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and prompting talk of secession in Bolivia's relatively prosperous and pro-capitalist eastern provinces.

All of this is good news for Mr. Chavez, who along with Cuba's Fidel Castro dreams of a new bloc of Latin "socialist" (i.e., undemocratic) regimes that will join with like-minded states such as Iran, Libya and China to oppose the United States. Bolivia's neighbors, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile, ought to be alarmed by this trend; but though their own leftist governments have expressed support for Mr. Mesa they have refrained from more concerted action -- such as demanding that Mr. Chavez cease his meddling. The State Department issued a statement last week expressing "support for the people of Bolivia and a peaceful democratic process." If there is a deeper U.S. policy to head off the breakdown of democracy in Latin America, there isn't much sign of it.

Thomaz Diniz Guedes (43 / 45)

During most of the second half of the twentieth century, South American countries kept on with the expectation that their loyalty to the United States through the Cold War period would eventually be rewarded. The prize, however, never came, unless the active support or vehement defense of autocratic regimes in the region was the kind of compensation envisaged by American leaders.

According to the views expressed in many books and articles by the Brazilian historian of international relations Moniz Bandeira, the main concern of the United States policy towards the subcontinent has always been to prevent the emergence of any alternative to its own hegemony over the region. Thus, the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil has often been stimulated, along with actions designed to create a balance between the two countries and also to prevent their possible alliance.

One of the most important reasons for the historical delay of South American integration is that the projects could not be carried on in a non-democratic environment. Dictatorships such as those which prevailed in South america tend to be impervious to popular demands and to create false antagonisms with neighbouring States, as one of the means to justify the regimes.

Some foreign observers od the current Bolivian crisis condemn the threats to democracy for the simple reason it thratens also their own countries’ opportunities for profit in Bolivia. But profit is not necessarily the only concern regarding the institutional crises experienced by several South American countries during the past decade.

A society submitted to conditions of extreme poverty and extensive use of violence will inevitably become clustered, closed into itself and resistan to agreements with foreign nations.

The decision-making process inherent to autocratic regimes compromises the plans for South American integration. Inasmuch as they represent threats to democracy, the social and economical crises currently taking place in South American countries should be regarded as a matter of extreme relevance by any conutry committed to the integration process. Therefore, collective action must be taken by other countries, respecting the limits posed by national sovereignty, in order to prevent shifts to dictatorship.


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