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Volume 63 / Social Sciences


ALDO C. VACS, Professor of Government, Skidmore College

AS IN PREVIOUS YEARS, the literature on the international relations of the South American countries (except Brazil) published in the early part of the 21st century reflects a shift toward less traditional topics, including subregional integration and multilateral economic relations, connections between the consolidation of democracy in the area and multilateral foreign policies, the international impact of the fight against drug traffic and insurgency in the Andean countries, and the attempts to develop new approaches to regional security. Added to these issues are the growing attention paid to the emergence of nationalistic-populist governments in the region, such as those of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and their impact on the process of integration, relations with the US and multilateral credit institutions, and intra-regional relations. Studies concentrated on more traditional issues such as territorial disputes and geopolitical confrontations, are less numerous and their propagandistic nature is less marked. Most of the publications on international relations and foreign policies are still coming from the largest countries in the region—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela—and are written by experts from these countries, although they do not necessarily focus on their own countries but often on more general situations affecting the region.

The most important set of studies is related to the origins, development and impact of the processes of integration underway in the region, particularly concerning the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Excellent analyses of the evolution of Mercosur in its first decade and a half and of the challenges and opportunities faced by this regional agreement are found in the works of Almeida (item #bi2003006818#), Azevedo (item #bi2005002360#), Bouzas (item #bi2003006931#), Carranza (item #bi2007005001#), Gaveglio (item #bi2003005434#), Tulchin and Espach (item #bi2005005739#), and Peña (item #bi2003000587#). Most of these studies tend to agree although Mercosur has made important progress since its creation it still requires the elaboration and adoption of a stronger institutional framework, an adequate set of rules and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes and coordination of macroeconomic policies, and more attention devoted to the reduction of internal asymmetries. An interesting set of studies is devoted to the examination of the potential impact of the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) on Mercosur (e.g., items #bi2004003138#, #bi2005005712#, and #bi2005002983#) that indicate that the incorporation into the FTAA may have a mixed impact on Mercosur. Another interesting group of works discusses the evolution of CAN and the possibilities of closer relations with Mercosur (e.g., items #bi2004003138# and #bi2005005712#).

The analysis of national approaches to Mercosur and CAN have also resulted in studies written from the perspective of Argentina (e.g., items #bi2005005752# and #bi2003003967#), Paraguay (item #bi2005005731#), and Colombia (item #bi2005002987#). A number of studies examine the relations between these subregional agreements and extra-hemispheric organizations and countries such as the European Union, the Asian-Pacific countries, the US, and China. Finally, several valuable publications examine specific aspects and consequences of the process of integration in Mercosur, including its impact on environmental situations and policies (item #bi2004001230#), on sustainable development and territorial integration (item #bi2005005708#), and on peasant and indigenous communities (item #bi2005005714#).

An interesting set of publications focused on foreign economic policies examine the decline of neoliberal policies in the region and its impact on the worsening of relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international economic institutions. Among them are studies of the Argentine conflictive interactions with the IMF during and following the 2001 financial crisis (items #bi2005005750#, #bi2003004089#, and #bi2005002605#), and of Bolivia's problematic relations with the IMF and the World Bank (item #bi2005005736#).

Many of the works on regional security issues published during this period are focused on the characteristics of the Colombian domestic conflict between the governmental forces, insurgents, militias, and drug traffickers and its impact on neighboring countries. Critical analyses of the international aspects of the Colombian conflict, including the role of the US, are found in Elusive Peace (item #bi2006001749#), Ramírez (item #bi2006003358#), Soberón Garrido (item #bi2004002747#), and Vargas Meza (item #bi2005001955#). The negative impact of the militarization of the conflict on neighboring countries and of the implementation of Plan Colombia and the Andean Regional Initiative are discussed in items #bi2005005744#, #bi2005001957#, #bi2005005709#, #bi2005005720#, and #bi2005005707#. In general, the authors believe that the militarization of the Colombian internal conflict has had negative consequences for the processes of democratization and integration in the region generating growing border tensions, flows of refugees, spread of criminal activities, and disruption of the economic relations. Other studies of security issues in the region argue the need to develop more solid multinational organizations and common security strategies (item #bi2005005746#) and discuss the role of the OAS and other inter-American institutions in protecting democracy and promoting external security in recent years (e.g., items #bi2005005703#, #bi2005005743#, #bi2005005715#, and #bi2004000645#).

Traditional security issues such as border confrontations and territorial disputes continue to be the focus of some works, especially concerning the Argentine-Chilean, Bolivian-Chilean, Ecuadorean-Peruvian, and Venezuelan-Colombian territorial disputes. However, in most cases the propagandistic and nationalistic approach has been replaced by attempts to analyze the territorial problems in a more objective manner and to propose peaceful negotiated solutions. This approach can be seen in the historical analyses of the Argentine-Chilean dispute (item #bi2004002012#) and Colombian-Peruvian negotiations (item #bi2005005745#), the examination of young peoples' attitude concerning the Ecuadorean-Peruvian confrontation (item #bi2005005721#), and border area integration attempts between Peru and Ecuador (item #bi2003004078#), between Uruguay and Argentina-Brazil (item #bi2005005749#), and between Venezuela and Colombia (item #bi2005005707#). More nationalistic and confrontational studies are focused on the issue of Bolivian natural gas and the relations with Chile (item #bi2005005751#), and the Venezuelan demands concerning the Esequibo region (item #bi2005005705#).

Another traditional topic that resulted in several interesting works is the evolution of the foreign policies of specific South American countries and of their relations with neighboring countries, the US, and Western European countries. These studies have been diversified in recent years by the addition of studies dealing with the relations between some pf these countries with nontraditional partners such as the Asian Pacific countries (e.g., items #bi2005005741#, #bi2005004763#, and #bi2005002112#) and the European Union (e.g., items #bi2003003708# and #bi2005005702#).

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