Home » “The France-Latin America relationship suffers from a lack of political dialogue”

“The France-Latin America relationship suffers from a lack of political dialogue”

by drbyos

Gaspard Estrada is Executive Director of the Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean at Sciences Po, and co-rapporteur of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) High Level Working Group on Inequalities in the Americas.

Gaspard Estrada, in February 2021. SOLANGE LEBOURGES

While China is taking advantage of the disengagement of the United States in Latin America to strengthen its presence, what is the French policy vis-à-vis this region?

Since his election, Emmanuel Macron has not made a single speech on Latin America, and has not made any official visit there. He visited Argentina, Buenos Aires, in 2018, but on the occasion of the G20 summit. He should go to Brazil in 2024, but still for the G20. The Elysée had nevertheless sent signals, end 2022, after the elections of left-wing presidents Gabriel Boric in Chile [en décembre 2021]Gustavo Petro in Colombia [en juin 2022] et Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva au Brésil [en octobre 2022], which raised hopes of a re-engagement of France in the region. We remember the video of Emmanuel Macron congratulating Lula on the phone for his re-election. And the French president’s handshake with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, in the corridors of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 7, 2022. A few days later, during the Paris Peace Forum , France seemed to want to get involved in the negotiations between the opposition and the Venezuelan government.

However, at the investiture of Lula, on January 1, France sent only its delegate minister in charge of foreign trade, while other European states sent leading representatives there…

After first traveling to Portugal and Spain [en avril]then in Great Britain for the coronation of Charles III [en mai], Lula finally came to Paris on June 22 and 23. He had lunch with Mr. Macron: the bilateral relationship was reviewed as a whole; they discussed the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur [l’union douanière entre l’Argentine, le Brésil, l’Uruguay et le Paraguay], the development of defense cooperation, in particular the continuation of the construction of submarines. The war in Ukraine and the desire to relaunch cultural exchanges were also discussed. This lunch was a very good thing.

However, France has historical ties with Latin America…

It was present from the 19th century with missions from French archaeologists and researchers. In the 20th century, French communities and Latin Americans became involved during the Second World War, notably by financing Free France. This is one of the reasons why General de Gaulle went to Mexico in 1964, before embarking on a major regional tour, proposing, in the midst of the Cold War, a third way for the South American states. Later, President François Mitterrand – around whom revolved an informal lobby focused on Latin America with Régis Debray at its head – himself increased his trips to the region.

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