Peoples' Integration

2009-03-27 00:00:00

The Charter of Social Movements of the Americas, approved in Belem do Para during the World Social Forum, constitutes an initiative that deserves all the attention and support of the movements, networks, and organizations committed to the present and to the future of our peoples.  The charter calls for integration from below, using as a reference the principles of ALBA (The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean).
This initiative arose from specific experiences that various movements have with ALBA projects and was furthered by a seminar of social movements and organizations that took place in Brazil in the middle of last year.  An charter open to all movements and organizations emerged from that seminar containing the proposal and asking for contributions and ideas for the initiative.  Subsequently, in the Social Forum of the Americas that took place in October in Guatemala, the letter was presented with additions, which came about in the consulting process and was then submitted for further recommendations.  The final draft of the document was agreed upon in Belem do Para.
Starting with the successful continental campaign against the FTAA, this call aims to interconnect various social forces not only about condemnation of and struggle against multiple forms of oppression committed against popular interests, but furthermore aims to take full advantage of the potential that ALBA offers, reaching beyond the countries whose governments form part of the agreement, so as to benefit all the peoples of the region.
The letter explains that the objective of this process of integration of social movements and organizations is to build a continental coordination regarding these principles and to promote diverse mechanisms and potentialities that this initiative offers for the integration of the Latin American peoples.
In one part the Charter expresses:  “In this phase we are intensifying resistance actions, as well as strengthening alternative experiences, of popular power, of the exercise of sovereignty, as well as relationships with some governments that express - though with contradictions - the interests of the majority.
It is necessary to collectively construct a peoples' project of Latin American integration that rethinks the concept of “development” so that it is based in the defense of natural and life-sustaining  common goods, and advances the creation of an alternative, civilizing model to the pillaging project of capitalism; that safeguards Latin American sovereignty in the face of imperialist looting and that of transnational companies, and that incorporates the whole range of liberating dimensions, confronting the multiple instances of oppression generated by capitalist exploitation, colonial domination, and patriarchy, which reinforces the oppression of women.”
This is about strengthening the active participation of the organized popular sectors, generating initiatives while taking maximum advantage of beneficial government projects.  In this way cultural processes unfold that go beyond specific social and economic realities to lay deep roots for the essential Latin American integration.  The most significant aspect, however, might be the consolidation of a common agenda of struggles that has been forming in the past years, and the coordinated activism of various popular forces to push forward liberating alternatives in the face of neoliberalism and multiple forms of oppression.
The global landscape for our countries and for all of humanity is loaded with threats.  The financial, food, energy, and environmental crises accumulate and their consequences deepen.  Many analysts think this is about a system in crisis and a way of civilization that has provoked on the one hand an irrational accumulation of wealth and the unjust continuation of poverty, and on the other hand an abuse of the planet’s resources that is now inciting grave imbalances in the natural ecosystems.  Despite  the enormous inequalities between countries and between social classes within them, they will have to face equal challenges to the existence of life.
We think that divided, as the colonial period left us and neocolonialism has kept us, we will not be able to face these challenges.  Only the real and effective integration of our people will permit us to survive the present and future crises.
The contemporary setting also tells us that the people of Latin America have great opportunities.  In the last ten years the region has transitioned from an almost absolute predominance of neoliberal politics imposed by oligarchic regimes subordinate to the so-called “Washington Consensus,” to a [politics] driven by popular sectors which has permitted the emergence of diverse governments that, in varying degrees and with important nuances, challenge this prevailing order.
The election in 1998 of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the clamorous fall of governments by way of popular insurrections in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina, the electoral triumphs of Lula in Brazil, Evo in Bolivia, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, Correa in Ecuador and Lugo in Paraguay, and the political evolution of other countries in the region toward a view more focused on the social, together form a new geopolitical setting.  This expresses on the one hand the exhaustion and crisis of neoliberalism, which is now shaking even developed capitalist countries, and on the other hand the emergence of a population that refuses to continue its existence and that of its children by suffering the consequences and crises of neoliberal policies.
Visible results of these changing times are the incorporation of Cuba in the Río Group and the proposal to convert it into an organization of Latin American states, the carrying out for the first time of a regional presidential summit without a European or North American presence, the emergence of various integrating initiatives such as UNASUR, the Banco del Sur, and Petrocaribe.  The most important result is the existence of ALBA, which initiates from different principles oriented toward the well-being of the population, with a focus on the social, the cultural, as well as the economic, that have already been realized with Operacion Milagro, the literacy campaign Yo si puedo, the Latin American schools of medicine, sports, and agroecology, the ALBA Bank , and projects of the Great Nation.
Nevertheless, the consequences of the profound economic crisis that is rapidly overtaking the world could set back some of these accomplishments and obstruct these initiatives.  The Right will attempt to capitalize on the discontent that derives from the effect of the crisis on daily life, some technocrats will revert to formulas contrary to integration, which in the short term favor the national oligarchies, never the people.
The Social Forums, the Campaign Against the FTAA, the struggles against free trade agreements, against the payment of illegitimate debts, for agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture, among others, and the many forms of organization by sector, ethnicity or gender, are an important accumulation of the region's peoples that can be empowered, joined, and made cohesive by common agendas.   These agendas have been forming and deserve continual consolidation.  Unity for integration of our peoples according to the principles of ALBA could constitute one of the main ways of achieving the indispensible cohesion of the popular forces of the region.
Integration cannot wait for governments to decide to take part in these processes, neither can integration be limited to governmental agreements mediated in most cases by bureaucracies that bear or represent interests that are remote from those of the people.  Integration has to rise from below.
The popular sectors cannot wait, because those who are hungry or dying, or whose children are dying from curable illnesses, cannot wait.  Those who do not have work, or a roof over their head, or who live in precarious conditions cannot wait.  Those who live in poverty, or who become poorer each day cannot wait, and neither can the middle classes, who watch in anguish as they work tirelessly and yet their families’ quality of life deteriorates.  Pushing for profound change to address the cause of all of this suffering is the only way possible, and in order to push forward, we must unite from below. 
The Charter approved in Belem is not limited to a reflection, but is rather a call to action:
“From Belem, where we meet as hundreds of social movements from all countries of the Americas that identify with the process of the construction of ALBA, we convene and we commit to the following:
1.  To carry out national assemblies that generate unified collectives for the construction of ALBA.
2.  To promote a great continental meeting of all the movements in the second semester of 2009, in order to move toward a coordination of the social movements that are with ALBA.
3.  To put all of our energy toward the World Mobilization Against War and Crisis during the week of March 28 - April 4, emphasizing March 30 as the day of continental mobilization.
4.  To participate actively in the mobilizations and interests of the people, in the events that celebrate the historic dates of our peoples: March 8, April 17, May 1, and October 12.
5.  To continue to encourage real solidarity with peoples struggling against imperialism in Haiti, Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia.
6.  To continue progress with concrete action toward the construction of ALBA, with programs such as ELAM [medical school], adult literacy, the courses at the ENFF, the IALA, Operacion Milagro, etc.”
We think that answering this call, without delay, with a spirit of integration, without sectarianism, the predominance of narrow interests, egotism and other evils that we have inherited from the culture of domination - that we carry inside, even those who fight for freedom - is a good way to move forward.  (Translated by Rachel Horowitz)

- José R.  Vidal and Tamara Roselló are members of the Popular Communications Program of the Centro Memorial Dr.  Martin Luther King, jr., Havana, Cuba