Lula’s Victory & Latin American Unity: Opinion
By Andrés Arauz
Our goal: On January 1, 2023, during Lula’s swearing-in, the treaties for the new UNASUR are signed. We barely have two months to carry out all the preparatory work and reach key agreements. The legal path is being resolved thanks to the detailed technical-legal study of Guillaume Long and Natasha Suñé.
Additionally, we must put the Bank of the South into operation and sign the constitutive treaty of the Central Bank of the South and a regional currency – in addition to the national currencies – that President Lula proposed. The aim is to harmonize UNASUR’s payment systems to execute interbank transfers to any account within the region in real-time and from a cell phone.
We cannot cede this historical window of opportunity to the slow inertia of the foreign ministries. Progressive presidents must create an immediate channel of communication between them, designate a person in charge who visits the countries of the region to detect obstacles and find solutions, and demand – as a group – weekly accountability. The political will is there, there is no time to waste.
We can extend this window of opportunity if Latin America takes initial steps for the configuration of a new regional financial architecture that allows a respite for countries like Argentina. The opportunities are concrete and the actions to be taken are immediate. First, the election of the President of the Inter-American Development Bank must be suspended until January; a Bolsonaro candidate cannot continue. Second, collective action must be promoted to retroactively cancel the illegal surcharges of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – if necessary, with a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. Third, Latin America – together with Africa – must agree with the United States on an extraordinary issuance of Special Drawing Rights from the IMF. Fourth, the Region must recycle its SDRs, financing Argentina in the long term. Fifth, the delegates for the Bank of the South should be resumed, and its immediate operation should begin. Sixth, UNASUR must ensure that – at least part of – the capitals that have fled to the US return to their countries of origin, applying Article VIII.2.b of the IMF Articles of Agreement. Seventh, and no less important, the UNASUR countries must demand a collective seat at the G20, as the African Union is about to achieve.
A key step for Lula is to undo the de facto privatization of the Central Bank of Brazil that Bolsonaro implemented and realign the Central Bank of Brazil to the line of development, integration and democracy. It is very difficult to meet the goals of eradicating of hunger and re-industrialization that the Brazilian people need if it has a central bank permanently boycotting this policy.
That said, this wave of regional integration cannot be confined to the level of the presidents; it must be a true integration of peoples. This implies deep participation of social movements throughout the region, but above all, immediate and tangible benefits for citizens. It also implies giving preferential treatment to smaller countries. President Lula’s leadership is crucial to bring together countries with different ideological orientations.
We must also establish a massive student exchange program so that young people in Latin American public education can study for a semester or a year in another country of the region. The goal must be ambitious: 1 million young people in student exchange in the next year. This will be the engine of integration.
Simultaneously, a cultural commitment to integration must be launched. We must launch a regional contest among schools on what the UNASUR flag should look like. We must also convene a regional contest to propose what the UNASUR anthem should be, summoning musicians, writers, and poets.
President Lula, designate your ambassador for regional integration and create that channel of communication now. There is no time to lose.
Andrés Arauz is a researcher with CEPR, as well as a former government minister and presidential candidate in Ecuador. This article originally appeared in Nodal.
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