South America It is a region made up of 12 nations -Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Suriname and Guyana and Venezuela- mainly grouped in two economic integration organizations; one, towards the Pacific, the Andean Pact, and the other, towards the Atlantic, the MERCOSUR.
Except for Guyana and Suriname, all declared their independences in the first third of the 19th century in Spain and Portugal, under the sign of liberal ideas driven by English and French thoughtwhich would inspire the organization of the US between 1776 and 1792.
Presidentialism, federalism, the division of powers and freedom of the press were founding flags that went through and survived dictatorships, coups d’état and cruelties during the long and bloody civil wars that plagued the entire 19th century and were projected to a good part of of the 20th century.
The Social Doctrine of the Church and the trade unionism of socialist and anarchist imprint They founded the birth of union organizations throughout the subcontinent.
The struggle between democratic socialism, liberal capitalism and communism was not immune to the debate of ideas throughout the 200 years of independent life within each of the emerging states of the original colonial division of the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, signed by the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal (beyond the fact that Brazil will successfully quadruple that initial division and will be left with half of the South American territory; and today it represents more than half of the regional GDP).
Fractured democracies in Latin America
In this long march, our countries have consolidated a Liberal and Social Constitutionalism that reflects the bid of the main currents of Western thought inspired by the development of European and North American institutions (with an economic and military hegemony of the United States).
To this panorama, we must add the ethnic diversity, product of the assemblage of native peoples, and the Afro-American, European, Asian and Arab flows that they constitute a “melting pot” that has avoided major conflicts and racial confrontations.
The unresolved debt in this already long process is the existence of deep social differences that could not be resolved in the last 40 years of strengthening democratic institutions.
It is for this last reason that today we find ourselves with a panorama of great fragility and instability that afflicts, in one way or another, the majority of South American nations.
In this context, only two countries have achieved in the last 30 years, maintain a “conductive thread” that goes beyond ideological nuances -not suppressing them- and allows them to accumulate growth and increasing social inclusion.
Those countries are Chile y Uruguay.
Chile lights up South America
On October 5, 1988, the military dictatorship – which had taken power by force in 1973 – called a referendum to decide whether the population accepted General Pinochet’s continuation in the Presidency until March 1997 or whether to call elections free. The Socialist, Radical, Christian Democracy and 10 other parties constituted the “Concertación por la Democracia” which triumphed with 56% of the votes (the continuity of the Dictatorship obtained 44%).
The Coalition for Democracy governed Chile until a right-wing alliance led by Sebastián Piñera won the 2009 elections. In 2014 he won a left-wing front again and in 2018 Piñera was elected for the second time, with a center-right front.
Migration, central issue in Latin America
In 2019, more than a million and a half Chileans took to the streets in disagreement with the government and the opposition, creating a serious power vacuum that led to the constitution of an Assembly to modify the constitution in 2021, with a chaotic fractioning of the representation and leaving behind the right and left fronts that had governed for the last 30 years.
In 2023, as a corollary to this storm, a leftist front won the presidential elections.
Gabriel Boric, a communist militant assumed the first magistracy. Socialism and the right came third and fourth… it seemed that the system built with a pick and shovel was falling apart…
However, the chaotic constitutional reform was defeated months later by 62% of the votes and a multi-party commission has already agreed on the rules of the game to work by consensus on a new Constitution. Meanwhile, the “fundamentals” of an orderly economy have remained the common heritage of all Chileans and the average of 5% annual growth remains unaffected.
Damn re-election in Latin America
There are dark clouds and storms to face – today, the health system and private pensions – but there is a mature mechanism of “Consensus to the Center” that prevents riots and puts collective interests above factions.
Uruguay lights up South America
After the transition governments -refounders of democracy – between 1985 and 2005- of presidents Sanguinetti and Lacalle- the “Broad Front” -leftist, headed by the Tupamaro Party- assumed the government in 2005 and retained it until in 2020, when President Luis Lacalle Pou took office, leading a Center front -for the first time in history, Blancos and Colorados, centenarian rivals, make up a front TOGETHER, adding to 3 other parties.
Unlike the other 10 countries in the region, Uruguay and Chile have managed to overcome the ideological pendulum
This new front had to face the negative effects of the pandemic and the complex balance between an Argentina and a Brazil that freeze their bilateral relationship at the hands of Jair Bolsonaro and Alberto Fernández.
Serious ideological conflicts, difficult relationship with the neighbors, but also, Like Chile, the growth constantpoverty reduction, austere public administration, low country risk and stability without inflation.
Synthesizing, Unlike the other 10 countries in the region, Uruguay and Chile have managed to overcome the ideological pendulum and create awareness of SINGLE COUNTRYue does not use the argument of the “conflicting nation projects” that continue to do us so much damage throughout the region.
When all the countries of the region are guided by these principles, the conditions will exist for the creation of the great “SOUTH AMERICAN UNION” dreamed of by our founding fathers and frustrated by our persistent myopia.
*Center for International Studies of the University of Belgrano (CESIUB); former Ambassador to the United States, Brazil, the European Union and China
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