to whether the economic recovery that Kirchner led can be sustained. Argentina has been lucky because of the increase in commodity prices abroad. As for export taxes, like I said, the underlying concern is whether or not the manipulations of economic rules will not allow the economic recovery to be sustained.

Prof. Cynthia McClintock is director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and coauthor of ‘The United States and Peru: Cooperation at a Cost.’

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