Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

OAS Secretary General Aims to Ease Concerns over New Latin American Blocs

October 5, 2011

US concerns over the rise of new regional intergovernmental bodies in Latin America are largely unfounded, according to José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In a talk at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, he discussed the nascent Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), asking: “Does this mean that the inter-American system is under threat? I don’t think so, really.”

For one thing, Latin American governments have a history of working in such regional bodies, he said.

For another: “The Americas are not a homogeneous hemisphere,” but rather a continent of regions. The formation of UNASUR is a natural addition to an existing set of institutions, he said, such as the Caribbean Community and the Sistema de Integración Centroamericana.

“The fact that UNASUR was created doesn’t mean that we should be alarmed. The idea that these could be a threat to the hemisphere is really a mistake from my point of view,” he said. He conceded that some dream of forming "an OAS without the United States and Canada. But for most of the hemisphere, this is not reasonable.”

Why? He pointed to several matters that can only be addressed on a hemispheric basis, such as immigration.

The biggest political threat Insulza sees in the hemisphere is the reluctance on the part of many US politicians and scholars to adapt to the changing realities of the Americas.

His keynote was part of the recent conference on Scholars, Practitioners, and Inter-American Affairs, co-hosted by the Brown University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Watson Institute.