NEW COUNTRIES IN
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.
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."
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,
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