Prosur: a sign of South America’s right turn

. Mar 23, 2019
Prosur: a sign of South America's right turn The creation of Prosur, in Santiago (Chile)

The pink tide in South America has officially subsided.

After left-leaning governments in the region were replaced by hard-line conservatives (thanks in part to worsening economies and the left’s own shortcomings), Unasur—a left-leaning multilateral body created in 2008—has now been replaced by its right-wing counterpart, the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur). Created by Chile and Colombia, the new initiative quickly attracted Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, and Paraguay. The big absences are Bolivia and Uruguay—where left-leaning governments remain stable—and Venezuela, Prosur’s bogeyman.

pink tide

Created 11 years ago, Unasur expressed a common desire by South American leaders to escape the influence of the U.S. It was conceived by Venezuela&#8217;s Hugo Chávez, Argentina&#8217;s Néstor Kirchner, and Brazil&#8217;s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The first two have since passed away, while the latter is serving a <a href="">12-year prison sentence for corruption</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The signs of a new era are all over the place. A stark contrast with Unasur&#8217;s scenes of local leaders laughing and joking with each other, Prosur&#8217;s official photograph is that of stiff, well-heeled politicians, staring down the camera.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s President Jair Bolsonaro headed to the launch of Prosur, in the Chilean capital of Santiago, after <a href="">visiting U.S. President Donald Trump</a>—breaking with the Brazilian tradition of making the president&#8217;s <a href="">first international visit to Argentina</a>. In Washington, Mr. Bolsonaro defended total alignment with the Americans, coming as close as offering &#8220;logistical support&#8221; for a <a href="">possible military intervention in Venezuela</a> (something the Brazilian military actively opposes).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Chile, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro (the president of the House&#8217;s Foreign Affairs Committee and his father&#8217;s de facto chancellor) told the local press that &#8220;the use of force in Venezuela will be necessary.&#8221; To the Brazilian media, though, both Eduardo and Jair Bolsonaro denied the possibility.</span></p> <div id="attachment_15047" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-15047" class="size-large wp-image-15047" src="" alt="unasur" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-15047" class="wp-caption-text">Brazil&#8217;s Lula, Paraguay&#8217;s Fernando Lugo, and Venezuela&#8217;s Hugo Chávez</p></div> <h2>Will South America ever become more integrated?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite local leaders saying that Prosur is a non-ideologically biased multilateral body, the truth is that it is nothing more than a right-wing reincarnation of Unasur. And it may well perish for the same reasons that led to the end of its predecessor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unasur was intended to be a concurring forum to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) and was to promote integration in a region where countries have a history of disunity and non-cooperation. Despite having the participation of all 12 South American countries—including Álvaro Uribe&#8217;s Colombia, the sole bastion of the right at the time—Unasur was an utter failure. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan was very ambitious: Unasur was to follow the &#8220;European Union model,&#8221; as Lula suggested at its inception, and it planned to reach the EU&#8217;s level of integration by 2025. Even the idea of a common currency, the &#8220;Sucre,&#8221; was floated. But, as Günther Maihold, Deputy Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">said last year</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, &#8220;Latin America has a long tradition of failed multilateralism.&#8221; The limits for integration come, says Mr. Maihold, &#8220;when it comes to narrowing national sovereignty.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unasur—and any other multilateral body created in South America—was always more about coordinated policymaking, rather than real integration in a regional governance sense. In issues related to security and border control, mistrust comes as default in South America. Another point that helped Unasur&#8217;s slow, agonizing end, was its fixation with the Americans. The group was more about standing up to Uncle Sam rather than truly developing the region as a global power in terms of trade and security cooperation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Until that changes, no regional group will manage to truly succeed.

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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