Latin Ameria scholar says new nations could emerge in the Americas

by Eric Green


The creation of new countries in the Americas could occur in the near future as the result of globalization, which has energized a "secessionist impulse" that knows no geographical boundaries, says Juan Enriquez, a former Mexican government official who is now a researcher at Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies.
Writing in the just-released Fall 1999 edition of "Foreign Policy," a Washington quarterly published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Enriquez argues that "most leaders throughout the Americas rarely consider the possibility that their current borders may shrink or even disappear." But he warns that the tide of secession that is "sweeping across the world today" is not simply a product of ancient nationalist impulses and catastrophic social unrest. Rather, he said, it is being driven by globalization, "which is breaking the world down into its component parts, even as it is drawing these parts closer today."
Enriquez' argument stands on solid ground, says Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer. In a recent column, Oppenheimer noted the trend of an ever-increasing number of countries in the world. In 1914, Oppenheimer said, the world had 62 countries, 74 in 1946, and has 193 today.

Enriquez explains in his article, entitled "Too Many Flags," that the more globalized the world becomes, the less traumatic it is for nationalists to split from their states. Using the Canadian province of Quebec as an example, he said that globalization implies that borders become more porous to goods, ideas, capital, and people.

"If it is just as easy for Quebec to trade north-south, as it is east-west, Canada's market[s], not to mention its laws and rules, are no longer essential to the province's survival," Enriquez said. "In fact, small countries and national groups hoping to avoid domination by larger neighbors sometimes find open borders their best ally."

Enriquez, who was a Mexican government peace negotiator in Chiapas in the mid-1990s, said that so far, the Western Hemisphere is the one segment of the world that has seemed immune from secessionist impulses. Although the Caribbean Basin has continued generating microstates, he said, the last new border to emerge in the Americas was Panama in 1903 and before that El Salvador in 1841. With the exception of Quebec, "questioning flags, borders, and anthems typically does not form part of the discourse of even the most radical leaders in the hemisphere."

Despite that, Enriquez said, boundaries within the hemisphere are neither as simple nor as stable as they appear. The U.S.-Mexico land border, he said, changed as recently as 1963, and the current maritime border between the two countries was only approved by Congress in 1997. Newfoundland "reluctantly" left the United Kingdom to join Canada in 1949. Part of France's border, represented by St. Pierre and Miquelon, lies less than 15 miles off the Canadian coast. Quebec may separate, "perhaps leading to the dissolution of Canada."
For the future, Enriquez said, certain regions within large countries not only may be viable as separate states but also may be far more productive when unbundled from their traditional borders." Within the Americas, he said, relatively wealthy areas such as western Canada, northern Mexico, southern Brazil, and Guayaquil in Ecuador have "voices of dissent within their boundaries asking what benefit they derive from their national identities."

This development, he said, has coincided with the end of import substitution, industrialization and the opening of borders. Countries and regions now depend on global, not local, markets.
In that regard, Enriquez said a nation's success in the global economy is not determined by the quantity of its natural resources, but by the quality of its human resources. Thus, he said, "if the key to prosperity is a citizenry with a high degree of education and entrepreneurship, some regions may decide that retaining ties to areas that are underdeveloped and prone to conflict is not a good long-term strategy."

Within Latin America, Enriquez writes, "many voices" are questioning the status quo, including Mapuches in Chile, Mayans throughout Chiapas and Central America, and descendants of the Incas in Peru and Ecuador. In addition, he said, protests and demands for autonomy are growing in the Guatemalan highlands as well as among Brazil's landless. Politicians in northern Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil, are increasingly vocal in their demands for local autonomy and fiscal control. Enriquez said.

Each group is asking, he said, "what benefits it gets from belonging to a state that does not deliver what it promises. None of these movements begins or matures by advocating the splitting of the country or the rejection of flag and anthem. But redressing old grievances or contemporary needs, if mishandled, can eventually lead to escalating demands for autonomy and even separation."


Journal of Aerospace and Defense Industry News
01 de Outubro de 1999
AEROTECH News and Review
International News - Page 46