According to former Argentine vice-president Carlos Alvarez, the Mercosur economic bloc can't find its social and political dimension, political parties don't discuss the issue and as it stands it is an empty architecture. He also warned about possible changes in regional agreements as Brazil becomes a full player in world politics.
"The alleged ideological affinities of the Southern Cone countries have not contributed to a strategic re-orientation of Mercosur. Progressive governments only give lip support and the academic community seems to have lost interest," argues Alvarez who for several years was Argentina's representative before Mercosur headquarters in Montevideo.
Addressing an audience of politicians, academics and journalists in anticipation of the Mercosur summit in Paraguay at the end of the month, Alvarez insisted that if country members are unable to have the issue introduced into the heart of the political system, "he whole idea of Mercosur is sentenced."
Alvarez pointed out that not even common interest groups or lobbies have been formed to defend Mercosur and the general public opinion feeling is that they "don't belong" to the organization.
"There's nothing people can remember Mercosur for, nor is there any fundamental policy to bring people together and create a Mercosur consciousness."
Alvarez also point out to the fact that the consolidation of a regional Parliament is no guarantee of institutional growth because those same members of Parliament are being questioned in their countries.
"Why do we want another Parliament? What's the use of it if public opinion is non supportive?" says Alvarez who describes the organization as an "empty architecture."
The former delegate before Mercosur insists that the issue must be absorbed by the political system and included in its agenda and in that of the political parties.
"Since political parties don't discuss Mercosur, how to help cohesion, how to overcome asymmetries, and when not even Uruguay and Paraguay don't complain systematically for greater participation, this turns Mercosur more irrelevant".
Only the issue of Venezuela's incorporation seems to awaken interest "but I believe this is more because of President Hugo Chavez than because of Mercosur."
Finally Alvarez cautioned about the evolution of Brazil in the near future.
"Next year there are presidential elections in Brazil. Brazil has become a world player and feels it is big and strong. So we should not be surprised if they insist with strengthening bilateral relations leaving aside regional agreements," concluded Alvarez.
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