Latin American Summits put to the test (Granma)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Thu Nov 13 21:57:53 MST 2003

(The struggle for Latin American
integration, and to defeat the US
attempts to isolate the Revolution
in Cuba have brought great attention
to the 13th Ibero-American summit now
unfolding in Bogota. Tonight's Cuban
TV news made this a central feature
as did today's print publications.

(A month ago, the Bolivian government
would not have greeted the Cuban Vice
President with military honors, but a
revolution has taken place and kicked
the old US-backed ruler out of office.

(The indigenous majority has made its
voice heard, and the continent is now
shaking. Why even Andres Oppenheimer
took notice and denounced it. And the
new President of Bolivia, installed
after a popular uprising gave the boot
to his predecessor, announced that the
alternative summit's views will be
presented to the official meeting, 
adding that he himself will attend the
alternative meeting.

(Cuba is a leading voice in the world
struggle against neoliberalism and the
social forums which have been held in
Latin America, and now in France as
this is being written, have provided
platforms for dialogue and analysis of
how to move forward from the present
crisis of humanity because, as we know,
"a better world is possible."

Havana. November 12, 2003

Santa Cruz meeting puts Latin American summits to the test
Special for Granma International

POSSIBLY never before has a Latin American Summit aroused
so much expectation as the one about to take place in Santa
Cruz de la Sierra, in the tropics of the Andean nation of

And for good reason. Bolivia was the center of world
attention for three weeks during a popular insurrection
that resulted in dozens of deaths and the flight of
President Gustavo Sánchez de Lozada and a number of his
cronies responsible for the fierce repression.

Plans to sell Bolivian gas to transnational corporations
was not the only reason for the rebellion, although it was
the straw that broke the camel’s back in a place where so
many accumulated human needs have been abandoned on account
of neoliberal-style policies.

Possibly never before has the thematic axis of a Latin
American Summit been as relevant as this thirteenth one.
Social inclusion as the motor force of development is an
essential goal in Bolivia, where its indigenous peoples
were at the heart of the recent protests, precisely because
they are the excluded majority and demonstrate the highest
rates of poverty.

But the issue is relevant for all of Latin America, whose
more than 220 million poor constitute the most vivid
confirmation of the failure of the neoliberal model at a
time when international credit agencies are prescribing
cuts in public spending, thus limiting the state’s role in
addressing the enormous social debt.

That was addressed by new Bolivian President Carlos Mesa
during the closing session of the Latin American Forum of
Housing Ministers, one of the 14 sector meetings leading up
to the main conference.

“What we have experienced in Bolivia is an issue
experienced at different times in other Latin American
nations, and that could possibly be experienced in the
future,” Mesa warned during the forum, which proposed a
regional social housing plan and housing settlements
oriented toward the poorest sectors.

Inclusion is the opposite of exclusion, but the excluded
include 22,000 Latin American women who died in childbirth
last year, according to the 11th World Gynecology and
Obstetrics Congress in Chile. That figure indicates an
average of 190 deaths per 100,000 births, although Bolivia
registered 390. Meanwhile, the nine deaths recorded in the
Argentine capital were a far cry from the 197 deaths in the
gaucho city of Jujuy in that nation.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that the draft Santa Cruz
Declaration dedicates a good part of its content to
focusing on the question of social exclusion. It defines it
as “a problem of structure with deep historic, economic and
cultural roots that, in order to be overcome, demands a
significant transformation” of those societies affected by
an unequal distribution of wealth.

By approving the current version, presidents attending the
summit would support the urgent need to “apply policies
directed at reducing poverty and increasing the level of
citizen participation from all popular sectors excluded
from designing social policies, decision-making, and the
control and supervision of resources” allocated to those
ends. The text also refers to the burden of the external
debt and urges the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to focus on
the issue of the prevention and solution of the financial
crises being experienced by many of the continent’s

At the summit, Peru and Ecuador are to ask for the adoption
of financial mechanisms that would permit flexibility in
debt payments, as Presidents Alejandro Toledo and Lucio
Gutiérrez have agreed. Toledo maintained that the lack of
resources for investment is preventing development, and
warned that poverty conspires against governability in the

And although there is a proposal for the Santa Cruz
Declaration to pronounce itself in favor of “democratic
continuity in Bolivia,” President Mesa has urged that
concrete economic support be given, including greater
access for exports. Argentine President Néstor Kirchner is
bringing a number of proposals in his briefcase that would
benefit the two bordering nations.


The presidents and representatives of the 21 countries
comprising the Latin American summits are to discuss a
report by Brazilian ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso,
who has made various proposals to give content and impact
to the agreements reached.

With the goal of institutionalizing these meetings, the
creation of a general secretariat is to be debated, to
generate “political and institutional dialogue and
cooperation among member states.” In addition, it is also
to execute the directions of presidents and foreign
ministers. According to Cardoso’s plan, a general secretary
will be elected for a four-year term, renewable only once.

He also proposes instituting a standing coordinating
committee “to follow up on instructions given by the summit
or the meeting of foreign ministers to the secretariat, as
well as to examine questions raised by any of its

The member states will be represented on the committee by
their ambassadors to the host country or by national


Santa Cruz de la Sierra is also to welcome the Alternative
Social Conference, a tribunal where the perception of the
continent’s popular organizations of Latin American
problems will be made known.

>From the outset, this forum has been attacked by right-wing
political sectors that have tried to demonize it in spite
of the fact that outstanding figures from the region’s
social struggles will be there, as well as various
presidents invited as guests.

The Bolivian meeting is distinguished from other Latin
American summits that have marginalized the popular
sectors, as was the case with the last one in Lima. This
time, through Mesa’s intelligent initiative, the
Alternative Social Conference will have a voice in the
presidents’ meeting, according to a last-minute proposal by
the host country’s president.

For his part, Mesa has confirmed that he will attend the
parallel or people’s summit, as part of a policy that he
refers to “as communion vessels.” That will permit a
relaxed atmosphere between both events, contributed to by
popular Bolivian leader Evo Morales, who has affirmed the
peaceful character of the alternative forum.

Morales indicated that the meeting will be a space for
reflection on the central questions for the future of the
peoples, particularly in relation to the U.S. Free Trade
Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) project, which he referred
to as “the treaty of free profit for the United States.”

The meeting is to discuss the defense of natural resources,
the central question of land for campesino and indigenous
communities, human rights, the defense of agriculture and
food sovereignty in the face of the rich nations’
subsidies, as well as privatization policies, among other

The Social Alternative Conference will conclude with an act
of solidarity with Cuba and a condemnation of the U.S.
blockade of the island, an issue also endorsed in the
proposed declaration of the heads of state and government.

“We hope that our conclusions will be taken into account by
the presidents,” affirmed, and that is something that could
give substance to a meeting that hopes to recast the Latin
American summits, whose high-flown meetings and
declarations have had an almost zero effect on the
continent’s worsening social situation.

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