The second south - American Summit - América Latina en Movimiento
ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento

2002-08-12

The second south - American Summit

Isaac Bigio


On July 26, 1822, liberators José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar met in Guayaquil to coordinate the struggle against Spanish colonialism. There, the former opened the door for the latter to reach Lower and Higher Peru and eventually name the second region after himself: Bolivia .

Exactly 180 years later, the representatives of the 12 South American republics gathered in the same city. The objective of the conclave was not to agree on measures against any power in the North, but rather to seek ways to cooperate.

The leaders of Brazil and Ecuador (where the first South-American Summit was held in 2000 and the second is held this year) stated that their objectives were not to reject the processes for global integration but to pressure the North to open its markets and engage in true integration.

Ecuador , the site of the second conclave, has dollarized its economy. This subcontinent has applied different monetary formulas contemplated in Washington circles. In South America , there are liberal democracies that have opened their economies to the market and to international investors and have agreed to enter the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas within three years.

However, some presidents have expressed their dissatisfaction with aspects of the old neoliberal model that has been applied in the region. Ecuador questioned the protectionism of the more industrialized nations, which keep the products from poor countries from entering their markets and immobilize the poor countries by those means. The Ecuadorean foreign minister denounced protectionism as "terrorism against the poor."

One serious problem in this subcontinent is the increase in poverty, unemployment and emigration. Sixty percent of the population live in poverty. More than 10 percent of all Ecuadoreans and Colombians have found it necessary to work abroad. The delegation of the host country stated that if the bananas the country grew were given duty-free access to the markets in the North, Ecuador 's economy would improve and the flow of emigrants would decrease. The signatories of the Agreement on Trade Preferences of the Andes (ATPA) demanded that the United States lower its tariffs to zero.

Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo asked for a Financial Solidarity Fund, although the Uruguayan delegation maintained that the subcontinent would have no resources to create it. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proposed a kind of International Monetary Fund of poor countries: an International Humanitarian Fund that would finance enterprises of development on the basis of a percentage of the foreign debt. He also suggested the creation of Petroamérica, a super-corporation of the various oil companies of the subcontinent to compete with the various multinational corporations.

The Brazilian chief of state, Fernando Cardoso, has sought to accelerate the integration between the two major economic blocs in South America : Mercosur and the Andean Community. Both should begin to blend and, in that process, attract Chile , Guyana and Surinam so they could join the FTAA or enter globalization as a South-American market capable of negotiating in better conditions. By coincidence, the meeting held 180 years ago in Guayaquil was between the liberator who was born in what today is the Mercosur and the liberator who gave the five Andean Community nations their independence.

The summit has reflected certain changes in the region. Argentina , which was one of the main military allies of the U.S. and chief advocate of the policies proposed by the IMF, is going through its worst economic crisis, a crisis that is also affecting Brazil and other nations. Brazil has tried to distance itself from the monetary orthodoxy and it is likely that, within a few weeks, the Workers Party will win the presidential elections. In Venezuela , Chávez managed to defeat a coup d'état. In Bolivia , the parties that question the neoliberal system have just had a major success at the polls.

However, this was not an "anti-imperialist" summit. No denunciation of the U.S. or the FTAA was passed. No calls were made to end the blockade against Cuba or to stop paying the foreign debt. The European powers were not urged to withdraw from their colonies in the Antilles , French Guiana or the Falkland Islands .

Unlike the Madrid summit of European, Caribbean and Latin American presidents, no declaration against terrorism was passed, but all the chiefs of state decried the actions of the Colombian guerrillas. Quiroga, about to leave the Bolivian presidency, said that foreign intervention in Colombia was possible if Bogota requested it.

Outside the summit site, street demonstrations led to arrests. The protest focused on the FTAA, the IMF, the privatizations and globalization and the demonstrators asked for self-determination for the indigenous nationalities and the restitution of social rights.

The summit approved "The Guayaquil Consensus," which is based on three documents. One deals with Integration, Security and Infrastructure for Development. Another declares a South American Peace Zone, where the production or trading of weapons of mass destruction is forbidden. The third is a declaration concerning the World Summit on Sustained Development. In addition, an Andean human- rights charter and an accord on Amazonian cooperation were introduced.

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Isaac Bigio is an international analyst. A graduate of the London School of Economics. He writes for numerous newspapers in Latin America and Europe.

BOLIVIA: THE RISE OF THE PEASANT LEFT By Isaac Bigio ALAI/ América Latina en Movimiento

The media agree when they point out that in the Bolivian elections of June 30 the surprise candidate was coca farmers' leader Evo Morales. He gained 18 to 19 percent of the votes and ended 4 points behind the winner, Goni Sánchez de Losada. His party, Movement to Socialism (MAS), would occupy second place in the Senate and maybe also in Parliament.

Morales benefited from the fact that, days before the election, United States Ambassador Manuel Rocha threatened Bolivia with cutting U.S. aid if MAS rose to positions of power. Morales emerged as a caudillo dedicated to the defense of the nation's sovereignty.

In Bolivia, the production of coca has been very important for the survival of tens of thousands of families, including the families of many laid-off workers who migrated from the mines and cities to coca- producing valleys like the Chapare. Cocaine has become the nation's main export product, although the successive governments have chosen to eradicate crops if they can benefit from financial aid from the U.S.

To producers of coca, the leaves of that plant contain nutritional and medicinal substances. The plant also has a sacred value, because it has been cultivated since before the Inca period. To Andeans, chewing coca leaves is as common a social event as going to a tavern to drink and chat is to many Europeans. Just like potatoes or barley are foodstuffs that can serve as a source of alcohol, coca is a leaf that causes no harm. Processed coca is the source of many legal products, from toothpaste to wine to ointments to a tea that relieves altitude sickness. Then there's cocaine.

For more than a decade, Cochabamba has been a center where farmers constantly stage marches, road blocks and face-offs with military units and specialized police. Morales has become a spokesman for the defense of cocaine, as part of the defense of Bolivia from the United States. He has been expelled from Parliament for inciting to violence.

To the U.S. State Department, the eradication of coca crops is fundamental because the idea is to weaken drug trafficking, which is so harmful to the American population. Coca farmers see themselves as the first and poorest link of the chain. They ask the authorities that, instead of targeting them, they strike at the big intermediaries and dealers, including those who operate in the U.S. Bolivian trade unions ask for the industrialization of coca as the best way to end the illegal traffic in narcotics. Chicago economist Milton Friedman believes the legalization of the production and the commercialization of cocaine would help to control the problem, as in the cases of alcohol and tobacco.

Another peasant candidacy that advanced in the recent election was that of Felipe Quispe, who led the Red Offensive and the Túpak Katari Guerrilla Army in the 1980s. His vision then was that of a violent socialist revolution based on the ayllus (Andean communities) and his speeches combined a Marxist, anti-Stalinist language with Quechua and Aymará nationalism. At one point, he tried to link his movement to the Peruvian Shining Path. With the passing of time, Quispe distanced himself from his old Marxist positions and has moved to the center, seeking to vindicate the idea of an Indian Bolivia, as opposed to a nation dominated by the white élite.

The combined votes gained by both peasant candidates exceed the vote gained by Sánchez de Lozada of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario. The Bolivian left, which was alienated at the polls after the labor unions failed to replace Hernán Siles Zuazo in 1985, could be regaining its health. However, its social base and discourse are changing.

Between the 1930s and the 1980s, Bolivia's Marxist left held sway over the labor unions, especially the mine workers unions. The Bolivian Workers Central became the most powerful union in the Americas, able to neutralize many coups d'état and becoming a sort of parallel state, particularly in 1952, 1970-71 and 1985.

With the widespread shutdowns of mines and factories and with the blows suffered by the labor unions, the role of the peasant organizations continued to grow. To orthodox Marxism, this would imply that the proletariat is losing its hegemonic position and is being displaced by a small peasant bourgeoisie that will be inconsistent in its struggle toward socialism and will end up sharing government with the dominant class. Those who support the new peasant movements now see a new left that becomes more Bolivian and waves agrarian and Indian flags that the traditional left underestimated. The growth of Indian and peasant movements in Bolivia will energize their counterparts in Ecuador and will have repercussions in Peru.

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