Yesterday, 22 February, 25 Latin-American and Caribbean government representatives gathered, according to El País, in Mexico to discuss the possible creation of an American regional organisation without the United States and Canada (for the full article see here). Among the diplomats present were, among others, the Bolivian, Brazilian, Cuban, Haitian and Venezuelan heads of State. The Mexican president spoke of an “unprecedented opportunity to build a common space bringing together all Latin-American and Caribbean countries” (own translation from Spanish based on quotation of El País).
This project gives rise to a number of challenging political, economic and legal questions. The present diplomats discussed, among other things, the question of the degree of economic and political integration. In this respect, the Mexican president put forward the question whether this organisation should be the first step towards an economic and political union similar to the European Union. This would involve the creation of a new free-trade area or even a common market, similar to those already established among some Latin-American and Caribbean countries, such as MERCOSUR and CARICOM.
Another question arising is relates to the fate of the current Organisation of American States (OAS). It is likely that this organization would remain in existence beside the proposed new entity but would increasingly lose political importance. At least, as regards regional human rights protection, the OAS would retain its significance since this organization hosts the most important human rights treaty in the Americas, the American Convention on Human Rights, which has, incidentally, not been ratified by the USA and Canada (for information on the state of ratification see here).
Be it as it may, the efforts to create a new American regional organisation present a number of opportunities for the further integration and development of this region. It can only be hoped that this effort will not be scotched by the various political tensions between the different ideologies and interests present in Latin-America and the Caribbean.