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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: SOUTH AMERICA (except Brazil)


ALDO C. VACS, Professor of Government, Skidmore College


LITERATURE ON SOUTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS published during this biennium includes an interesting mix of works examining both traditional and relatively new subjects. The more innovative research is primarily focused on the region’s new security challenges; the drug problem; the processes of economic integration; the development of regional mechanisms for political-diplomatic cooperation; and connections between democratic consolidation, economic neoliberalism, and foreign policies. Traditional literature is dominated by analyses of border disputes, territorial issues, and relations between particular South American and extra-regional countries. There is an overall trend toward higher academic quality, even for border dispute analyses which have been typically affected by nationalistic biases. Studies are still largely concerned with or produced in the region’s larger countries - Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela - but there has been a noteworthy increase in the quality and quantity of the literature dealing with the foreign policies of smaller countries such as Ecuador and Uruguay.

The end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s demise, the global process of economic and political liberalization, and the hesitant rise of a "new world order" have generated new security concerns for South American countries. Most authors agree that these new global circumstances have created a better opportunity for regional security cooperation, but many warn that this political environment will not lead, in the short term, to the emergence of unified South American defense mechanisms and procedures. Interesting studies of the emerging security challenges and opportunities include the book edited by Obando Arbulu on new security threats (item bi 95022773), Caro’s analysis of confidence-building measures (item bi 96005736), and Donadio’s work on regional defense integration (item bi 96006262). Among the most interesting studies devoted to security policies of specific countries are those by Diamint (item bi 95004937) and Montenegro on Argentina (item bi 96011614); Buitrago et al. on Colombia (item bi 95022765); and Mercado Jarrín on Peru (item bi 95022629).

The impact of drug traffic and production on foreign relations, particularly between Andean countries and the United States, has been the subject of notable critical studies by Riley (item bi 96010835) and Tokatlian (item bi 96010102). The most significant analyses concerning particular countries include those by Verdesoto on Bolivia-U.S. relations (item bi 96003102), Reina on Colombian-U.S. relations (item bi 94013048), and Obanio on Peru (item bi 94008346). Many authors criticize the repressive supply-side focused policies of the US and insist on more cooperative, demand-focused sets of policies.

Renewed attempts to promote regional economic integration have fostered a substantial number of writings that analyze the evolution and prospects of these agreements and their corresponding institutional arrangements. Although most authors recognize current limitations of these attempts, they seem to have a relatively optimistic view of the prospects for Mercosur and a less sanguine one for the Andean Pact and admission to NAFTA. Some of the most important contributions on Mercosur include Hirst (item bi 95004842), Manzetti (item bi 94010177), Peña (item bi 95025643), and Yore and Palau (item bi 96003091). Interesting analyses of the Andean Pact include the volume published by CED-IRELA on its relations with the European Community (item bi 95022752) and the study by Basambrío Zender on Peru (item bi 95022775). Existing agreements and institutional mechanisms for regional diplomatic-political cooperation - such as the Rio Group and the Group of Three - have also been the focus of some studies. In particular, the Group of Three (Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela) is the subject of some insightful examinations. Serbín and Romero edited a study concerning the Group’s general features (item bi 96003105) and Tokatlian and Cardona wrote another on Colombia’s relation to the Group (item bi 94009615).

Authors have assessed the links between democratic consolidation, economic neoliberalism, and national foreign policies in various ways. As in the cases of Argentina (items bi 94012206 and bi 95022776) and Venezuela (item bi 95011933), some authors argue that the democratic administration's economic liberalism has had a substantial impact on foreign policies. Luján, by contrast, concludes that democratization and neoliberalism have had minimal effects on Uruguayan foreign policy (item bi 95022611).

Traditional issues, such as those related to territorial demarcation and border disputes, particularly between Bolivia-Chile, Ecuador-Peru, and Colombia-Venezuela, continue to generate considerable interest. Less stridently nationalistic analyses have given way to more objective studies; a noticeable trend since HLAS 55, which appears to have continued during this last biennium. Among the valuable studies concerning territorial issues are those by Figueroa Pla (item bi 96010109) and Gumucio Granier (item bi 95022627) regarding Bolivia's exit-to-the-sea initiatives at different international organizations, Zapata's study of the Atacama desert dispute (item bi 95022732), Cardona et al.'s volume on the Colombian-Venezuelan dispute (item bi 95022703), Ferrero Costa's edited book on Peruvian-Ecuadorian relations (item bi 95022758), González Lapeyre's study of the evolution of Uruguay's borders (item bi 95022594), the Venezuelan Presidential Commission's report on the frontier policy toward Colombia (item bi 95022704) and Mendible's book on Venezuela's borders with Brazil (item bi 95022635).

There have also appeared a significant number of interesting publications concerning the evolution and prospects of relations between several individual South American countries with the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and other extra-regional States. The abundance of these studies makes it difficult to enumerate all the valuable contributions that are reviewed in the following pages. In general terms, these works have extended the traditional focus on South American relations with the United States and Europe to include a growing interest in exploring and analyzing current and possible ties with nontraditional actors, such as those located in the Pacific basin (Japan, Taiwan, China, etc.), Africa, and Asia.


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