The difficulties of Latin American integration

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To understand the relationship between the lack of Latin American integration and Brazil's economic dependence on countries in the Global North, it is valuable to consider the studies of Celso Furtado

Historically, Latin America has faced constant difficulties in achieving strong integration. These obstacles have roots in the colonization process suffered by countries in the region, and are maintained by the structure of coloniality that permeates Brazil's economic dependence on countries in the Global North – the group of countries that benefit from the process of wealth accumulation.

As a great example of regional integration, we can observe the rapid union between the countries of the African continent, despite all their ills, so many scars and mostly recent independence. In Africa, all international organizations are made up of most African states. A African Union (AU), for example, is made up of all 55 countries on the continent. Even with the diversity and divergences in the region, nations are united by the inalienable principles of anti-racism, anti-colonialism and the self-determination of peoples. In contrast, Latin America, made up of less than half the number of countries in Africa, cannot even approach this level of integration, with its international organizations progressively more abandoned.

To understand the relationship between the lack of Latin American integration and Brazil's economic dependence on countries in the Global North, it is valuable to consider the studies of Celso Furtado, an economist whose thoughts - refined by his work in Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and his interactions with intellectuals such as Raúl Prebisch – are a great reference to the economic understanding of Latin America, and, above all, Brazil.

With perspectives that remain current in a reality that still proves poignant, Celso Furtado focused on the economic vulnerability of Latin American countries. Brazil, as a participant in this class, remains trapped in a condition of underdevelopment and an economy poor in diversification and production of technologies, with links in a structural condition of subjection to the import of innovations from developed countries to progress in their techniques.

Substantial change, in fact, never occurred. The industrialization of Latin America, including that of Brazil, was never succeeded by the reduction of inequalities, but rather by the accumulation of wealth for a tiny fragment of the population. The beginnings of this accumulation came from colonization, and, in the context of Brazil, whose economic policies have always been usually directed by groups willing to support individualistic interests alone, it has been thriving since the 1960s due to a rapid process of industrialization with an enormous concentration of income.

in your work United States hegemony and the underdevelopment of Latin America, Celso Furtado explores how the economic model of the Latin American region remains guided by the export of raw materials, conditioning an organization of production subordinate to international trade and often driven by the interests of countries reputed for their political-economic capital and concentration of technology, and, in view of this, occupy a hegemonic position in the International System, like the United States. These same countries provide a large part of the financing for the Brazilian economy. This dependence undermines the effectiveness of truly sovereign economic policies.

 The absence of strong regional integration worsens this economic subjection, even with fertile soils, a qualified workforce, a huge population to be supplied and cultures so rich in these territories. The use of these resources for mutual advantage is hampered by the lack of effective integration policies. Despite facing proximate adversities such as fragile institutions, unstable democracies and lack of infrastructure, Latin American countries generally disregard the urgency of establishing the region as a united bloc in the International System. This obstructs emancipatory positions in international conventions and organizations.

To achieve Brazil's true autonomy from developed countries, it is necessary to promote solid integration, including the conclusion of fair trade agreements, the formation of regional production chains, mutual support for infrastructure initiatives and the activation of economic policies that propose anti-imperialist and non-imperialist regional strengthening.

In your text “Political obstacles to Brazilian growth”, Celso Furtado emphasizes that true development will only occur where there is an underlying social project, a historical perspective and a society aware of its problems, and which does not lack debates about national and international issues. The used territory of a country – a concept brought by Milton Santos – must have values ​​for industrialization consistent with the national reality, aiming to reduce the socioeconomic inequalities that ruin it.

Meanwhile, in every case that concerns who occupies the decision-making spaces in Latin American countries, it refers to subjects immensely distant from popular reality. Born and raised in environments full of social privileges and material conditions, national elites take control of discussions about public policies, making effective and emancipatory transformations in international politics in Latin America impossible.

Therefore, it is essential to take a critical look at these spaces and their lack of bodies that really know Brazil. This participation is necessary so that institutions stop being castles before society and spaces distant from the people and their knowledge, in order to create a more prosperous future for Latin America, highlighting its natural, cultural and historical riches, and providing a life worthy of their populations.

*Nathália Silveira is a student in International Relations at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).

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