Sovereignty Yes! U.S. Militarization No!
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Creates Organization to Replace the OAS!
The more recent U.S. effort to achieve a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) so as to annex and militarily integrate the entire region was defeated by all the peoples of the Americas. The CELC is in part developing from the success achieved in defeating the FTAA. Like the Bolivarian Alternative for Our Americas (ALBA) it is an expression of the alternatives the peoples are developing to build their unity and develop regional integration that favors the people while further weakening U.S. imperialism. The peoples of the U.S. and Canada applaud the development of CELC and all the various efforts to defend national sovereignty and development of relations based on mutual benefit and equality. Defense of sovereignty and opposition to U.S. annexation, in Canada and all the Americas is a contribution to peace and progress. These efforts stand as part of the Bulwark against U.S. aggression and reaction.
The CELC was formed at the Latin American Unity Summit held from February 22-23 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It will be formally established on July 5, 2011 at a summit in Caracas, once its charter has been developed. The new body will amalgamate the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Rio Group, while it will co-exist with other sub-regional organizations. The normal functions of the Group of Rio and the Latin American and Caribbean Congress will continue until the new organization's institutions are completely formed.
On February 22, in his opening speech to inaugurate the summit, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón emphasized plans to create a new united organization for the region, saying that hopes of unity across the Americas was a dream in the early 19th century, when the region's leaders began to fight for their independence from European colonial powers. "The dream of unity is part of the independence we are celebrating," Calderón said, referring to the start of Mexican celebrations to mark 200 years of its independence. "And this summit represents an important increase in our integration."
"Today we will be examining the first step, the jumping off point for a new future," Calderón said. "Today we have the opportunity to create a common space for all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean."
The Rio Group and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) together comprise 33 countries. Of these 32 were represented at the summit (Honduras has notably been excluded from Rio Group functions since the coup). Twenty-six countries were represented by their presidents or prime ministers, including Raúl Castro of Cuba, René Préval of Haiti, Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Luiz "Lula" Da Silva of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia, as well as Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, President-Elect of Uruguay José Mujica, Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, amongst others. Peru, the Bahamas, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago were represented by members of their cabinets.
Besides the Rio Group and CARICOM, several other regional bodies were represented at the summit: the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA), the Latin America Integration Association (LAIA), the Latin American Parliament, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), the Andean Community. Altogether, more than twenty representatives of international bodies took part as observers.
At the conclusion of the summit, Mexican President Calderón indicated that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States was a provisional name that might change at future meetings. "We have decided to create an organization CELC that includes all the organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean. We have decided to base an organization on shared values including sovereignty, opposition to the use of force including threats of force, international cooperation, ever closer integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and permanent political dialogue," he said.
Leaders Emphasize Significance of CELC
In his closing speech to the summit, Cuban President Raúl Castro began with a fraternal message from the Cuban people to Mexico, a country that gave shelter to many Latin Americans, including the pioneers of the Cuban Revolution. Castro emphasized the historical significance of the creation of such a mechanism, pointing out that to be an independent nation is an indispensable requirement to join this body, which will be characterized by the respect for cultural diversity and for the different geographic and economic dimensions, the political system adopted by each country, the disparity in natural resources and differences in social development. The next summit in Caracas will be a great opportunity to conclude the work to make the organization operational and Cuba will work hard to ensure this takes place, he said.
President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, also pointed out the historic significance of the decision to create a new regional integration bloc without the presence of the United States. "Wherever the United States is present, democracy is not guaranteed, peace with social equality is not guaranteed," he said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated that "The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean are trying to retake the path of our own republics, we are taking the path taken by Simon Bolivar." He welcomed the summit's unanimous decision to give his country "the great task of starting to organize the [next] summit in July, 2011." He expressed his hope that next year in Caracas it will be possible to approve the basic principles of the organization, the community, the unity of states or republics, which has begun to be born. "We expect that in a year, with hard work, the articles of incorporation and basis of the organization can be approved. Whether it is in Caracas, next year, or in Santiago, two years later, it does not matter. What matters most is a good start to what is developing," Chávez stated.
President of Brazil Luiz "Lula" Da Silva said: "It is important to remember that this Summit does not represent a minor historic deed. I would rather say that it is a historic event of large dimensions. [... We are affirming] our personality as a region that has decided to create a Community of Latin American and Caribbean countries [...] We are discovering ourselves as a region, from the smallest island to the largest country." President Da Silva pointed out that it is necessary to consolidate regional integration in order to achieve real development in the individual countries. "We have progressed in an extraordinary way, because we are consolidating democracy as ever with this meeting," he added.
As part of the summit's proceedings, President Calderón handed over the pro tempore secretariat of the Rio Group to Chile, which will coordinate the regional mechanism until 2012. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, in accepting the post, affirmed Chile's commitment to build regional unity and solidarity. On the creation of the new regional body, Bachelet declared countries have the task of consolidating the integration into a fundamental political forum. She pointed out that countries in the region are at a crucial juncture in which the socio-political development of the peoples is a challenge for governments. In her acceptance speech, President Bachelet told those assembled that Chile was taking on the task of Rio Group secretariat at a time that marks a watershed in world history. "The international community has abandoned the idea of laissez faire, the idea that the market can completely regulate itself," Bachelet said. "In the words of Mexican poet Octavio Paz, the market has no mercy and no conscience."
The summit approved two main declarations, the Declaration of Cancun, and the Declaration of the Unity Summit, which establish the main programmatic commitments to political and economic coordination and cooperation.
In addition, several other special documents were passed on the following concerns: migratory cooperation, solidarity with Haiti, a declaration on the Malvinas issue backing Argentina's legitimate rights in its dispute with Britain, a resolution against the economic, trade and financial blockade the U.S. government has maintained against Cuba for almost 50 years, as well as a declaration congratulating Guatemala for the outcome of investigations by the International Commission against Impunity. Likewise, the meeting passed a resolution supporting Ecuador's commitment not to exploit 846 million barrels of oil that lie under the subsoil of Yasuní National Park. Yet another document expresses solidarity with Ecuador after the Financial Action Task Force, a tool of the U.S. and Group of 8 imperialist powers, included Ecuador on the list of countries that have failed to adequately address money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Such designations are used to punish and further embroil states in the imperialist financial system. Also on the agenda was a discussion of the status of Honduras within the Rio Group and its successor organization because of the illegitimacy of the current Porfirio Lobo regime put in place by the U.S.-backed coup d’etat that forcibly removed elected President Manuel Zelaya from office.
Firm Commitment to Rebuilding Haiti in Respect of Its Sovereignty
In his speech to open the summit, President Calderón described the work to rebuild Haiti as the "cause of all Latin America and the Caribbean." He thanked President Préval of Haiti (a Rio Group and CARICOM member) for taking time to come to the conference when there are so many urgent needs in his nation.
On Sunday, Mexico hosted a summit with CARICOM leaders where Préval expressed his thanks to member nations for their support. He reported that the death toll from the quake may reach 300,000 and that with the rainy season on the way, shelter for the nation's 1.5 million homeless was Haiti's highest priority.
President Bachelet, in accepting the secretariat of the Rio Group remarked, "We are all working to face the difficult situation that is taking place in one of our member nations, Haiti."
President Da Silva called for strengthened solidarity and concrete support for Haiti, noting that even before the earthquake it was already facing huge structural problems.
Cuban President Raúl Castro declared that the rebuilding of Haiti requires and merits long-term international aid of great magnitude and that help should be unselfish, with complete respect for the country's sovereignty and to its government and carried out under UN authority.
He cited the example of Cuba's solidarity, which has collaborated for more than a decade in Haiti, during which time its doctors have carried out 14 million consultations, 200,000 surgeries, 100,000 births and 45,000 eye operations.
President Castro pointed out that President Hugo Chávez, with his particular sensitivity and generosity, as well as Cuba and other countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas, plan to maintain and increase their efforts.
Presidents Calderón and Chávez each said the grouping had committed new funds to Haiti. Calderón noted that Haiti would get $25 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Corporation, while Chávez said that the island nation would receive $30 million directly from members.
U.S. Blockade of Cuba Denounced
President Castro expressed Cuba's appreciation for the approval of the special document demanding the end to the unjust U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, as well as the solidarity towards his country expressed at the summit. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez who was part of Cuba's delegation said, "There is a unanimous position of all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean condemning the U.S. blockade against Cuba and they urge the U.S. Government to immediately lift it."
In his closing remarks, President Da Silva also criticized the U.S. blockade against Cuba and expressed optimism for its prompt end, as demanded by the international community.
Support for Argentine Claim over Malvinas
On the first day of the proceedings, participants in the Unity Summit gave their support to Argentina's claim of sovereignty over the Malvinas (also known as the Falkland Islands) and rejected the exploitation of oil resources in the area by Britain. "There continues to be systematic violation of international law that should be respected by all countries," said Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, addressing the plenary of the summit. "On behalf of our government and my people I express thanks for the support this meeting has given for our claims."
Fernandez added her country will continue its efforts to make Britain observe all the resolutions reaffirming Argentina's sovereignty over the southern archipelago that was forcibly taken from the South American country in 1833. She pointed out that the deployment in the Malvinas of the Ocean Guardian, an oil drilling platform belonging to the British firm Desire Petroleum, "is a violation of all of the United Nation's previous dispositions."
Several speakers in the first session expressed their solidarity with the South American country regarding the unilateral decision of Britain to engage in oil prospecting in the area. "That is one of the clearest demonstrations of neocolonialism," said President Chávez. President of Bolivia Evo Morales also spoke out in support of Argentina's just claim.
President Da Silva of Brazil also underscored that it was necessary to demand that the United Nations reopen the debate over the Malvinas. He urged the United Nations to undertake its mandate in a democratic manner and take an appropriate decision on the Malvinas, which "are and have to be Argentinian."
Exclusion of Coup Government of Honduras
Regarding the absence of the coup government of Honduras at the Summit, President Da Silva stressed that the country was not invited because it does not have a legitimate representative.
"Honduras is not here, and will not be, for a simple reason, because even if Hondurans went to elections, they were called by cutting short the presidency of a man [President Zelaya] who was democratically elected. We cannot accept that those experiences of military juntas in Honduras prevail in other Latin American and Caribbean countries," the President of Brazil emphasized.
The National Front of Popular Resistance to the Coup in Honduras on February 19 issued a communique addressed to the summit denouncing the current government and calling for continued solidarity to the resistance movement (see below).
(Prensa Latina, Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, Xinhua, Mercopress, TML Daily)
To the State and Government representatives who comprise the Permanent Organization for Consultation and Political Coordination meeting in Cancun, Mexico in the context of the Twenty-third Summit of the Rio Group, we declare:
Honduras continues to live under a de facto regime, installed and supported by force of arms since June 28, 2009 to date, a period during which the Honduran people have been subject to constant human rights violations.
In a vain attempt to mask the illegitimacy and illegality of the actual regime, the faces of the figures that administer the state are being changed. But they are not succeeding in fooling anybody because it is public knowledge that these people obey the same powerful groups that are ordering the repression and assassinations and preventing the development of a true democracy.
The electoral process, with which the new ombudsmen of the dictatorship attempt to validate themselves, was clearly illegal, having been organized and administered by the authorities complying with the coup d'etat, who prevented the free participation of the opposition and ignored the predominating atmosphere of terror. For these reasons no credible institution, government or regional integration organization sent observers to the process.
The illegitimacy of the process was reinforced by the abstention of the vast majority of the Honduran population from voting and consequently the results are unknown. It is no accident that the people are continuing their non-violent struggle to defeat the current totalitarian regime and return to democratic order.
The human rights situation is desperate and is deteriorating. More assassinations, hostage-takings and persecution against the people organized in the Popular Resistance have been registered — particularly since those charged with directing the State security organs announced a military offensive to put an end to the opposition to the regime.
Various sectors of the international community, friendly governments, social organizations and defenders of human rights have expressed their refusal to recognize the current regime.
For these reasons:
a. We call on the representatives of the government and State members of the Rio Group to maintain your position of refusal to recognize the Honduran dictatorship as long as the democratic constitutional order is not re-established and the violations of human rights are not ended.
b. We will continue our struggle regardless of the acts of terror committed by the State controlled by the coup.
c. We thank the friendly governments and social organizations for your concern about the serious situation our country is going through and for your acts of solidarity to overcome the crisis.
The Second National Meeting for the Refounding of Honduras took place from March 12-15 in the northwestern city of La Esperanza, Honduras under the theme "Installing the First National People's Democratic Constituent Assembly." The meeting was called by the member organizations of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) and other popular democratic groups. More than 800 activists from grassroots organizations participated, along with international delegates. They discussed their current conditions and planned for the upcoming Popular and Inclusive National Constituent Assembly on June 28, 2010. The date marks one year since the U.S.-backed coup d’etat that forced elected President Manuel Zelaya into exile.
The call for the meeting states, "Honduras summons us again, we are called to raise our voices and defend our ideas — the most just, the purest, the most diverse — each and everyone one of us. As before, we are called on to meet the struggles facing us and those yet to come: direct and participatory democracy, sovereignty, self-determination, justice, freedom and dignity."
The meeting addressed the "construction of popular power and its exercise, water for all, respect for lands and territories, the value of the ancient cultures, the wisdom of biodiversity, the common good arising from fundamental rights, a life full of dignity for women, recognition of the rebellious force of youth and their contributions and proposals, the secularity of the political exercise," and the well-being of children.
It called on participants to "continue the thread of our rebellion, rethink our proposals and share and create ways to achieve them. To redefine ourselves is a transformative path that leads to ending the forms of domination that plunder, exploit and oppress."
The first such meeting took place in June 2009, just prior to a vote in which the people were to be consulted on the possibility of a referendum on a constituent assembly. The June 28, 2009 military coup was staged precisely to block the vote and the people's empowerment.
The FNRP has waged daily struggles since the coup. These include a recent demonstration March 25 where thousands marched in the capital demanding an end to the increasing repression. They opposed the implementation of neoliberal policies now taking place, further impoverishing the people. Marchers left from the National Teaching University and, after marching through various streets, ended their demonstration with a political event outside the Autonomous National University.
National Front of Popular Resistance, Communique No. 51, March 4, 2010
On March 4 the National Front of Popular Resistance announced the completion of its national consultation to call an Inclusive Constituent Assembly on June 28, 2010 the first anniversary of the military coup. The communique follows:
The National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) communicates to the Honduran people and the international community:
1. We announce the completion of a national consultation to call a Popular and Inclusive National Constituent Assembly. The call is for June 28, 2010, marking one year of the coup and representing the urgent will of the people to build real democracy and transform the system of injustice and repression installed by the oligarchy.
2. We condemn the interference of the United States government in the internal affairs of our country, conducted through its ambassador, which in a vulgar manner tries to give legitimacy to the de facto regime through a false national dialogue that ignores the population's overwhelming rejection of the dictatorship.
3. We alert human rights organizations and the international community of the plight of our brothers and sisters of the Unified Movement of Peasants of Aguan (MUCA), against which a media campaign is being conducted to discredit their just political struggle for the right to work.
We hold [oligarch] Miguel Facussé Barjum and the de facto regime of Porfirio Lobo responsible for any act of violence that is unleashed against the farming community.
We also denounce the media of the oligarchy, especially the newspapers La Prensa and El Heraldo, owned by Jorge Canahuati Larach, and Televicentro Corporation television stations, owned by Rafael Ferrari, which claim to show working families and popular leaders as terrorists.
4. The FNRP reiterates its rejection of the offensive undertaken by the de facto regime against the working class and its representatives. We demand respect for our colleagues in the Union of Workers of the National Autonomous University of Honduras.
5. We convene the Second Meeting for the Refounding of Honduras to be held in the city of La Esperanza, from March 12-14. The event will continue the activities to design and carry out the National Constituent Assembly.
¡Resistimos y Venceremos! (We Will Resist and We Will Win!)
"We All Have a Responsibility to Save Humanity"
More than 10,000 people attended a public rally to welcome the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales to Mexico. Invitations to the "Meeting with Bolivia" at the end of February were sent far and wide by the Bolivian Embassy to Mexico, the government of Mexico City, the City of Coyoacan and Bolivian solidarity committees in several Mexican states.
The purpose of the event was to facilitate a meeting between President Evo Morales and Mexican social movements, indigenous organizations, solidarity committees, workers, unions, academics and the left. While waiting for President Morales to arrive, thousands of participants attended a lively cultural program in which several aboriginal dance troops and Bolivian and Mexican musicians reflected the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia and Mexico against Spanish and U.S. domination.
Several prominent figures of Mexican politics took the floor to welcome President Morales, each highlighting the importance of his recent election as Bolivia's first indigenous president. They pointed out that a key significance of Morales' presidency is its mandate to listen to and serve the interests of the indigenous nations of Bolivia, and its importance to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the anti-imperialist movement and for all indigenous peoples of the world.
Addressing the crowd, President Morales began by responding to representatives of the indigenous peoples in terms of what he thought they could do so as to be heard by those who hold power in Mexico. He answered: "Organizing yourselves and uniting. We have the experience of first waging struggle in the social movement, the indigenous movement and then the unions, and we finally had to recognize that it wasn't enough. Without holding the power in our own hands, our rights would not be respected. We then decided to enter the electoral struggle and take political power." He stressed that it was not easy and that from 1995 to his first election in 2005, he was the victim of a smear campaign and attempts at humiliation. He was accused of being a drug trafficker, a terrorist, a communist, ignorant and illiterate to the point where the evening following his appointment by indigenous organizations as their presidential candidate in 2002, he wondered how such an individual could be elected president.
The following day they began their campaign by allying with the communists, the socialists, the workers, the social movements and all the democratic forces in the country. Then he said that, yes, Bolivia was liberated and he would speak in defense of indigenous nations, of Mother Earth and for the liberation of the world from U.S. imperialism. He emphasized that we all have the responsibility to save humanity, and we must immediately organize ourselves and unite.
Speaking about the achievements of his government, he said that what he learned in the first four years was to listen and then listen some more to the demands and preoccupations of the various sections of the people, the indigenous people, the workers, the intellectuals and academics, the healthcare workers and correspondingly take the necessary measures to serve their interests. This is why, he said, "We were not afraid to nationalize the oil and gas reserves, we were not afraid to reclaim our silver mines and thus realize a budgetary surplus in the first year of power," ending more than 66 years of continuous deficits. Addressing the economic question he highlighted that the people can expect nothing good from the capitalist system, that the rights to education, healthcare, the basic elements for well-being cannot be achieved under capitalism, that the system was the cause of their rebellion to achieve their well-being and that is why his government is engaging in what he calls developing community socialism.
He continued by pointing out the necessity to oust the U.S. imperialists from Latin America in order for the peoples to live without the threat of U.S. aggression and interference and that of their institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Bolivia is operating without these institutions and life has improved and everyone must do the same, he said. Coups, like the one in Honduras, and threats they pose against progressive Latin American governments must be blocked. He saluted the Cuban people and Fidel Castro for their courage and determination in defending Cuba's right to sovereignty and persevering with the Cuban Revolution against the U.S. blockade. He also paid tribute to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and all other leaders of progressive governments recently elected in Latin America. He concluded by saluting the progressive and revolutionary forces in Mexico and uplifted the crowd by saying "Soon Mexico will be free!"