Press "Enter" to skip to content

UNASUR: will it work?

There have been active developments across the borders of a number of Latin American countries since 2004 to form what was seen as a regional forum for, among other things, the social inclusion of these countries’ different nations. Last year, during the first ever South American Energy Summit, held in Venezuela, twelve Latin American countries met and founded the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). The treaty was signed on Friday, 23rd May 2008.

Is this a positive development for workers and peasants across Latin America? To answer this question, one has to look at the objectives of this new creation. First, however, we must find out who the main players are. At this stage the key players are Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and to a lesser degree Equador. Now, the objectives.

The treaty underlines that one of the main objectives is the development of political, social and economical co-ordination between the region’s different countries. The interesting thing is that this union will have as many objectives, and as divergent, as the many members it has. Each country has its own idea what the priorities of the union must be. Notwithstanding the deepening levels of integration between the different South American countries over the last few years, there remain a number of serious impediments to effective integration.

Firstly, there is the national conflicts between the different countries. With no end in sight and individual countries wanting Unasur to establish a defence council as a matter of priority, one foresees more muscle flexing than living by the spirit and letter of the treaty. Secondly, there are such a number of different political visions, interests and international alliances that these make any meaningful integration a lofty ideal. Thirdly, the economic assymmetry is a very real stumbling block. Brazil alone has a GDP of nearly half of Unasur. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported that the GDP of the twelve South American countries $2.5 trillion in 2006. Brazil alone had a GDP of $1.06 trillion in 2006 and $1.3 trillion in 2007.

UNASUR aims to create a South American economic bloc and through that, the power to overcome the protectionist barriers imposed by European countries and the USA. What is evident in this scheme of things is that they hope to create a path for exports to strengthen the big commodity producers of these countries. The very fact that these producers are themselves linked to and integrated into international capitalism testifies to the pipedream that UNASUR would not even be able to protect the national economic interests of its member states. You can’t manouevre around the system. It needs to be rooted out.

The useless chatter about ‘social inclusion, economic growth and union of peoples’ must not distract from the hard realities here. Workers and peasants in South America shall find no hope or use in UNASUR. Nowhere is the paradoxical crisis of the system as clear as in the case of UNASUR’s creation. It is, on the one hand, a sign of the deep crisis of the ruling elites in the Latin American countries, but also a sign of the chronic crisis of revolutionary working class leadership in those countries.

The harmonious development of South America’s economy and its social life cannot happen under the leadership of those protecting international capital’s interests; the solution lies in the working people establishing their own rule and to re-organise life in Latin America on the basis of the needs of people. There is no middle road.


  • Steven Lamini

    Steven Lamini is a specialist adviser in one of the key policy fields troubling modern-day Europe and works across a range of equality fields, advising on policy and strategic approaches to cohesion. His interests are wide and varied, and he writes on world politics, economic issues, current events, mediocrities and lame-duck presidents of countries. He believes that heads should be enlightened, but somehow regrets having such a stubborn principle, for some heads are rather best chopped off. He lives in York.