competitive, and stable neighbors Brazil, Maybe. materializes, Brazil could very well
the way Ireland is. Whereas Ire- experience the long-promised leap
land’s neighborhood—the European Mexico, into world prominence.
Union—helped trigger its rebirth, During the last few years of the
Not So Much.
Chile faces instead a “neighborhood Bush administration there were
trap.” Chile and Uruguay share the signs that the U.S. was moving to-
same economically unstable neigh- ext in line are Brazil and Mex- ward delegation. A series of agree- bor (Argentina), and Chile has the ico. Compared to Chile and ments between the U.S. and Brazil added problem of two drug-ridden NUruguay, these countries are tocooperateonbiofueldevelopment,
and politically volatile neighbors in true giants, and therefore, more education promotion and labor and
the north (Peru and Bolivia). likely to matter globally 25 years racial rights could be interpreted
The concept of a neighborhood from now. Both have also made as the start of a major policy of in-
trap is ancient in the social sciences, inroads toward lessening the un- terlinking agendas. If it becomes
butithasacquiredaddedprestigere- evenness in state and market de- deeper, this multifaceted cooper-
centlyaseconomistsandpoliticalsci- velopment. Yet, of the two, Brazil ation will be the most important
entists have offered new supporting has a greater chance of influencing geopolitical change in the history
evidence. The point is simple: good world politics. of the hemisphere since the end of
neighborhoods make good neighbors, Brazil could actually become more the Cold War.
and bad neighborhoods make bad influential in South America than There is a catch, which many Bra-
neighbors. Studying international the United States. The trick for Bra- zilians and Latin Americans may not
neighborhoods, not just domestic pol- zil is to become for the United States like. For Brazil to become a South-
itics, is thus crucial for understand- what the United States became for ern Hemisphere sub-hegemon, it
ing the fate of countries. Great Britain in the mid-nineteenth will need to cooperate more, not less,
If so, Chile’s neighborhood trap is century: its closest political partner with the United States. Furthermore,
not a trivial challenge. This neigh- in the hemisphere. As the relative it will need to absorb more costs by
borhood trap may not damn Chile weight of South American nations providing more economic, political
the way that Lebanon in the 1980s declines for the U.S., there will be and military security in the neigh-
was damned by its neighbors’ tur- fewerincentives for Washington to borhood. Brazil is already doing
moil, but it means that Chile must engage in the neighborhood’s inter- some of this. It intervened to solve
continuetoseekextra-neighborhood nal affairs. The U.S. may come to political crises in Paraguay in the
partners to anchor its rise. prefer, as England did with the U.S. 1990s and in Bolivia in the 2000s.
The good news is that Chilean in the late nineteenth century, to It makes the largest cross-border in-leaders have already realized this, rely instead on a regional sub-hege- vestments in South America.
which explains Chile’s foreign pol- mon to handle neighborhood noise. But commensurate with its ris-icy of extra-continentalism: an as- If this delegation of responsibility ing role as a regional hegemon, Bra-siduous search for closer ties with zil will also need to take some heat.
nations outside its continent, espe- This is already happening, as the
cially Asia. Chile has by far more recent disputes with Bolivia and
free-trade agreements (approved and Ecuador show. These frictions will
under negotiations) with Asian-Pa- increase. They come with the terri-cific countries than any Latin Amer- tory. The region, and Brazil, better
ican nation—eight in total. Chile’s get used to them.
foreign policy successes consist of However, most analysts agree
discovering that to have leverage— that Brazil is not quite ready to re-even to survive—in Latin America, alize its potential as a sub-hegemon.
they must become, paradoxically, Brazil has only taken baby steps. It
less grounded in Latin America. hesitates to pay the costs of sub-
Uruguay could be said to be fol- hegemony. It still feels uneasy about
lowing suit. Its decision to pursue cooperating with the United States.
free trade with the U.S.—defyingthe And domestically, it is still suscep-preferences of its t wo neighbors Bra- tible to commodity dependence (on
zil and Argentina (and its home-based newly discovered oil fields) and more
radicals)—could be seen as another recently political extremism, due
form of extra-continentalism. to its still frail party system. Rising
to pay the
costs of sub-
it still feels