Flags fly over a summit for the regional organization CELAC in Havana, Cuba.
Courtesy Reuters

Groucho Marx famously quipped that he would never want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member. The governments of Latin America seem not to share his reluctance. Over the past decade, South American and Caribbean countries have displayed an unprecedented eagerness to create multilateral organizations. But in allowing these clubs to proliferate with little regard for membership standards, governments have sacrificed quality for quantity. Many of Latin America’s new regional groups claim to share lofty goals -- from resolving conflicts to coordinating political and economic policies. But there is little reason to believe that they are capable of achieving them.

Multilateral organizations are effective when they explicitly oblige member states to surrender some degree of national sovereignty for the sake of collective goals. But the new Latin American organizations don’t include any such barriers for entry. To the extent that they provide incentives

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  • CHRISTOPHER SABATINI is the senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and founder and editor-in-chief of the hemispheric policy magazine Americas Quarterly (AQ).
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