South American History, Part II
The first part of this chapter addressed the continent’s history up until the end of the Cold War, while the final half will discuss the broader developments that have occurred since then.
One of the overarching themes of South American history over nearly the past half-century has been the move towards continental integration, albeit in different formats and to varying extents. There’s a wealth of information to discuss, and an entire series of articles could be written solely about this topic, but the framework of the present research isn’t to delve into the depths of every detail and will understandably gloss over many of them in attempting to provide a solid enough overview of this process. As is the case with all of the historical information expounded upon in this piece, the reader should conduct their own follow-up research if anything in particular strikes their intellectual fancy and sparks their curiosity to learn more.
The easiest way to describe the South American integrational models is to simply list them off in chronological order and say a few words about their overall significance:
*1968-1989 – Operation Condor:
Even though the US didn’t officially conceive of integrating the “deep states” of its right-wing military-led South American proxies until 1968, it had already been covertly assisting in their creation through secret coups and other sorts of assistance even before then. Like it was previously talked about, the Condor Years brought together the military and intelligence bureaucracies of most of the continent under the “Lead From Behind” guidance of the US, and in the case of Operation Charlie, it even promoted Argentina as its transcontinental partner by having it directly aid the pro-American governments of Central America during their respective anti-communist wars. This partially explains Washington’s reluctance to choose a side in the 1982 islands war between Argentina and the UK, but the larger significance is that many of South America’s most important “deep state” structures began to collaborate with one another and set a precedent for expanded partnership later on in the future.
* 1969 – Andean Pact/Community:
This was the first real attempt at regional economic integration, and it initially comprised the countries of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It expanded to include Venezuela from 1973-2006, and Chile withdrew from being an official member in 1976 and downgraded its status to an observer from then on until 2006. From 2005-2006, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay became associate members, so in other words, all of Mercosur with the exception of Venezuela decided to strengthen their ties with the customs union. So as not to get confused amidst the changing dynamics of this bloc, the only official members nowadays are Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, which makes for a curious collection of states seeing as how two of them (Colombia and Peru) are part of the neoliberal Pacific Alliance, whereas the other two (Bolivia and Ecuador) are party to the Venezuelan-led ALBA group of socialist states, yet all four of them are still in the same integrating economic space. Even more interesting is that Peru is a signatory to the stalemated TPP, while Bolivia is on the cusp of formally becoming part of Mercosur.
* 1991 – Mercosur:
The economic integration of the South American space beyond the Andes Mountains didn’t officially begin until over two decades after the northwestern chunk of the continent began to come together, but it’s been no less influential and can be said in many instances to actually be much more important. Mercosur originally united the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and built upon earlier success in bridging the Buenos Aires-Brasilia regional divide and smoothing over the rivalry between the two. Venezuela formally joined in 2012 at the time when Paraguay was suspended following its ‘constitutional coup’, which has turned out to be an ultra-contentious decision since it’s responsible for the American-encouraged leadership stalemate in the bloc which occurred in the second half of 2016. Although Bolivia has formally signed a membership agreement with the organization, it still needs to be ratified by all of the existing states, with Brazil being the last one at the time of writing which needs to complete this legislative process.
Although having been the site of the multipolar socialist populism which swept through South America in the early 2000s as a result of the “Pink Tide”, Mercosur is now on the brink of becoming just another unipolar neoliberal organization due to the success of what the author has characterized as Operation Condor 2.0. The past several years have seen a succession of ‘constitutional’ and ‘electoral’ coups occur which replaced the traditional left-wing leaderships of these states with right-wing allies of the US. Step by step, Mercosur is losing its previous multipolar geostrategic significance and morphing into an outgrowth of the unipolar Pacific Alliance, though this process is not yet irreversible (nor is the Pacific Alliance as unipolar nowadays as it originally was). The specifics of how both of these blocs interact with one another and the larger New Cold War motivations behind their American-encouraged amalgamation will be expostulated upon in the book’s final chapter dealing with “The Battle of the Blocs”, but at this moment the reader should simply recognize that Mercosur is no longer the reliable multipolar outpost that it once was and that this is largely due to the US’ behind-the-scenes connivances (which were admittedly facilitated by socialist mismanagement).
* 2000 - Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA):
Most people outside of South America have probably never heard of IIRSA, and it might even be an enigma to many people living in that landmass, but it’s basically a continental-wide infrastructural integration organization just like its name implies and is intended to set the functional basis for an inseparably deep convergence between all of its members. It’s for this reason why IIRSA is the tangibly workable backbone behind the utopian Unasur initiative that was unveiled a few years afterwards. The most far-reaching and thought-provoking aspect behind this infrastructural organization is that it divides the continent into a set of 9 separate integration and development hubs in order to best optimize the multi-sectoral collaboration between its members. An interactive map for each of them can be accessed on their website, while a related link contains the proposal for a 10th hub linking together parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru, and the reader should definitely take a look at both resources in order to establish a clearer picture for how the South American governments have identified and divided up the continent’s envisioned integrational zones between them.
The below map displays all 10 of the integration-development hubs, though it should be noted that the Peru-Brazil-Bolivia one is much more geographically limited than the proposal cited above, and that neither of the two are displayed on the official graphic promoted on the IIRSA website:
What readers should pay particular attention to is the light green Central Interoceanic Hub, since it overlaps with TORR and is thus slated to become the most geostrategically pertinent of all the 10 integration-development hubs, especially when it comes to Hybrid War. In general, however, it should be remembered that the entire IIRSA project itself is the heavily researched blueprint for integrating the South American countries together under what would turn out to be the future umbrella of Unasur.
* 2004 – Unasur:
Like it was just written, Unasur evolved out of IIRSA’s infrastructural backbone and became the political-strategic vehicle for bringing the continent together and delivering on this vision. December 2004 is when all of the future members agreed on the Cusco Declaration, which conceptualized the Unasur project, although it wasn’t formally implemented until 2008. Nevertheless, since 2004 is technically the date of the project’s conception, it will be thenceforth used as the year of reference when speaking about Unasur’s beginnings.
It’s very idealistic and perhaps even a bit naïve to imagine that all of South America will peacefully integrate into a single polity, but the intention is a positive one and it’s grounded in the desire to see lasting and mutually beneficial peace between all of the countries in this part of the world. Unasur builds off of the period of geopolitical stability in South America which marked the post-Cold War order and it’s the logical progression of previous integrational measures such as IIRSA and Mercosur, though the brief ‘honeymoon’ of continental peace might be ending with the domestic destabilizations that have characterized Operation Condor 2.0, which will be elaborated on shortly.
Unasur’s chief function is to bring all of South America as close together as it conceivably can, but it remains to be seen whether this will be done in a multipolar fashion such as how it was originally intended or in a unipolar one like the US would prefer. This entity is irreplaceable because it’s a foregone conclusion that a political counterpart of sorts – however loosely binding and heavily symbolic – would inevitably emerge to complement IIRSA. Many areas of the world are undergoing the trend of regionalism whereby neighboring countries are robustly integrating with one another and forging transnational blocs in order to enhance their global competitiveness, so it’s natural that South America would also eventually experience this in its own way.
The main challenge that Unasur faces, other than deflecting the US’ subversive attempts to transform it into a unipolar “Lead From Behind” organization, is to overcome the strategic divergence between Brazil’s ‘Manifest Destiny’ in wanting to become the continental hegemon and the Hispanophone countries’ insistence on retaining a comfortable degree of distance to safeguard their sovereignty. It might seem like these are two seemingly irreconcilable positions, and it may very well be extraordinarily difficult to smooth over their differences without some sort of unifying ideology to bring them together (such as the socialism of ALBA, for example), but that doesn’t mean that the Lusophone and Hispanophone countries are predestined to clash since they still come from the same civilizational fabric and have already previously proven themselves more than capable of pragmatically cooperating.
* 2004 – ALBA:
In the same year that Unasur was unveiled, the socialist countries of Cuba and Venezuela deepened their ties and formed the basis for what would later become the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. ALBA, as it is now popularly known as, would eventually bring together Bolivia (2006), Nicaragua (2007), Ecuador (2009), and a collection of Caribbean island nations under the popular banner of socialist resistance to the US’ unipolar hegemony. ALBA’s rallying cry is indeed motivational for many people in Latin America, but there’s more to the organization than just ideological solidarity.
Venezuela is the nucleus of this integrational proposal and supports many of the Caribbean members’ economies through the subsidized oil exports that it provides to them under the 2005 Petrocaribe agreement. Other countries outside of the ALBA framework such as Belize and Guatemala are also party to Petrocaribe, which basically acts as an extension of Venezuelan soft power though is delicately dependent on the Hybrid War-besieged country’s own internal stability. Here’s a back-to-back cartographical look at ALBA and Petrocaribe:
As Venezuela comes under even more American-inflicted Hybrid War pressure in the future, it’s very likely that it might end up further cutting the oil subsidies that it provides to Petrocaribe, which would have the effect of losing some of the “friends” which it has “bought” through this arrangement. It shouldn’t be taken for granted that all of the Petrocaribe countries have some sort of ideological affinity with Venezuela are more loyal to Caracas than Washington just because they’re receiving economic assistance, and it could turn out that the soft power sway which Venezuela thought that it wielded across the Caribbean and Central America was just phantasmal and an illusion of its own wishful thinking and oil largesse.
This isn’t to deride Petrocaribe in any way, but just to raise awareness that it shouldn’t be seen as a reliable indicator of Venezuela’s regional sway. ALBA is a much better determinant of this, but that organization—however ideologically inspiring and symbolic it may be – is fraught with geographic divisions which make it all the more difficult for its members to fully cooperate with one another. Each of the South American countries (Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia) are presently experiencing or periodically have went through US-supported Hybrid War destabilizations, even if they were just ‘probes’ to identify structural weaknesses and responses and weren’t “the real thing” like EuroMaidan was for Ukraine.
* 2009 – BRICS:
The First BRIC Summit took place in 2009 and was a monumental step in the direction of global multipolarity. By creating the institutional foundation for linking Brazil together with the geopolitical drivers of Russia and China, BRIC (later reformatted as BRICS following South Africa’s 2010 admission to the group) would go a long way towards propelling the South American giant into the worldwide limelight and highlighting its leadership ambitions in the 21st century. For as positive as BRICS has been for Brazil’s reputation, however, it hasn’t led to many concrete benefits for the country aside from its incorporation in the embryonic development of alternate monetary and financial structures which one day hope to replace their Western-controlled counterparts.
This is a competitive advantage in and of itself, but one which will realistically take a long time to enter into force and yield tangible fruits for the country. Apart from this potentially game-changing but long-term investment, Brazil has little else of merit to show for its membership in BRICS, taking aside symbolic deals that were made with its other members. BRICS has been much more beneficial to Russia and especially China by giving them a foothold in South America than it has been for advancing Brazil’s interests elsewhere in the world. The author doesn’t mean to sound overly negative about BRICS and is personally in favor of this organization and its continuance, but sometimes individuals need to speak bluntly about heralded “god-like” organizations in order to convey the inconvenient truth about their faults which are necessary for all serious analysts to soberly consider.
For the foreseeable future and as long as Brazil remains controlled by the American-backed oligarchy which ‘constitutionally’ overthrew its elected leader, it’s not predicted that BRICS will have any multilateral effectiveness in South America, but the legacy of the bilateral benefits between Brazil and China will probably remain enduring (despite the US’ strategic uncomfortableness with this). China gained more out of Brazil’s membership in BRICS than any of the other five members, Brazil included, and Beijing’s organizational finesse helped it to gain Brasilia’s deep trust, thus laying the foundation for the 2015 announcement of TORR. In a certain manner, TORR is proof that BRICS, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road), and IIRSA are mutually compatible with one another, and it’s the most highly developed and promising integrational project in South America today.
* 2012 – Pacific Alliance:
This neoliberal and (originally-) American-aligned trading bloc is the structural foil to the nominally socialist and (previously) multipolar-leaning Mercosur, and it counts Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile among its members. Costa Rica is in the process of joining, and Panama is said to be considering membership as well. From a geopolitical standpoint, the Pacific Alliance links together North America (Mexico) and the west coast of South America, with the prospect of integrating part of the middle ground between them in Central America. Mercosur, on the other hand, occupies the eastern half of South America, while member-state Venezuela’s Petrocaribe involves a large part of the Caribbean Basin. The future of both Mercosur and Venezuela is in doubt, while the Pacific Alliance is steadily holding its position and becoming an ever more important global economic force.
The last chapter of the book will describe the competition between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur in more detail, as well as the differing scenarios that they have for integrating with one another into a pan-American trading bloc, whether ultimately under unipolar or multipolar influence. For now, however, the reader should recognize that the Pacific Alliance is one of the world’s fastest growing economic forces which holds tremendous prospects for future partnership with other likeminded regional integrational organizations. It’s already wooing the likes of China, Russia, and India, proving that it might end up being a pragmatic international actor despite its original pro-American disposition. Therefore, while appearing at the moment to be a unipolar threat to South America’s (and more broadly speaking, Latin America’s) fragile multipolarity, it might end up actually strengthening it if the right kind of Great Power cooperation materializes.
The Pink Tide Rises
This period of time is seen in hindsight as one of the most exciting, hopeful, and promising moments in South American history, albeit one which is rapidly being reversed due to the US’ Hybrid Warfare and state mismanagement. The democratic socialist revolution that swept across the continent first began with Hugo Chavez in 1999 but then matured in the mid-2000s as other left-leaning South American leaders were thenceforth elected in many of the other countries. Their rise to power was boosted by the strong and positive image that Venezuela presented to the rest of the hemisphere, propped up by contagious ideological passion and economic-energy leadership which made many of the region’s voters look up to the country.
Here are the years that the main figures of the Pink Tide came to power:
* 1999 Venezuela – Hugo Chavez
* 2003 Brazil – Lula de Silva
* 2003 Argentina – Nestor Kirchner (succeeded by his wife Cristina in 2007)
* 2005 Uruguay – Tabare Vazquez
* 2005 Bolivia – Evo Morales
* 2007 Ecuador – Rafael Correa
* 2008 Paraguay – Fernando Lugo
By the time that Lugo came to power, all of Mercosur was firmly in leftist-socialist hands, which thus imbued the organization with an unmatched synergy in acting as a semi-unified actor and also had the effect of strengthening the leadership credentials of the bloc’s Brazilian leader, which just one year afterwards took part in the first-ever BRIC Summit. For as high as many people’s hopes became that South America’s time had finally arrived and that the US was on an irreversible strategic retreat, the ‘multipolar moment’ proved to be even shorter-lived than the unipolar one in North America due to the internal economic contradictions and mismanagement of the Pink Tide’s adherents which inadvertently tilled fertile soil for the US to reap the seeds of regime change Hybrid War.
The Condor Flies Again
The final part of South American regional history which will be discussed in this research is the present-day ‘phenomenon’ of the region’s rightward ‘reactionary’ slant. If one relied solely on mainstream media to evaluate the macro-political processes underway at this moment, then it would convincingly look like ‘the people’ have finally ‘risen up’ against the ‘anti-democratic socialist demagogues’ that were ‘controlling them’. The US’ allied media outlets have made a point to besmirch the Pink Tide leaders of Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina by implying that they are 100% fully responsible for the economic stagnation and reversals that preceded the nationwide destabilizations against them. The objective is to make it appear as though the ‘sudden’ ‘rise of the right’ in South America is nothing more than a popular democratic reaction to the seemingly unpopular socialist-authoritarian failures from the past decade, and while there are definitely kernels of truth to the claims that the socialist governments are responsible for their own failings, there are more nefarious processes at play which the mainstream media refuses to shed light on due to their culpability in bringing them about.
It’s undeniable that Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina have experienced systemic troubles ever since the 2008 worldwide economic slowdown, particularly in the sense that the Chinese raw material and natural resource consumption which was driving their breakneck growth also went through a downturn. Understandably, China’s reduction of sectoral imports adversely affected the South American countries which it was most closely connected to, and the predictable reaction was that they too would undergo their own economic challenges which would naturally embolden the pro-American political opposition. This sequence was exacerbated by the compounded failings inflicted on the economy by government bureaucrats and state companies, which contributed to the impression that the socialist-inspired economies were ‘inevitably’ falling apart just like their Eastern Bloc counterparts a generation ago and that the time had arrived for replacement regimes to be installed along the same line of theater-wide Color Revolutions which marked the 1989 “Spring of Nations”.
Popular outrage is a real and actual phenomenon, though one which can be expertly manipulated by external forces for geostrategic ends provided that the in-country infrastructure is available. Social and structural preconditioning facilitate Color Revolutions by playing on the population’s psyche and subverting the national economy in order to promote a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ of ‘doom and gloom’ which in turn is used by NGOs and other co-opted actors to gin up as much popular support as possible for the regime change demonstrations. Crowd control and sociological techniques are applied in fanning the flames of hysteria to maximize the effectiveness of the anti-government movement, building off of what are admittedly a wide range of ruling party shortcomings in order to augment the strength of the incipient street rallies.
As of the time of writing, no ‘street revolution’ has succeeded in toppling any Latin American leader along the lines of their Afro-Eurasian counterparts which fell in the face of the US’ Color Revolutions, but they provided the ‘plausibly believable’ public front which invaluably ‘legitimized’ the ‘constitutional coups’ in Honduras, Paraguay, and Brazil and distracted from the structural rigging (e.g. vulture fund economic destabilization) that the US used to engineer the downfall of Kirchner’s legacy in Argentina. They’ve also been used to trigger sporadic unrest of varying intensities in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most notably Venezuela. Operation Condor 2.0 is therefore the New Cold War iteration of its Old Cold War predecessor, but instead of military coups heralding in regime change against defiant rulers, Color Revolutions, ‘constitutional coups’, and heavily preconditioned elections are employed to do so this time around in order to advance a second wave of unipolar-led regional integration.
Here’s a list of the four instances in which Operation Condor 2.0 overthrew democratically elected and legitimate governments in Latin America, but it should also be remembered how Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela occasionally undergo this sort of destabilization as well, with Caracas being in a continual state of asymmetrical siege for a while now as the US makes a determined push to replace the Chavista government and snuff out the last globally significant multipolar leader in the hemisphere:
* 2009 Honduras:
Zelaya was removed by a hybrid ‘constitutional’-military coup, whereby the courts found him to allegedly be in violation of the constitution for wanting to organize a referendum that would allow him to run for another term, and they thus ordered the military to depose him. The US targeted Honduras first because it wanted to snip the Pink Tide ‘in the bud’ and preemptively stop it from dangerously spreading further north to Mexico and triggering a strategic crisis of the largest magnitude if the US’ southern neighbor suddenly ‘flipped’ to the left and embarked on a trajectory counter to Washington’s grand interests.
* 2012 Paraguay:
A deadly scuffle between landless farmers and the police was used as the spurious pretext for a preplanned ‘constitutional coup’ against Paraguay’s first leftist and non-establishment leader. This centrally located country is key to the US’ plans to split Mercosur and provide a breakthrough for the Pacific Alliance’s expansion eastward, which will be explained more at length in the last part of the book detailing “The Battle of the Blocs”.
* 2015 Argentina:
Kirchner’s political successor, Daniel Scioli, was narrowly defeated by Mauricio Macri, who rose to popularity by preaching an end to the incumbent’s economic policies which his base blamed for destroying the country. It was already explained above how Kirchner’s organizational-managerial culpability over affairs wasn’t entire to fault for the economic turmoil that Argentina found itself in prior to the election, but the widespread perception encouraged by the US and its allied media outlets associated with the “opposition” was that the responsibility rested squarely on her shoulders and that her successor must never be allowed anywhere near power. This was convincing enough that it pivotally swung the election in Macri’s favor and gave him the ‘justification’ to undo many of Kirchner’s policies.
* 2016 Brazil:
The “legal” regime change that occurred in Argentina through electoral means and shifted the leftist country onto a right-wing track inspired the anti-government “opposition” in Brazil to double down on their efforts to overthrow Rousseff and take to the streets with even more passion than ever before. The situational pretexts used to explain their rage were the close 2014 election, the economic slowdown which had dampened the country’s growth, and the NSA-provoked “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal which implicated the President. The electoral example posed by neighboring Argentina was enough to prove to many people that something similar could also happen in Brazil as well, but since the next elections wouldn’t be held until 2018, their “popular demonstrations” were exploited by the ‘constitutional coup’ plotters to ‘legitimize’ their successful regime change plot.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.