Thinking the mean time does not have good press in a season of turmoil and immediacy. Thinking about what to do during the meantime is not usually liked in times of polarization because it conveys the idea that victory, mine, is just around the corner. Mexico assumed the temporary presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2020 and 2021. With UNASUR in a deep coma, PROSUR that does not seem much more than an announcement and the OAS increasingly questioned, manage to keep the CELAC, and having held a high-level summit after years without it, is undoubtedly a remarkable success.
Mexico seems to have read correctly the situation of draw among the weak in Latin America and the Caribbean. A tie that, in addition to appearing to be lasting, occurs on a very shaky and changing ground, for which reason the smart bet seems to be more to maintain CELAC as a permanent forum for dialogue and discussion than to insist on political-ideological and institutional advances of scope in terms of integration for which the necessary consensus is not visible, at least for the moment.
An indicator of these quicksand is the political crisis after the primaries that President Alberto Fernández had, and for which he could not attend, amid the tensions in the Pan-Peronist coalition. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Fernández had been playing as a relevant tandem for some time and it was expected that CELAC would reinforce this harmony. A good part of the left in the region seems to have accompanied this rather pragmatic turn and thus accept that “the second progressive wave” for the moment is more a wish than a reality: Pedro Castillo and Luis Arce attended the Summit and in their speeches they left his commitment to this space is very clear. Arce and López Obrador also agree in their criticism of the OAS and the need to think about its replacement, however, probably due to the difficulty of the agreement, this point was not explicitly addressed. Although the Bolivian president, during his visit to Mexico, ratified his complaint against Luis Almagro and recalled the decisive role that he had in the overthrow of Evo Morales when, failing to commit to the Bolivian State, he published a surprising and not agreed “report preliminary electoral process ”through their social networks at four in the morning on a Sunday, hours before the coup against Morales.
Mexico is also the seat of the Table of the Dialogue and Negotiation Process on Venezuela. An initiative in the antipodes of the actions promoted in recent years by the General Secretariat of the OAS. This is likely to have been decisive for the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, to finally attend the CELAC summit. In the final 44-point communiqué and approved by all the delegations of the 31 countries present, a condemnation of the blockade of Cuba was included. Now, Nicaragua showed that the drift of Daniel Ortega does not know many nuances and was probably the one who most threatened the necessary agreement by crashing against Argentina. Foreign Minister Moncada, while affirming that his country would not support the Argentine candidacy to have the PPT in 2022, maintained that: “The Government of Argentina became an instrument of North American imperialism, subordinating itself to its hegemonic interests, designing, said by themselves, with the Government of the United States a strategy to violate and deny the national sovereignty of Nicaragua.” Shortly before, the Ortega government had crashed into the Mexican ambassador, whom it accused of “meddling and meddling” for having shared on Twitter a video of the novelist and former vice president Sergio Ramírez, who left the country to avoid arrest.
On the other shore, the absence of Brazil, in addition to once again showing Bolsonaro’s growing loneliness, allowed progress in agreements regarding gender equality and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. It may seem little, only declarative points, but Brazil’s boycott of these issues in recent years extended to almost all international documents where these words appeared. Brazil has been the regional leader in challenging international agreements – the denunciation of globalism – all along the lines of the international extreme right. And because of its weight, its influence was noticeable in the region and in some other governments. The decline of Bolsonaro may begin to reveal some other attitudes. At the Summit, Luis Lacalle Pou and Mario Abdo Benítez shared the stage with Maduro and Miguel Díaz Canel, with whom they faced each other in the most tense moments of the summit, but it is difficult to believe that with Bolsonaro present at the conclave they could have reached a unanimous agreement on 44 points.
As we said, the announcement of the arrival of a second progressive wave seems to respond more to militant enthusiasm than to analysis. Some of the most important new figures on the left in the region, such as Gabriel Boric, Gustavo Petro or Yamandú Orsi, maintain critical positions with the governments of Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua. Should they succeed in their respective electoral appointments, it does not seem easy to argue that the hypothetical bloc on the left would act as in the first decade of the century. The agendas and tensions are not necessarily the same. On the right-hand side, it is clear that they have not succeeded in consolidating something similar to a conservative wave of governments so far this century. The failure of Macri, the deficient and chaotic management of Lenin Moreno, the cycle of protests that cornered Piñera or the sustained collapse of the image of Iván Duque attest to this. There are many unknowns ahead, almost like problems that require an urgent approach. The leaders of the region cannot wait for the consolidation of a wave that they feel like to just act; they must take charge of the new reality, of what the region does in the meantime. A tie does not have to be synonymous with an impasse or an impossibility of agreements. Mexico has taken an important step in making CELAC a forum where everyone agrees to participate and so that this “meanwhile” is not just a sterile waiting period but is also useful and, with much or much discussion, some agreements can be reached. The more time the region spends thinking and acting as such, the more opportunities its people will lose.
Manuel Canelas is former Minister of Communication of Bolivia
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