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Volume 53 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: SOUTH AMERICA (except Brazil)


ALDO C. VACS, Associate Professor of Government, Skidmore College

JUDGING FROM THE ITEMS REVIEWED in the following pages, the literature on the international relations of Spanish South America is still dominated by works focused on the largest countries in the region, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. Nevertheless, there seems to be a gradual and welcome awakening of interest in the foreign policies of less-studied countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. There are many studies of traditional subjects such as territorial disputes, including border problems and the Falkland/Malvinas conflict, and geopolitical issues, although the quality of these studies is often debatable. Two relatively new areas of study appear to be challenging this topical predominance: 1) the international implications of the drug problem in the Andean countries; and 2) the integration attempts in the Southern Cone. Two issues that have attracted the attention of foreign relations experts are connections between democratization and foreign policy in the current period of political liberalization, and the Antarctic situation on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty. Another noticeable development was that, as the Cold War subsided and dramatic changes occured in the USSR and Eastern Europe, the abundant and ideologically biased publications on the impact and role of South America in the East-West conflict practically vanished. At the same time, more balanced discussions of past and current relations between the superpowers and South American countries multiplied in the late 1980s. Future studies by foreign relations experts will likely focus on topics such as the drug problem, economic integration, and the reintroduction of the South American democracies into a post-Cold War international system in conditions of economic hardship.

There were several new items on territorial disputes, as well as some excellent analyses of the diplomatic aspect of the Argentine-British dispute over the Falkland/Malvinas, including general examinations of the diplomatic negotiations and the lessons of the war (items bi 90011963 and bi 90011973). Two studies focused on the British side of the conflict (items bi 90011975 and bi 90011971); others are a useful compilation of documents on the role of the Latin American group in the United Nations during the crisis (item bi 90011978), and an updated study of postwar developments including the gradual normalization of Argentine-British relations (item bi 91021326). The failed 1987 Bolivian-Chilean negotiations on the perennial issue of Bolivia's outlet to the sea were analyzed from nationalistic viewpoints in different publications (items bi 90011980, bi 90012006, and bi 90012005). Several publications on the Argentine-Chilean, Colombian-Venezuelan, and Ecuadorian-Peruvian disputes fluctuated between extreme partisanship (items bi 90012002, bi 90011967, bi 90011999, and bi 90012000) and modest attempts to present a more objective discussion of the boundary problems (items bi 90011987, bi 90012008, bi 90004124, and bi 90012009). A welcome corrective to most of the partisan literature on territorial issues was Escudé's article on Argentina's territorial nationalism that criticizes the misconceptions behind this approach and its negative impact on the Latin American countries (item bi 89000731).

Two important reference books on the foreign policies of particular Andean countries were published during this period: a somewhat legalistic but useful study of Ecuador's international policies since 1809 (item bi 90011985); and a brief but excellent analysis of the evolution of Peruvian foreign policies since independence (item bi 92007825).

Most geopolitical writing still suffers from militaristic and nationalistic biases that preclude any sound examination or impartial interpretation of the issues (items bi 89001195, bi 90011997, bi 90012369, bi 90011995, and bi 90012004). These works are useful mainly to reveal the persistent distrust and hostility that the application of traditional geopolitical doctrines generates among most South American countries. However, some of the geopolitical analyses avoid this pitfall and present better documented and more impartial characterizations of the geopolitical problems confronted by the region (items bi 90011968 and bi 90011992).

Growing attention to the drug problem has led to the publication of several well-researched and argued works analyzing the impact of the drug industry on the Andean countries and especially the impact of this issue on relations with the US. The valuable general analyses by Lee (item bi 88003178) and Andres and Youngers (item bi 90013085) point out the dimensions of the problem and criticize the current US approach to the fight against drug traffic. Worthwhile country studies of the domestic and international implications of the drug problem include writings on Bolivia (items bi 91009076 and bi 92007378), Colombia (items bi 90010017 and bi 89000325) and Peru (items bi 89002807 and bi 91003063). Most of these studies reinforce the skepticism about the efficacy and viability of the current approach to the problem of drug production and traffic in the Andean countries.

Although still beset by domestic and international economic problems, the process of integration underway in the Southern Cone has resulted in the lessening, if not the elimination, of the long-standing political rivalry between Argentina and Brazil. This promising development has led to the publication of noteworthy studies by Argentine and Brazilian experts. The best analyses have assessed from a critical viewpoint the economic, political, and strategic aspects and consequences of the process, and include the works edited by Bauman and Lerda (item bi 93022727) and Hirst (items bi 92016740 and bi 92016733), and the book by Huici and Jacobs (item bi 93022742).

The impact of the current wave of democracy on the foreign policies of the South American countries and the role of the US are discussed in general in the valuable book edited by Atkins (item bi 90011966) and the articles by Schmitter (item bi 90011304) and the Wiardas (item bi 89008975). The books and articles on Argentina (items bi 91013764, bi 90010725, bi 92016739, and bi 90014201) and Chile (items bi 90010728, bi 90012553, bi 90013388, bi 91000748, and bi 88003254) offer adequate interpretations of the complex relationship between democratization and foreign policy and analyze the role played by the US both during the transition to democracy and after the inauguration of democratic administrations.

The 30-year anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, an occasion which gives the original signataries the opportunity to ask for revisions, renewed interest in the subject. The various works tend to indicate that the South American countries with territorial claims - Argentina and Chile - realize that any revision would not work to their advantage and prefer to maintain and to improve, if possible, the current pact (items bi 90013328, bi 90013330, bi 90011993, and bi 90011983).

Internal changes in the Soviet Union and their likely impact on relations with the South American countries are examined by Soviet and Latin American specialists in a valuable volume edited by Russell (item bi 92000598), while the confusion generated by these developments in the local Communist parties is well reflected in Arismendi's report to the Uruguayan Communist party (item bi 90010006). The attempt to eliminate biases and misconceptions in the analysis of relations with the US is clear in most of the works which concern the US approach to democratization. At the same time, historical studies of different periods in relations between the US and Argentina (items bi 91003062, bi 91001661, and bi 89002764), Chile (item bi 91000748), Colombia (item bi 93022919), Paraguay (item bi 90012012), and Venezuela (item bi 90011970) help to clarify some important aspects of the evolution of bilateral relations.


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