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date: 12 August 2020

Summary and Keywords

The roots of Latin American regionalism blend together with the birth of the region’s states, and despite its vicissitudes, the integrationist ideal represents the most ambitious form of regional feeling. It is an ancient process that has undergone continuous ups and downs as a result of domestic and foreign restrictions.

In the early 21st century, the deterioration of the “open regionalism” strategy, along with the rise to power of diverse left governments, led to the development of a “physical-structural,” “post-liberal,” “post-neoliberal,” or “post-hegemonic” integration model. In this context, Brazil—governed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—constituted itself as a crucial protagonist and main articulator of the South American integrationist project. From this perspective, in addition to the existing MERCOSUR, UNASUR was created, and it encompassed the whole subcontinent, thus reaffirming the formulation of regional policies regarding the concept of “South America.”

At present, however, a new stage of these regionalisms has started. Today, the Latin American and Caribbean dynamics seem to bifurcate, on the one hand, into a reissue of open regionalism—through the Pacific Alliance—and, on the other hand, into a fragmentation process of South America as a geopolitical bloc and regional actor in the global system. Regarding this last point, it is unavoidable to link the regional integration crisis to the critical political and economic situation undergone by Brazil, considered as the leader of the South American process.

In short, the withdrawal of the Brazilian leadership in South America, along with the shifts and disorientations that took place in UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have damaged the credibility of the region’s initiatives, as well as the possibility to identify a concerted voice in South America as a distinguishable whole.

That regional reality poses an interesting challenge that implies, to a great extent, making a heuristic effort to avoid being enclosed by the concepts and assumptions of the processes of regionalism and integration that were born to explain the origin, evolution, and development of the European Union. From this perspective, the authors claim that the new phase experienced by Latin American regionalisms cannot be understood as a lack of institutionality—as it is held by those perspectives that support the explanations that they “mirror” the European process—but rather it answers chiefly to a self-redefinition process influenced by significant alterations that occurred both in global and national conjunctures and that therefore, have had an impact on the regional logic.

Given the regional historical tradition marked by vicissitudes, the authors believe that they can hardly talk about a “Sudamexit” (SouthAmexit in English) process, namely, an effective abandonment of regionalisms. Recognizing the distinctive features of Latin American and Caribbean countries, rather, leads us to think of dynamics that generate a complex and disorganized netting in which the political-institutional course of development of Brazil will have relevant repercussions in the future Latin American and Caribbean process as a whole.

Keywords: Latin America, Latin American politics, South America, regionalism, Brazil, foreign policy, MERCOSUR, UNASUR

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