The South American Community cannot be more of the same

2006-12-05 00:00:00

(On next December 8 and 9 the 2nd Summit of the South American Community of Nations will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and a few days earlier, the Social Summit for the Integration of Peoples will begin (Dec. 6-9). Venezuelan university professor, Judith Valencia, reflects on the problems of the South American integration process).

It is true that the decisions made by the presidents in each Summit, depend on [are tied to] a great number of previous meetings [and interventions] and a whole agenda of activities.

But it is also true that the socially-driven political changes that have been arising since 2002 do not provide a reason to respect extraneous commitments.  Being faithful to self-determination of peoples, respecting plurality by articulating dissidence, should mark the route to be followed.

The Union of the South cannot start off anchored to the intentions of the governments that prevailed in 2000. The peoples who inhabit Latin America, the Caribbean and South America, have always resisted, and continue rebelling, non-stop since the Cry of Chiapas in January, 1994.  Every day they gain ground in the struggle, affirming the relevance of biodiversity: culture, flora and fauna.  Confirming the meaning behind a way of life that intentionally produces and reproduces human relationships, as the substantive essence of nature and meaning of society.  The ancestral principles return cultivated in political will to stop the counter-revolutionary offensive, which persists in negotiating among governments over the territories and the lives of their inhabitants.

Since 1994 we have been accumulating strength expressed in rebellion, but also in electoral results that create the possibility of denying commitments made by previous governors. In this spirit, we clearly saw that the High representatives of the Strategic Commission of Reflection for the Process of South American Integration [1] had decided in their first meeting in Montevideo and reaffirmed in Buenos Aires[2] that:

"the final document, in spite of the high level of convergence (...) will not necessarily aim to be an agreed upon text. It will, thus, be able to offer alternative solutions to the Presidents on one or more issues relative to the future of the South American Community of Nations"[3].

From the outset, it is known to all that the possible agreements between the 12 would leave out some substantial themes. The Strategic Commission of Reflection was a way out of the divergences expressed –above all by Venezuela- in the Presidents Meeting I in Brasilia, on September 30, 2005. It was more than a year ago; not long enough ago to forget and feign agreements. It would not by advisable, by any means.

Already, the First Summit of Indigenous Legislators and Leaders of South America, within the framework of the initiative of the South American Community of Nations (that met in Quito, from October 11-13, 2005[4]), resolved:

"To reject the neo-liberal origin of the South American Community of Nations which aims at an integration in terms of free trade (...) To alert... that the design of this South American community, as it is presented, puts at serious risk the collective rights of the Indigenous peoples and nationalities such as, autonomy, territory, biodiversity and natural resources (...) To urge... the creation of a participative body that offers a solution for the true needs of our peoples (...) To pressure the governments of South America to take into consideration the concerns expressed by the Presidents of Venezuela and Uruguay in relation to the conformation of the South American Community"[5]

It was October 2005, 15 days after Brasilia. Two months later, Bolivia chose Evo Morales as President. The elections of Chile and Peru[6] gave different results than the previous electoral processes, expressing new forces.  Brazil and Venezuela confirm the leaderships of Lula and Chávez.

All throughout 2006, two logics/ two positions were outlined: Álvaro Uribe for Colombia and Evo Morales/Hugo Chávez for Bolivia and Venezuela. Both of these, among others, with their respective nuances.

As this is the situation, we cannot accept "half-way positions" and let them make pronouncements only on the agreements alone. We must demand that they delineate positions and points of agreement, without the hype.

Things being the way they are, I want to talk about some aspects that were inherited -and dragged in from the past, as though they were immutable policies-, from the Presidents Meeting of South America, in Brasilia on September 1, 2000, summoned by F.H. Cardoso[7].  Some points stand out in the text of the Final Declaration:

"satisfaction with the 5th Meeting of the FTAA/Toronto/November 1999... free trade zone between MERCOSUR and CAN... a spur for cross-border integration... integration and development of physical integration... the driving role of energy... telecommunications..."  (CAN is the Community of Andean Nations).

Few words are needed for one who understands. An unhealthy inheritance.

It is not true that the Presidential Declaration of Cuszo on December 8, 2004, was the starting point. The intention evident in the development of the South American Community of Nations includes resolutions inherited from three previous encounters. Brazil/Itamaraty, complying with the Pro-Tempore Secretariat, does not let an opportunity pass without reminding that.

To my understanding, the insurgent peoples should be totally inflexible on three of the inherited ideas. We cannot and must not let these things happen:

The convergence of CAN/MERCOSUR [8].
The high-priority areas of action [Priority Agenda ][9].
The Initiative for the Integration of the South American Regional Infrastructure (IIRSA)[10].

The South American Community, as a space for the integration of Peoples, cannot start off from the convergence of CAN/MERCOSUR. Both of them are experiences tainted with signs of connection to the imperial project of the FTAA.  The evidence stands out, just reading the Agreements of Economic Complementation and knowing about the intentions to filter the FTA negotiations between the Andean countries and the United States through Andean regulations, and of proposing the idea of moving towards MERCOSUR, they lead us to believe that[11]:

"the South American Community of Nations must transcend MERCOSUR, it must transcend CAN, and these two institutions should disappear progressively in a Strategic Plan".

The High-priority Agenda, is not so high a social priority when it puts in 7th place; in conventional language:

"the promotion of social cohesion, social inclusion and social justice".

This language is a mockery. The correlation of regional political forces of must now demand from the governments a Plan of Social Emergency that once and for all opens up a channel for the well being of the peoples of these territories[12].  These proposals have been defended thousands of times through social struggles.

At this point in the process of social transformation which we live day to day, it should cause embarrassment for government officials and civil employees to speak about the IIRSA/2000. Reading it makes the skin bristle.  They are dealings that have nothing to do with the well-being of the inhabitants.  Bases on a truth, the need for intercommunication, they propose an absurd solution that is far from having anything to do with the union of the South American peoples.
Orientation Principles of the IIRSA

Open Regionalism. The space of South America is organized around multinational strips that concentrate present and potential strips of commerce. The Strips or Axes of Integration and Development seek to promote the development of businesses and productive chains with large-scale economies.
This ordering will facilitate the access to zones of high productive potential. Reoriented to structure productive chains in sectors of high global competitiveness.
Information technology brings the South American economies closer to the large motors [like fuel?] of the world-wide economy. It supports a transformation of the organization and the operation of society including the areas of education, public services and government.
It aims to generate "the greatest possible amount of local development impacts, avoiding their being limited to corridors between the main markets".


I conclude with clear words that expose and alert us to the intentionsa of the IIRSA[13]

"the two axes [Paraguayan case]...guarantee the expeditious transport of goods, people and also, of course, troops.  In fact... clearly observed is a sub-regionalization of South America that establishes new borders... this project... would bring about regional groupings or spaces of cohesion that are very different from the present Latin American States, and it would call for the establishment of supranational laws with a different basis than those that defend national sovereignties... "

The Union of Peoples of the South should not be based on a heritage from previous heads of state.  It is time to demand a new start.

We must prevent any route ‘towards the FTAA’.  The draft Presidential Declaration is already circulating, and hopefully some governments will stop the intention that runs through almost the whole thing. Which is?  To let a year pass by and, in the end, to imitate a change so that nothing actually changes.  To re-baptize, under the name of South American Community, what is essentially a CAN/MERCOSUR Convergence:

"To reaffirm the organizational structure defined in the Brasilia Declaration (paragraphs 8 to 15)..." [Astonishing]

Two details:

"The Sector Ministerial meetings... will examine and promote specific projects and policies... health, education, culture, science and technology, security, infrastructure of energy... In this sense, these meetings will make use of the existing mechanisms in the MERCOSUR and CAN" (pp 11) and "... in the infrastructure area they will promote... the discussed agenda..." (IIRSA) (pp 12)

And as if this weren’t enough, they propose that the Presidents decide:

"... to establish a Commission of Institutional Convergence and Coordination, at level of high civil employees, and with the participation of the secretariats of CAN and MERCOSUR, to assure [cynicism?] at the executive level the implementation of the decisions...”

Blessed secretariats.  It is customary to grant political representation to the Secretary Generals who end up governing[14]. We must always keep in mind that CAN and its Andean System of Integration (SAI) accommodated the Cartagena Agreement to the guidelines of reconstruction of the Inter-American System[15].  This was implemented through the action of the protocols of Trujillo and Sucre, 1996 and 1997, respectively.

And they intend to decide on the participation of the people's/ social organizations, that the organized peoples will participate, with "formulas" instituted by CAN/MERCOSUR, that is to say:

"seminars and round tables with the participation of representative segments of civil society..." (pp 8)

And they conclude saying:

"In the interaction with civil society, the experience acquired with the Social Summit of Cochabamba will be taken into special consideration".

They are so distant from what occurs in the street, from the desire and feeling of the peoples and they try, with impudence, to tempt egos.
- NDLR This article comprises part of a special edition of the magazine: América Latina en Movimento (N. 414 - 415) that will soon be circulated, referring to the subject of Latin American integration.
[1] Comisión Estratégica de Reflexión del Proceso de Integración Suramericano.  Created in Montevideo, December 9, 2005.
[2] I Reunión de la Comisión Estratégica de Reflexión del Proceso de Integración Suramericano.  Montevideo, June 16, 2006 - II Reunión de la Comisión Estratégica de Reflexión del Proceso de Integración Suramericano.  Buenos Aires, July 24, 2006.
[3] It should be noted that this paragraph is not included in the synthesis document that is in progress for November 17.
[4] A few days before the I Reunión de Presidentes/ Brasilia/ September 30, 2005.  Presidential Declaration
[5] This refers to a letter between Tabaré Vásquez/Chávez on August 10, 2005.  Supported positions. Letter: Evo Morales October 2, 2006.
[6] The correlations of power are different.  This is written before the final round in Ecuador.
[7] Communiqué from Brasilia.  Meeting of Presidents of South America.  Brasilia 9/1/2000.
[8] In record time the Secretariats of CAN, MERCOSUR, ALADI, SELA and CEPAL turned in all of the documents ready for the Convergence.
[9] Declaración Presidencial y Agenda Prioritaria.  Brasilia 9/30/2005.  Plan of Action
[11] Hugo Chávez.  Discursos Brasilia 9/30/2005.  It should be noted that at this time Venezuela was still a member of CAN.  Denunciation 4/22/2006.
[12] Letter: Tabaré/Chávez August 10, 2005.  Letter: Evo Morales.  October 2, 2006. 
[13] Ana Esther Ceceña-Carlos Ernesto Motto.  Paraguay: Eje de la Dominación del Cono Sur.  Observatorio Latinoamericano de Geopolítica.  2005
[14] The acts of Allan Wagner as G.S. of CAN are too recent. He changed his position to be the present Minister of Defense of Perú.
[15] In the 1st Summit of the Americas, Dec/Miami 1994, the heads of state settled on the Reestructuring of the Interamerican System. The FTAA is one of the restructuring projects.