Two thirds of Central Americans favour regional integration By Norman Girvan
Guyana Chronicle
October 20, 2002

Related Links: Articles on The Greater Caribbean
Letters Menu Archival Menu

REGIONAL integration lacks a popular base, we are often told.

But a recent survey taken in Central America shows just the opposite.

The survey was commissioned by SICA, the secretariat of the Central American Integration System. The firm CID-GALLUP interviewed 2,500 respondents in six Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Sixty-six per cent of those interviewed believed that Central America should present a united front to the rest of the world.

Sixty per cent were of the view that regional integration would yield significant benefits to the people of the region.

In Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador the proportion exceeded 70 per cent. Improved health and education, better quality of life and securing democratic freedoms were the main potential benefits perceived from regional integration.

The survey results also show that for Central Americans, regional integration means things that will make a difference to their daily living: free movement of people and goods across national borders.

The story is much the same in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

One recalls that when the West Indian Commission "went to the people" 10 years ago, in country after country they were told that hassle-free travel would be the greatest single achievement making Caribbean integration a reality to ordinary people.

Intermarriage is another positive factor in regional integration at the popular level.

Some 54 per cent of the respondents knew of marriages involving people from different countries in the region.

Central Americans are beginning to think of themselves as belonging to one family.

And, like people in other parts of the region, they perceive a large gap between the promise of integration and the reality.

Overall, only 17 per cent felt that regional integration is actually growing and 58 per cent believed it could be speeded up.

The impatience is encouraging.

It suggests that people may be moving beyond the narrow nationalisms of the past and demanding greater regional unity in the face of the challenges of globalisation.