Since the turn of the millennium, the foundation of Unasur has lent a new momentum to Bolivar's vision of South American unity, with a Bank of the South being launched and visa procedures between member nations being gradually eased, but many historical impediments may yet serve to hinder the integrational process:
1. Uneven socio-economic wealth distribution:
The latifundia system of land ownership hindered the process of economic development through South America for many centuries, and while reformist governments throughout the continent have initiated populist programmes, inequality will prevent the development of consumer economies for some time to come.
2. Nationalised industries and protectionist policies:
Where rightwing governments didn't allocate key industries to American investors at knock-down prices, leftwing governments kept vital industries such as petroleum in state hands, enriching the coffers of dictators rather than promoting the general good. Only since the Nineties has the opening of markets promoted transcontinental competition.
3. The cult of the caudillo:
Between the Spanish tendency to rule the regions through viceroys and the emergence of strongmen such as Bolivar and San Martin, the historical inclination towards rule through a caudillo, enforced through the study of the US model, saw legislatures largely ignored, and thus democracy has only permanently taken root in South America since the end of the Cold War.
4. Ethnic/racist tension:
While ostensibly, the universal use of Spanish as a lingua franca should make South American unity easier to accomplish than in Europe, national populations can be broken down into four mutually antagonistic groupings. The criollo are the most "pure" white community, descended from the original Spanish colonists, regarding themselves as superior to the other ethnic groupings, with Argentina, Chile and Uruguay largely composed of such settlers. More common are mestizos, descended from both whites and Indians, and the base population of most of the South American continent. Both look down on the mulattos, descended from Indians and blacks, most common in Brazil, but also Colombia and Venezuela. At the bottom of the traditional rung have been pure Indians, and their struggle to gain political power has been at the core of much social foment.
5. Physical geography:
Both the Andes and the Amazon have proved major physical barriers to regional trade and communication, but improved road and rail infrastructure, along with satellite and the Internet should assist endeavours towards regional integration.