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Can regional integration boost development in Latin America?

Regionalism is a key question in Latin American Development. The evolution of Latin American regionalism tends to be explained in waves or phases that are in tune to the phases of global regionalism. Each wave implies an advance in the evolution of regionalism and in the reconceptualization of the phenomenon. However, with each wave there is also an ebb tide in which the water bounces or slides back, dissipating against the following waves. In the literature on Latin American regionalism there are abundant references to the waves, but not to the ebb tides, those phases that are characterized by the rejection of regionalism as an instrumental option for development strategies. Frequently, the negative perceptions of these stages reinforce perceptions or dynamics with little real or academic support. The evolution of Latin American regionalism follow a regular pattern since the nineties. It alternates periods of high political priority with periods of detachment and widespread criticism of its lack of effectiveness. It is frequently mentioned that the problem of Latin American integration is a matter of lack of political will of the states. It is an insufficient category and a very poor statement to understand the problems of regionalism. This paper defends the hypothesis that the pattern of regionalism significantly reduce the potential effectiveness of regionalism in Latin America and prevents its consolidation. With specific differences according to the cases, after a period of maximum prominence after its creation, the Latin American regional processes lose their strategic value and enter a period of inertia that usually coexists with the emergence of a new hemispheric or subregional proposal. Generally, none of the initiatives closes after its decline, so Latin America offers a panorama of simultaneous and active initiatives, but of different origin, nature and state. The map of active or half-living agreements reinforces the sense of inefficiency of regionalism. The recent proposal of PROSUR by the governments of Mexico and Colombia is an example of the validity of these patterns. This paper presents a definition of the patterns based on a set of categories linked to the Latin American political model, the economic interdependence of the countries and the institutional capacity of their states. The paper argues that the categories that define the patterns could help to discuss which of the existing agreements could be viable and which do not qualify for a second chance. Based on the response of each integration process to the patterns and fluctuating waves of regionalism in Latin America, it is worth asking whether these processes contribute to regional development.