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J. Quiroga: Integration Among the Countries of the Americas

Speech to the Americas Summit, Washington, DC, May 1, 2008

Français, Español

I celebrate this meeting, with such rich diversity. We have many academic, social, and political leaders. I also celebrate, as the ambassador said, “Long live evolution!” but I would add, “Long live integration!”

Let me talk about our hemisphere, its great opportunities, the political threats, immigration, and our shared values or agenda for the Americas.

1. The external situation is favorable for Latin America and the Caribbean. Asian investments have much more to do with development in Latin America than even the US and Europe. This brings problems. Many thought that the Chinese were going to buy more, but they eat more. We will have problems with insufficient energy.  

Growth is what strengthens integration, because when there are economic crises and currency devaluations, integration is impossible. If you devalue the currency too much, people charge you with corruption. This is the moment in which we should deepen the agenda of development.

2. Together with these new trends, we have a big political threat that affects people in different countries in different ways.

Cuba wants to tap into economic growth, as in Venezuela, and go against the democratic process. Many wonder if there is a future for this. I don’t think they have a future. I think they are going to end up bad.  

But the defense of democracy and liberty requires shared values, respect, discussions throughout the hemisphere, and solutions from multinational support or ideas. Even when all these positive things are present, when the price of oil rises, it is more difficult for small countries that don’t have oil.

Today an agenda is missing. We need an agenda that will promote economic development and give institutional support with adequate regulations that will dissuade corruption. Social programs are also an important part of the agenda to help us find ways to make the wealth created available to the larger population.

3. We should take advantage of this convergence of energies and changing policies to prevent devaluations, such as happened in Argentina. We need integration with symmetry. Germany sent lots of money to Spain and Ireland to help countries that have a smaller rate economic development to create that kind of integration. Mexico, the US, and Canada should create economic funds where others will benefit. We need something that will go far beyond just economic integration.

We should also try to eliminate or modify some of the current distortions, such as protection of energy resources. Some say that Europe should admit Turkey into the European Union. Well, why don’t we do the same thing? Why don’t the rich help the smaller, poorer nations? Why couldn’t we have that degree of integration among Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and South America and find a solution to the energy problem in this hemisphere? Today sugar and corn are being used to create ethanol. The US is subsidizing farmers who produce corn. We will never reach economic integration that way.

4.  Immigration. People should not lose their citizenship when they flee to the US or Europe. Integration has no borders. But immigration is not just about the Caribbeans and Latin Americans in the United States. It is the Bolivians in Argentina and the Paraguayans in Costa Rica. Why don’t we practice what we preach? We ask Spain and the US to deal well with immigrants, but we are not doing it in our own countries.

I think the economic potential of remittances — workers sending money from the United States to Latin America — is huge. It has tremendous potential for the economic development of our countries, and it should be part of the agenda for integration. I’m going to fight against drug trafficking and work for better communication. This is an initiative for the Americas, and maybe in this process we will ask Felipe González for help. The Europeans asked him to come up with a plan for European economic integration, so why don’t we ask him to come and help us?

There are some threats and some great opportunities. We need to create an agenda for the hemisphere. I believe that this agenda should be based on shared values. We should have a large perspective; if we have threats from either other countries or internally, we need to know about them. But the most important things we need as we leave the summit are agreements. This is the need to develop an integration agenda.  

We should integrate so that our countries improve and develop. We will protect our freedoms. Don’t make laws with an excessive amount of regulations that choke the spirit. We should have openness, religious dialogue, religious integration, economic integration, and political integration. In our own countries we don’t talk much about such things today. It’s amazing that we have so many nationalities participating in this type of event. We should support this, so that people with different viewpoints can come together.

President Sanguinetti said that the spirit moves mountains. I am happy if the spirit and shared values contribute towards the climbing of this mountain.