Latin American Unity

VII Social Summit for Latin American and Caribbean Unity
By Noam Chomsky


During the past decade, Latin America has become the most exciting region of the world. The dynamic has very largely flowed from right where you are meeting, in Caracas, with the election of a leftist president dedicated to using Venezuela’s rich resources for the benefit of the population rather than for wealth and privilege at home and abroad, and to promote the regional integration that is so desperately needed as a prerequisite for independence, for democracy, and for meaningful development. The initiatives taken in Venezuela have had a significant impact throughout the subcontinent, what has now come to be called “the pink tide.” The impact is revealed within the individual countries, most recently Paraguay, and in the regional institutions that are in the process of formation. Among these are the Banco del Sur, an initiative that was endorsed here in Caracas a year ago by Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz; and the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, which might prove to be a true dawn if its initial promise can be realized.

The ALBA is often described as an alternative to the US-sponsored “Free Trade Area of the Americas,” though the terms are misleading. It should be understood to be an independent development, not an alternative. And, furthermore, the so-called “free trade agreements” have only a limited relation to free trade, or even to trade in any serious sense of that term; and they are certainly not agreements, at least if people are part of their countries. A more accurate term would be “investor-rights arrangements,” designed by multinational corporations and banks and the powerful states that cater to their interests, established mostly in secret, without public participation or awareness. That is why the US executive regularly calls for “fast-track authority” for these agreements – essentially, Kremlin-style authority.

Another regional organization that is beginning to take shape is UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. This continental bloc, modeled on the European Union, aims to establish a South American parliament in Cochabamba, a fitting site for the UNASUR parliament. Cochabamba was not well known internationally before the water wars of 2000. But in that year events in Cochabamba became an inspiration for people throughout the world who are concerned with freedom and justice, as a result of the courageous and successful struggle against privatization of water, which awakened international solidarity and was a fine and encouraging demonstration of what can be achieved by committed activism.

The aftermath has been even more remarkable. Inspired in part by developments in Venezuela, Bolivia has forged an impressive path to true democratization in the hemisphere, with large-scale popular initiatives and meaningful participation of the organized majority of the population in establishing a government and shaping its programs on issues of great importance and popular concern, an ideal that is rarely approached elsewhere, surely not in the Colossus of the North, despite much inflated rhetoric by doctrinal managers.

Much the same had been true 15 years earlier in Haiti, the only country in the hemisphere that surpasses Bolivia in poverty – and like Bolivia, was the source of much of the wealth of Europe, later the United States. In 1990, Haiti’s first free election took place. It was taken for granted in the West that the US candidate, a former World Bank official who monopolized resources, would easily win. No one was paying attention to the extensive grass-roots organizing in the slums and hills, which swept into power the populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Washington turned at once to undermining the feared and hated democratic government. It took only a few months for a US-backed military coup to reverse this stunning victory for democracy, and to place in power a regime that terrorized the population with the direct support of the US government, first under president Bush I, then Clinton. Washington finally permitted the elected president to return, but only on the condition that he adhere to harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did. And in 2004, the traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the US, joined to remove the elected president from office once again, launching a new regime of terror, though the people remain unvanquished, and the popular struggle continues despite extreme adversity.

All of this is familiar in Latin America, not least in Bolivia, the scene of today’s most intense and dangerous confrontation between popular democracy and traditional US-backed elites. Archaeologists are now discovering that before the European conquest, Bolivia had a wealthy, sophisticated and complex society – to quote their words, “one of the largest, strangest, and most ecologically rich artificial environments on the face of the planet, with causeways and canals, spacious and formal towns and considerable wealth,” creating a landscape that was “one of humankind’s greatest works of art, a masterpiece.” And of course Bolivia’s vast mineral wealth enriched Spain and indirectly northern Europe, contributing massively to its economic and cultural development, including the industrial and scientific revolutions.  Then followed a bitter history of imperial savagery with the crucial connivance of rapacious domestic elites, factors that are very much alive today.

Sixty years ago, US planners regarded Bolivia and Guatemala as the greatest threats to its domination of the hemisphere. In both cases, Washington succeeded in overthrowing the popular governments, but in different ways. In Guatemala, Washington resorted to the standard technique of violence, installing one of the world’s most brutal and vicious regimes, which extended its criminality to virtual genocide in the highlands during Reagan’s murderous terrorist wars of the 1980s – and we might bear in mind that these horrendous atrocities were carried out under the guise of a “war on terror,” a war that was re-declared by George Bush in September 2001, not declared, a revealing distinction when we recall the implementation of Reagan’s “war on terror” and its grim human consequences.

In Guatemala, the Eisenhower administration overcame the threat of democracy and independent development by violence.   In Bolivia, it achieved much the same results by exploiting Bolivia’s economic dependence on the US, particularly for processing Bolivia’s tin exports. Latin America scholar Stephen Zunes points out that “At a critical point in the nation’s effort to become more self-sufficient [in the early 1950s], the U.S. government forced Bolivia to use its scarce capital not for its own development, but to compensate the former mine owners and repay its foreign debts.”

The economic policies forced on Bolivia in those years were a precursor of the structural adjustment programs imposed on the continent thirty years later, under the terms of the neoliberal “Washington consensus,” which has generally had disastrous effects wherever its strictures have been observed. By now, the victims of neoliberal market fundamentalism are coming to include the rich countries, where the curse of financial liberalization is bringing about the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and leading to massive state intervention in a desperate effort to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

We should note that this is a regular feature of contemporary state capitalism, though the scale today is unprecedented. A study by two well-known international economists 15 years ago found that at least twenty companies in the top Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments “socialise their losses.” Such government intervention “has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries,” they conclude from a detailed analysis. [Ruigrok and von Tulder]

We might also take note of the striking similarity between the structural adjustment programs imposed on the weak by the International Monetary Fund, and the huge financial bailout that is on the front pages today in the North. The US executive-director of the IMF, adopt  ing an image from the Mafia, described the institution as “the credit community’s enforcer.”  Under the rules of the Western-run international economy, investors make loans to third world tyrannies, and since the loans carry considerable risk, make enormous profits.   Suppose the borrower defaults. In a capitalist economy, the lenders would incur the loss. But really existing capitalism functions quite differently. If the borrowers cannot pay the debts, then the IMF steps in to guarantee that lenders and investors are protected. The debt is transferred to the poor population of the debtor country, who never borrowed the money in the first place and gained little if anything from it. That is called “structural adjustment.” And taxpayers in the rich country, who also gained nothing from the loans, sustain the IMF through their taxes. These doctrines do not derive from economic theory; they merely reflect the distribution of decision-making power.

The designers of the international economy sternly demand that the poor accept market discipline, but they ensure that they themselves are protected from its ravages, a useful arrangement that goes back to the origins of modern industrial capitalism, and played a large role in dividing the world into rich and poor societies, the first and third worlds.

This wonderful anti-market system designed by self-proclaimed market enthusiasts is now being implemented in the United States, to deal with the very ominous crisis of financial markets. In general, markets have well-known inefficiencies. One is that transactions do not take into account the effect on others who are not party to the transaction. These so-called “externalities” can be huge. That is particularly so in the case of financial institutions. Their task is to take risks, and if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. To themselves. Under capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do. In economists’ terms, risk is underpriced, because systemic risk is not priced into decisions. That leads to repeated crisis, naturally. At that point, we turn to the IMF solution. The costs are transferred to the public, which had nothing to do with the risky choices but is now compelled to pay the costs – in the US, perhaps mounting to about $1 trillion right now.   And of course the public has no voice in determining these outcomes, any more than poor peasants have a voice in being subjected to cruel structural adjustment programs.

A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that cost and risk are socialized, while profit is privatized. That principle extends far beyond financial institutions. Much the same is true for the entire advanced economy, which relies extensively on the dynamic state sector for innovation, for basic research and development, for procurement when purchasers are unavailable, for direct bail-outs, and in numerous other ways. These mechanisms are the domestic counterpart of imperial and neocolonial hegemony, formalized in World Trade Organization rules and the misleadingly named “free trade agreements.”

Financial liberalization has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy Free capital movement creates what some international economists have called a “virtual parliament” of investors and lenders, who can closely monitor government programs and “vote” against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power. They can “vote” by capital flight, attacks on currencies, and other devices offered by financial liberalization. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the US and UK after World War II instituted capital controls and regulated currencies. The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, taking many forms, from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organization. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will – for some measure of democracy, that is. John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement. In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, the US Treasury now regards free capital mobility as a “fundamental right,” unlike such alleged “rights” as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security, and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as “letters to Santa Claus,” “preposterous,” mere “myths.”

In earlier years the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system.   He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been “politicized by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labor parties.” Therefore the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population. But with the radicalization of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, “limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures.” It is only necessary to add the obvious corollary: with the dismantling of the system from the 1970s, functioning democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalize the public in some fashion, processes that are particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the Public Relations industry is one illustration.

The primary victims of military terror and economic strangulation are the poor and weak, within the rich countries themselves and far more brutally in the South. But times are changing. In Venezuela, in Bolivia, and elsewhere there are promising efforts to bring about desperately needed structural and institutional changes. And not surprisingly, these efforts to promote democracy, social justice, and cultural rights are facing harsh challenges from the traditional rulers, at home and internationally.

For the first time in half a millennium, South America is beginning to take its fate into its own hands. There have been attempts before, but they have been crushed by outside force, as in the cases I just mentioned and other hideous ones too numerous and too familiar to review. But there are now significant departures from a long and shameful history. The departures are symbolized by the UNASUR crisis summit in Santiago just a few days ago. At the summit, the presidents of the South American countries issued a strong statement of support for the elected Morales government, which as you know is under attack by the traditional rulers: privileged Europeanized elites who bitterly oppose Bolivian democracy and social justice and, routinely, enjoy the firm backing of the master of the hemisphere. The South American leaders gathering at the UNASUR summit in Santiago declared “their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority” — referring, of course, to his overwhelming victory in the recent referendum. Morales thanked UNASUR for its support, observing that “For the first time in South America’s history, the countries of our region are deciding how to resolve our problems, without the presence of the United States.”

A matter of no slight significance.

The significance of the UNASUR support for democracy in Bolivia is underscored by the fact that the leading media in the US refused to report it, though editors and correspondents surely knew all about it. Ample information was available to them on wire services.

That has been a familiar pattern. To cite just one of many examples, the Cochabamba declaration of South American leaders in December 2006, calling for moves towards integration on the model of the European Union, was barred from the Free Press in the traditional ruler of the hemisphere. There are many other cases, all illustrating the same fear among the political class and economic centers in the US that the hemisphere is slipping from their control.

Current developments in South America are of historic significance for the continent and its people. It is well understood in Washington that these developments threaten not only its domination of the hemisphere, but also its global dominance. Control of Latin America was the earliest goal of US foreign policy, tracing back to the earliest days of the Republic. The United States is, I suppose, the only country that was founded as a “nascent empire,” in George Washington’s words. The most libertarian of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, predicted that the newly liberated colonies would drive the indigenous population “with the beasts of the forests into the Stony Mountains,” and the country will ultimately be “free of blot or mixture,” red or black (with the return of slaves to Africa after eventual ending of slavery). And furthermore, it “will be the nest, from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled,” displacing not only the red men but the Latin population of the South.

These aspirations were not achieved, but control of Latin America remains a central policy goal, partly for resources and markets, but also for broader ideological and geostrategic reasons. If the US cannot control Latin America, it cannot expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world,” Nixon’s National Security Council concluded in 1971 while considering the paramount importance of destroying Chilean democracy.   Historian David Schmitz observes that Allende “threatened American global interests by challenging the whole ideological basis of American Cold War policy.  It was the threat of a successful socialist state in Chile that could provide a model for other nations that caused concern and led to American opposition,” in fact direct participation in establishing and maintaining the terrorist dictatorship. Henry Kissinger warned that success for democratic socialism in Chile might have reverberations as far as southern Europe – not because Chilean hordes would descend on Madrid and Rome, but because success might inspire popular movements to achieve their goals by means of parliamentary democracy, which is upheld as an abstract value in the West, but with crucial reservations.

Even mainstream scholarship recognizes that Washington has supported democracy if and only if it contributes to strategic and economic interests, a policy that continues without change through all administrations, to the present.

These pervasive concerns are the rational form of the domino theory, sometimes more accurately called “the threat of a good example.” For such reasons, even the tiniest departure from strict obedience is regarded as an existential threat that calls for a harsh response: peasant organizing in remote communities of northern Laos, fishing cooperatives in Grenada, and so on throughout the world. It is necessary to ensure that the “virus” of successful independent development does not “spread contagion” elsewhere, in the terminology of the highest level planners.

Such concerns have motivated US military intervention, terrorism, and economic warfare throughout the post-World War II era, in Latin America and throughout much of the world. These are leading features of the Cold War. The superpower confrontation regularly provided pretexts, mostly fraudulent, much as the junior partner in world control appealed to the threat of the West when it crushed popular uprisings in its much narrower Eastern European domains.

But times are changing. In Latin America, the source is primarily in moves towards integration, which has several dimensions. One dimension of integration is regional: moves to strengthen ties among the South American countries of the kind I mentioned. These are now just beginning to reach to Central America, which was so utterly devastated by Reagan’s terror wars that it had mostly stayed on the sidelines since, but is now beginning to move. Of particular significance are recent developments in Honduras, the classic “banana republic” and Washington’s major base for its terrorist wars in the region in the 1980s. Washington’s Ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, was one of the leading terrorist commanders of the period, and accordingly was appointed head of counter-terrorist operations by the Bush administration, a choice eliciting no comment. But here too times are changing. President Zelaya declared that US aid does not “make us vassals” or give Washington the right to humiliate the nation, and has improved ties with Venezuela, joining Petrocaribe, and in July, joining the Alba as well.

Regional integration of the kind that has been slowly proceeding for several years is a crucial prerequisite for independence, making it more difficult for the master of the hemisphere to pick off countries one by one. For that reason it is causing considerable distress in Washington, and is either ignored or regularly distorted in the media and other elite commentary.

A second form of integration is global: the establishment of South-South relations, and the diversification of markets and investment, with China a growing and particularly significant participant in hemispheric affairs. Again, these developments undercut Washington’s ability to control what Secretary of War Henry Stimson called “our little region over here” at the end of World War II, when he was explaining that other regional systems must be dismantled, while our own must be strengthened.


The third and in many ways most vital form of integration is internal. Latin America is notorious for its extreme concentration of wealth and power, and the lack of responsibility of privileged elites for the welfare of the nation. It is instructive to compare Latin America with East Asia. Half a century ago, South Korea was at the level of a poor African country. Today it is an industrial powerhouse. And much the same is true throughout East Asia. The contrast to Latin America is dramatic, particularly so because Latin America has far superior natural advantages. The reasons for the dramatic contrast are not hard to identify. For 30 years Latin America has rigorously observed the rules of the Washington consensus, while East Asia has largely ignored them.  Latin American elites separated themselves from the fate of their countries, while their East Asian counterparts were compelled to assume responsibilities. One measure is capital flight: in Latin America, it is on the scale of the crushing debt, while in South Korea it was so carefully controlled that it could bring the death penalty. More generally, East Asia adopted the modes of development that had enabled the wealthy countries to reach their current state, while Latin America adhered to the market principles that were imposed on the colonies and largely created the third world, blocking development.

Furthermore, needless to say, development of the East Asian style is hardly a model to which Latin America, or any other region, should aspire. The serious problems of developing truly democratic societies, based on popular control of all social, economic, political and cultural institutions, and overturning structures of hierarchy and domination in all aspects of life, are barely even on the horizon, posing formidable and essential tasks for the future.

These are huge problems within Latin America. They are beginning to be addressed, though haltingly, with many internal difficulties.   And they are, of course, arousing bitter antagonism on the part of traditional sectors of power and privilege, again backed by the traditional master of “our little region over here.” The struggle is particularly intense and significant right now in Bolivia, but in fact is constant in one or another form throughout the hemisphere.

The problems of Latin America and the Caribbean have global roots, and have to be addressed by regional and global solidarity along with internal struggle. The growth of the social forums, first in South America, now elsewhere, has been one of the most encouraging steps forward in recent years. These developments may bear the seeds of the first authentic international, heralding an era of true globalization – international integration in the interests of people, not investors and other concentrations of power. You are right at the heart of these dramatic developments, an exciting opportunity, a difficult challenge, a responsibility of historic proportions.

Euromemorandum Group: Democratic transformation of European finance, a full employment regime, and ecological restructoring – Alternatives to finance-driven capitalism

Aug 16 2009
Jason Tockman

The first time Mario Terán faced a doctor from Cuba, he killed him. He heard Che Guevara utter his famous last words: “Shoot, coward; you are only going to kill a man,” and in October of 1967, in a small schoolhouse in rural Bolivia, Sergeant Terán fired a round of bullets into the revolutionary’s body.

Forty years later, Terán walked into a medical clinic staffed by Cuban physicians. Disguising his identity, he requested medical attention. His cataracts were corrected, his sight restored.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Bolivians, Che’s killer is a beneficiary of Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle), the cornerstone of Cuba’s programs of social solidarity in the country. In addition to almost 2,000 Cuban medical personnel in Bolivia, aid from Cuba and Venezuela has funded the opening or expansion of at least 20 hospitals and 11 eye clinics across the country.

The support falls under the rubric of what President Evo Morales calls the “Peoples’ Trade Agreement” (TCP)-also known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) or TCP-ALBA-a regional integration accord signed in April 2006 that seeks to depart from the free trade model. Based upon principles of solidarity, cooperation and complementarity, the agreement recognizes asymmetries between countries and provides the greatest advantages to those with the smallest economies-in this case Bolivia.

What Cuba has, and is uniquely able to deliver under the framework of the TCP-ALBA, is a massive surplus of skilled physicians that the socialist country has been sending abroad since its first medical mission to Algeria in 1963.

Much as they do at sites across Bolivia, Cuban doctors work side-by-side with Bolivian physicians at the San Francisco de Asis Hospital in the rural town of Villa Tunari, nestled in the tropical El Chapare region. A Bolivian administrator explains that the hospital staff is comprised of 68 Cubans integrated with the 72 Bolivians who work there. Of the three surgeons, two are Cuban. The government of Cuba covers all of the expenses of their doctors, and they do not charge for services. One of the Cubans on site proudly asserts that in the span of one year his team had seen more than 30,000 patients, and conducted 400 surgeries.

At a national level, Bolivia’s TCP-ALBA Coordination Team documented that in 2007 Cuban medical personnel had provided services to around three million Bolivians. The following year, a BBC article reported the number of consultations had surged to nine million. Government figures from 2009 indicate that more than 260,000 Bolivians had undergone eye surgeries through Operación Milagro.

But not everyone in Bolivia is thrilled about the Cubans’ presence. Foremost among the critics is the profession’s trade association, the Bolivian Medical College, which claims that the Cuban physicians are unqualified and ignorant of Bolivian customs related to matters of health. Moreover, the College argues that the influx of foreign doctors deprives Bolivians of work.

The proposition of substituting Bolivian for Cuban doctors has resonated with many in the medical community. In an outlying neighborhood of El Alto, a Bolivian doctor, speaking anonymously, expressed that, while he does not oppose the Cuban teams, he shares the sentiment of the Medical College: “This money should go to Bolivian doctors, not to Cubans, we say. There are unemployed Bolivian doctors. They should give the work to them, not to foreigners.”

Many doctors contest the profession’s official narrative, including Cochabamba physician Godofredo Reinicke, once El Chapare’s Human Rights Ombudsman, and now director of the human rights group Puente Investigación y Enlace. Reinicke explains: “The Medical College has rejected the Cubans’ presence because… it lacks the solidarity that it once had with the people; the doctor has become some sort of mercantilist. For me, the presence of [Cuban] doctors in particular is aid of utmost importance. [They are] advancing the theme of solidarity for doctors and common citizens to see how people can work without the necessity of pressure, conditionality or money.”

Nationality aside, few would contest that the Bolivian health care system suffers from insufficient facilities and personnel. According to a 2004 World Bank report, the number of Bolivian medical practitioners per capita was half of the Latin American average, with only 6.6 doctors and 3.4 nurses for every 10,000 people. The Bank estimated that an additional 8,850 health professional and many more health facilities were needed in Bolivia.

“Seventy-seven percent of the population is excluded from health services in some manner,” explained Bolivia’s former Health Minister Dr. Nila Heredia in her 2006 presentation before the World Health Organization. “This reproduces in the field of health those inequalities and injustices of the economic structure.”

Under Bolivia’s system, the country’s elite nets five times more in health care expenditures than those with the lowest incomes. Social security and private health care, which together represent four-fifths of all health care expenditures, are highly regressive. The World Bank found that only around 4% goes to poorest 20% of the population, while almost half is enjoyed by the richest quintile. Rural residents are especially disadvantaged, with many effectively lacking any access to health care services.

While medical solidarity from Cuba, Venezuela and other donor countries has been helpful in confronting Bolivia’s uneven health care landscape, it is not a permanent fix. In the end, Bolivians should be seeing Bolivian doctors, a point implicitly acknowledged by the several thousand scholarships provided to Bolivians to study medicine in Cuba and Venezuela.

The Morales government has also initiated a series of domestic programs to increase health services. A newly announced mother-child subsidy called “Juana Azurduy” provides cash payments to pregnant women and mothers with babies through their second year, so long as they maintain pre- and post-natal checkups. Nutritional and vaccination campaigns have been initiated and expanded to combat malnutrition and diseases such as yellow fever and rubéola (measles). And in an effort to transcend the dominance of the “biomedical” model, the newly approved Constitution (January 2009) guarantees and promotes the use of indigenous medicines and “ancestral knowledge and practices.”

Although these reforms signify important advances, there remain significant structural, budgetary and ideological challenges fundamental to the design of Bolivia’s health care system. Debates over privatized care, unequal access, lack of funds, and the prioritization of biomedical disease treatment over the promotion of health and traditional medicines are by no means unique to Bolivia. Yet they sit uncomfortably at odds with the new Constitution’s promise of “universal, free, equitable, intracultural” access to health care for all Bolivians.

Lifting Bolivia from close to the bottom of the hemisphere’s health indicators will be a difficult task for Morales, much as it was for his predecessors. The initiatives he has implemented to date provide, at best, partial answers. But while Bolivia awaits more durable solutions, the government’s immediate approaches have won accolades from many Bolivians, with the importation of Cuban medical professionals being a particularly popular measure.

“The Cubans are well received by those who have visited them and been attended as patients,” the mayor of a town in El Chapare told me. “I welcome them because they are the support the population needs.”


Source: https://nacla.org/node/6070

From participants in the conference “Regional Integration: A new opportunity to face the crisis”, buy Asunción, Paraguay, July 21-22, 2009

We, representatives of social movements, labour and civil society organisations from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe, who are meeting in Asunción to discuss the vital importance of regional responses to the current global crisis, call upon the heads of state meeting in Asunción for the Mercosur Summit to decisively agree and implement new modalities for developmental cooperation that serves the needs of the peoples of the regions.

Such new modalities must, in the first instance, fundamentally revise the unjust terms of the Itaipu energy agreement signed decades ago between the dictatorship governments of Brazil and Paraguay. Energy is Paraguay’s chief resource which can be used to develop a sustainable economy and thereby improve the lives of its people. The social movements and Government of Paraguay have demanded the sovereign right of the country to 50 percent of the energy from the Itaipu and Yacyreta projects, and revision of the debt from the building of the dam. We see these as fair and just demands.

On the basis of this highly significant case and in order to ensure that such projects, based on imbalanced power relations between neighbouring countries, are not in future replicated anywhere in our respective regions, we strongly urge that region-wide frameworks of equity principles regulating such joint projects and programs must be created through collective negotiations involving all the regional governments . These, in turn, must include active engagements and inputs from organised social and labour forces from throughout the respective regions.

It was in this spirit of cooperation that the conference included the participation of parliamentarians from various countries in these regions, and direct dialogue with government spokespersons. Some of the critical issues that were discussed were:
* The urgent necessity for governments to create regional financial policy instruments such as regional development banks to defend their economies and peoples against the destructive effects of neo-liberal globalized capitalism.
* The recognition that regional integration must be based on solidarity principles and programs of complementarity based on appropriate accommodation to the different sizes, resources and levels of development of participating countries in order to transform the development models towards balanced and equitable production systems between all the countries, localities and peoples.
* In this context, the strategic importance of taking active stands to reverse the coup-de-etat in Honduras and the displacement of a legally elected government by anti-democratic forces which is aimed not only against the Zelaya government but at reversing the progressive trends in the region in order to maintain the capital accumulation system, favouring the interests of transnational corporations from the US and Europe.
* The imperative urgency of creating modalities and means of effective participation by social and labour movements and communities to evolve strategies of regional cooperation from a holistic and sustainable perspective and with true sovereignty of the peoples.

We see this moment as an historical conjuncture for the world when the crisis has exposed the fundamentally unstable functioning and dangerous effects of the global capitalist system. It is also an opportunity to challenge the currently dominant global economic and political regime, and devise people-centered and ecologically sound alternatives. We are confident that the Latin American people and governments will play a significant role in the formulation and evolution of such alternatives together with all the regions and peoples of the world in the interests of our shared planetary home and common future.

Asuncion del Paraguay, 22 July 2009

EuroMemorandum 2008/09


In the second half of 2008 the EU has faced the biggest financial crisis since the end of world war 2, try and at the same time is confronted with the prospect of a serious recession. EU institutions and gov-ernments have been highly active, organising one summit after the other to prevent a breakdown of thefinancial system. But it is questionable whether the huge programmes to bail out and recapitalise thebanks will really help even in the short term, and it is certain that the solutions presented are not sus-tainable in the long run. Meanwhile the growing problems of unemployment, poverty and precarious employment, rising inequality, energy provision, and climate change have been largely crowded out by the desperate attempts to prevent a financial break-down.


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Assembly of Social Movements – 2009: To Change Europe


Monday 1 June 2009

  1. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is holding its Policy Organs meetings and the 13th Summit of Heads of State and Government in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from the 28th May to 8th June 2009 under the theme Consolidating Regional Economic Integration through Value Addition, salve Trade and Food Security.2.
  2. From the 2nd – 4th June 2009 the Council of Ministers will be meeting to deliberate on a number of issues affecting the COMESA region, cure including the current negotiations with the European Union (officially known as the European Community) on concluding Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

We recall that:

3.         The Eastern and Southern Africa Group (ESA) and the European Community (EC) senior officials met in Brussels on 28 April 2009 under the co-chairmanship of H.E Ambassadors S Gunessee and N. Wahab on ESA side as well as P. Thompson, Director, DG Trade on EC side. In their conclusions on the Interim EPAs initialled towards the end of 2007, the officials noted that:

On signature of interim EPA, EC confirmed that provided that an agreement is reached on translation, the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) could be ready for signature around mid-May 2009. ESA confirmed its decision to host the signature in Mauritius and informed that the issue of the date of signature will be considered at the next ESA Council scheduled for the 4th June 2009 in Victoria Falls back to back with COMESA Summit with a view to agreeing on a mutually convenient date as well as its arrangement for the signing ceremony.

We are concerned that:

4.         The ESA countries (as represented by their officials) have confirmed their decision to host the signature of the interim EPAs and that they are already considering discussing the dates of such a ceremony when the outstanding and contentious issues in the interim EPAs have not been addressed and resolved.

5.         The contentious issues arising from the interim EPAs include, inter alia, involve far reaching commitments on tariffs reductions the freezing of export taxes that ESA countries have been using, the requirement that ESA countries should not increase duties on products from the EU beyond what they have been applying (standstill clause), liberalising “substantially all trade”, bilateral safeguards (for infant industry protection)-all these issues are still under negotiations. We take the precautionary principle and reiterate that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

6.         The EC has insisted that the first priority should be the signature of the interim EPA. The EU main interest is in market access which they may achieve in interim EPAs. This limits the scope of focussing on the real issues of interest to ESA countries that need attention before the signature. ESA countries should resist the pressure of rushing to sign the interim EPA when it is clear they will be mortgaging national and public assets to the EC.

We urge ESA countries to recognise that:

7.         Africa remains a marginal player in world trade (6% in 1980 and 3% in 2008) since the continent’s trade structure still lacks diversity in terms of production and exports. As such, negotiations to further liberalise (after Structural Adjustment Programmes) their economies will be a futile and possible suicidal exercise until certain pre-requisites are met and instituted within their economies. The emphasis on trade liberalisation alone as a means to stimulating growth and development is misplaced.

8.         The pre-requisites (as informed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) centre on addressing the structural constraints in ESA countries including

  • increased public investment in research and development, rural infrastructure — including roads — and health and education
  • overhauling the basic productive infrastructure to make production more reliable. Power generation, water supply and telecommunications are three key areas that need special attention. In addition, building a competitive manufacturing sector will require the strengthening of the support infrastructure needed for exporting, including roads, railways and port facilities.
  • encouraging cross-border trade infrastructure. It is unlikely that the manufacturing sector in Africa will grow to a competitive level if it is limited to small domestic markets. The smallness of individual African markets and the difficulty for most firms to access the markets of industrialized countries suggest that in the short and medium term, the expansion of intra-African trade could offer the opportunity to widen markets outside national boundaries. In so doing, some key infrastructure projects could be executed at the regional level, taking into account regional economic complementarities.
  • development of domestic policy regulatory frameworks to regulate the movement of goods and services in and outside ESA countries. This includes adopting policies that ensure Special and Differential Treatment including the Special Safeguard Mechanism in agriculture, use of tariffs, among other things

9.         Trade liberalisation has so far discouraged intra-regional trade in Africa as the reduction of tariffs, which reduce the preference margins given to other African countries, reduce the incentives for intraregional trade.

10.       The Cotonou Agreement (that forms the legal basis of negotiating EPAs), recognise that reciprocal agreements (EPAs) with the EC had to foster regional integration and to be based on current integration efforts. However, as the interim agreements have shown, this commitment has been negated as the current configuration of the EPA encompasses a major risk of undermining ongoing regional integration processes.

11.       Most countries in the region continue to suffer from food shortages and food insecurity. As a result they have been importing more food and energy (including inflation which was at 10.7% in 2008 up from 6.4% in 2007, the continental average excluding Zimbabwe) into the region. Trade liberalisation will exacerbate the problems of food insecurity.

12.       The ESA political leadership have an obligation towards their people and should ensure that whatever decisions they take should not put the lives of people in danger. This means all those targets of reducing poverty, reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to education for the people should be used as tools for making informed decisions especially with regards to trade negotiations.

13.       Given the above, liberalising ESA economies under the EPAs as already indicated by the interim EPAs will further weaken the countries’ ability to develop and respond to the challenges posed by liberalisation and Limit Africa to the production and export of low value goods (the so-called “poor-country” goods) based on the so-called comparative advantage argument. This is tantamount to condemning the continent and locking it into poverty.

We therefore recommend that:

14.       A moratorium be put in place on EPAs negotiations until the ESA countries have put in place adequate institutional mechanisms to deal with trade liberalisation as recommended by the African Union, UNCTAD, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa among others.

15.       ESA countries focus on developing its regional market, steps that have already been taken by consolidating the gains of the COMESA FTA, the Customs Union and the move to form a single FTA with the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

16.       In light of the high food and energy prices, the climate crisis and the current global recession triggered by the financial crisis, ESA countries MUST reverse most of the commitments they have agreed under the IMF/World Bank SAP policies, the World Trade Organisation and the so-called interim Economic Partnership Agreements. This will allow the countries to implement favourable home grown policies that are in tandem with their development priorities

For Further Information please contact:
Rangarirai Machemedze
SEATINI
20 Victoria Drive
Newlands
Harare
Zimbabwe
rmachemedze@seatini.org
+263-4-788078
+263-4-776418

Or

Jane Nalunga
SEATINI
Plot 101 Kira Road , Kamwokya
Kampala
Uganda
Jnalunga09@gmail.com
+256-414-540856

  1. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is holding its Policy Organs meetings and the 13th Summit of Heads of State and Government in the resort town of Victoria Falls, online Zimbabwe from the 28th May to 8th June 2009 under the theme Consolidating Regional Economic Integration through Value Addition, discount Trade and Food Security.2.
  2. From the 2nd – 4th June 2009 the Council of Ministers will be meeting to deliberate on a number of issues affecting the COMESA region, including the current negotiations with the European Union (officially known as the European Community) on concluding Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

We recall that:

3.         The Eastern and Southern Africa Group (ESA) and the European Community (EC) senior officials met in Brussels on 28 April 2009 under the co-chairmanship of H.E Ambassadors S Gunessee and N. Wahab on ESA side as well as P. Thompson, Director, DG Trade on EC side. In their conclusions on the Interim EPAs initialled towards the end of 2007, the officials noted that:

On signature of interim EPA, EC confirmed that provided that an agreement is reached on translation, the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) could be ready for signature around mid-May 2009. ESA confirmed its decision to host the signature in Mauritius and informed that the issue of the date of signature will be considered at the next ESA Council scheduled for the 4th June 2009 in Victoria Falls back to back with COMESA Summit with a view to agreeing on a mutually convenient date as well as its arrangement for the signing ceremony.

We are concerned that:

4.         The ESA countries (as represented by their officials) have confirmed their decision to host the signature of the interim EPAs and that they are already considering discussing the dates of such a ceremony when the outstanding and contentious issues in the interim EPAs have not been addressed and resolved.

5.         The contentious issues arising from the interim EPAs include, inter alia, involve far reaching commitments on tariffs reductions the freezing of export taxes that ESA countries have been using, the requirement that ESA countries should not increase duties on products from the EU beyond what they have been applying (standstill clause), liberalising “substantially all trade”, bilateral safeguards (for infant industry protection)-all these issues are still under negotiations. We take the precautionary principle and reiterate that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

6.         The EC has insisted that the first priority should be the signature of the interim EPA. The EU main interest is in market access which they may achieve in interim EPAs. This limits the scope of focussing on the real issues of interest to ESA countries that need attention before the signature. ESA countries should resist the pressure of rushing to sign the interim EPA when it is clear they will be mortgaging national and public assets to the EC.

We urge ESA countries to recognise that:

7.         Africa remains a marginal player in world trade (6% in 1980 and 3% in 2008) since the continent’s trade structure still lacks diversity in terms of production and exports. As such, negotiations to further liberalise (after Structural Adjustment Programmes) their economies will be a futile and possible suicidal exercise until certain pre-requisites are met and instituted within their economies. The emphasis on trade liberalisation alone as a means to stimulating growth and development is misplaced.

8.         The pre-requisites (as informed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) centre on addressing the structural constraints in ESA countries including

  • increased public investment in research and development, rural infrastructure — including roads — and health and education
  • overhauling the basic productive infrastructure to make production more reliable. Power generation, water supply and telecommunications are three key areas that need special attention. In addition, building a competitive manufacturing sector will require the strengthening of the support infrastructure needed for exporting, including roads, railways and port facilities.
  • encouraging cross-border trade infrastructure. It is unlikely that the manufacturing sector in Africa will grow to a competitive level if it is limited to small domestic markets. The smallness of individual African markets and the difficulty for most firms to access the markets of industrialized countries suggest that in the short and medium term, the expansion of intra-African trade could offer the opportunity to widen markets outside national boundaries. In so doing, some key infrastructure projects could be executed at the regional level, taking into account regional economic complementarities.
  • development of domestic policy regulatory frameworks to regulate the movement of goods and services in and outside ESA countries. This includes adopting policies that ensure Special and Differential Treatment including the Special Safeguard Mechanism in agriculture, use of tariffs, among other things

9.         Trade liberalisation has so far discouraged intra-regional trade in Africa as the reduction of tariffs, which reduce the preference margins given to other African countries, reduce the incentives for intraregional trade.

10.       The Cotonou Agreement (that forms the legal basis of negotiating EPAs), recognise that reciprocal agreements (EPAs) with the EC had to foster regional integration and to be based on current integration efforts. However, as the interim agreements have shown, this commitment has been negated as the current configuration of the EPA encompasses a major risk of undermining ongoing regional integration processes.

11.       Most countries in the region continue to suffer from food shortages and food insecurity. As a result they have been importing more food and energy (including inflation which was at 10.7% in 2008 up from 6.4% in 2007, the continental average excluding Zimbabwe) into the region. Trade liberalisation will exacerbate the problems of food insecurity.

12.       The ESA political leadership have an obligation towards their people and should ensure that whatever decisions they take should not put the lives of people in danger. This means all those targets of reducing poverty, reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to education for the people should be used as tools for making informed decisions especially with regards to trade negotiations.

13.       Given the above, liberalising ESA economies under the EPAs as already indicated by the interim EPAs will further weaken the countries’ ability to develop and respond to the challenges posed by liberalisation and Limit Africa to the production and export of low value goods (the so-called “poor-country” goods) based on the so-called comparative advantage argument. This is tantamount to condemning the continent and locking it into poverty.

We therefore recommend that:

14.       A moratorium be put in place on EPAs negotiations until the ESA countries have put in place adequate institutional mechanisms to deal with trade liberalisation as recommended by the African Union, UNCTAD, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa among others.

15.       ESA countries focus on developing its regional market, steps that have already been taken by consolidating the gains of the COMESA FTA, the Customs Union and the move to form a single FTA with the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

16.       In light of the high food and energy prices, the climate crisis and the current global recession triggered by the financial crisis, ESA countries MUST reverse most of the commitments they have agreed under the IMF/World Bank SAP policies, the World Trade Organisation and the so-called interim Economic Partnership Agreements. This will allow the countries to implement favourable home grown policies that are in tandem with their development priorities

For Further Information please contact:
Rangarirai Machemedze
SEATINI
20 Victoria Drive
Newlands
Harare
Zimbabwe
rmachemedze@seatini.org
+263-4-788078
+263-4-776418

Or

Jane Nalunga
SEATINI
Plot 101 Kira Road , Kamwokya
Kampala
Uganda
Jnalunga09@gmail.com
+256-414-540856

“Democratic transformation of European finance, a full employment regime, and ecological restructoring – Alternatives to finance-driven capitalism”


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“Democratic transformation of European finance, a full employment regime, and ecological restructoring – Alternatives to finance-driven capitalism”


Download Full PDF

CALLS FOR ACTION

AGREED UPON THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE ASSEMBLY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS


European Social Forum 17-21 September 2008, Malmö, Sweden


2009: To Change Europe


On the European level, we are witnessing a liberal and anti-social front on all domains: economic financial crisis, price increases, food borne illness crisis, privatization and disassembly of public services, movements against work reform, decisions of the European Court of Justice, dismantling of the Common Agricultural Policy, reinforcement of Fortress Europe against migrants, weakening of democratic and civil rights and growing repression,  economic cooperation agreements, military intervention in external conflicts,  military bases…  all this in a world where inequalities, poverty and  global and permanent war are increasing day by day.

In this context of global crisis, we want to reaffirm that alternatives do exist for global justice, peace, democracy and environment.

We, the European social movements gathering in Malmö, have committed on a common agenda in the way to lead the fight for “another Europe” and Europe based on the people’s rights.

 

on the social issue

We launch immediately a COMMON EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN against UE social and labour policies, first to oppose  specifically the EU directive on working time and UE decision on migrant labour.

This campaign will have different steps  ( ex : December the 6th in Paris)  and includes the objective of a massive joint mobilization at European level as soon as possible.

As a second step,  we  build up a large, inclusive and strategic conference/counter-summit of all the European social movement, in Brussels in March.

against NATO and war

we call  a large demonstration in April the 4th in Strasbourg/Kehl , centre of celebration of the 60th anniversary of NATO, to say “stop NATO” and dissolving this terrifying tool of war.  In the same day we call demonstrations in all countries in Europe. We propose the WSF in  Belem to declare the 4th of April a day of international mobilisation against Nato and all imperialistic military pacts.

against the climate crisis

we call for a global day of action on climate on December 6th during the Poznan summit in Poznan itself and al other the world. We are calling for a massive international mobilisation next year to make the critical Copenhagen talks in December 2009

AGAINST G8


In July 2009, the Sardinian and Italian social movement will invite all movements to come to Sardinia  where the G8 summit will be held in la Maddalena island to protest against G8 and its policies and to present our alternatives for global justice, peace, democracy and environment.


Flexicurity in Europe:  12 hypotheses for labour law in the 21stcentury

Document on the flexisecurity, approved prepared by some Italian people (Guglielmi, Bronzini, after a discussion in which Berlinguer, Russo et alii took part). The document is a contribution to the preparation of the activities in  Malmoe.  We ask everyone  who is interested in the issue to send contributions, amendements, proposals in order to cooperate in the implementation of the activities in Malmoe.

The Green Paper on flexicurity presented by the Commission in November 2006 placed labour law in Europe on the agenda of the Union; hence it likewise needs to be placed on the agenda of the other Europe. The Commission’s text has three indisputable merits. First, it notes the failure of the strategy of seeking flexibility ‘on the margins’, i.e. the formation of a dual labour market which on the one hand separates out ‘standard contracts’ and on the other offloads the need to cut labour costs and boost flexibility by means of ‘market segmentation’ and a proliferation of non-standard contracts devoid of any rights or protection. This system has not only led to job insecurity for entire generations but has also gradually eroded the rights and wages attaching even to standard contracts. Secondly, the Green Paper breaks with the Maastricht ideology of an ongoing, gradual reduction in public expenditure by calling on Member States to make substantial efforts to support passive policies (unemployment benefits) and active policies (continuing training and help for jobseekers and business start-ups). Thirdly, the text alludes to and calls for an initial reform of the chain of value by increasing accountability to the workforce on the part of all employers and contractors involved in ‘multiple’ employment relationships.

In this context the image of flexicurity is used, for the first time in a relatively assertive manner, as a watchword to encompass both the need for flexibility (of workers and firms alike) and, at the same time, the security needs of those concerned, in terms of adequate income, pension cover, access to knowledge, etc. In short, the document sets out a form of social compromise (which is moreover what the welfare state was in the second half of the 20thcentury) where concern for competitiveness is harmonised with concern for social integration and cohesion. However, these notions are inserted into a reading of the current economic paradigm, linked to a notion of stereotypical, ideological modernity which has already failed, in that it is predicated on a selective use of studies and research projects, themselves contentious and based on an uncritical acceptance of the neoclassical economic approach. Indeed, the modernity aspired to in the Green Paper seems to depend entirely and exclusively on the capacity of workers to adapt to the economic transformations underway. Any desire to govern such changes and, above all, to conceive of labour law as a dynamic mechanism to correct imbalances of power and promote equality, individual achievement and democracy has disappeared or been sidelined. The Green Paper minimises all reference to society (or sometimes it is mentioned only in paradoxical terms, such as when maintaining that job stability deprives workers of opportunities) and to fundamental human rights, which are manifestly deemed variable depending on the firm. This, furthermore, is accompanied by a definite loosening of the regulatory constraints on standard employment relationships, especially the rules on dismissal, compared with extremely indefinite labour market measures geared to promoting workers’ employability solely in terms of firms’ requirements.

Our profoundly negative verdict on this one-way image of flexicurity (undoubtedly implied by some of the Commission’s proposals) – which must be vigorously opposed – is tempered by the somewhat more welcome decision taken in the Green Paper to launch a public discussion forum, partly with a view to the follow-up communication on flexicurity. An impressive number of voluntary bodies, trade unions, NGOs, states and groups of academics (about 500) responded to the Commission’s questions, prompting the most participatory public debate in the history of the Union. The responses from the trade union movement were rather critical on the whole and emphasised the unacceptability of the hypothesis that flexibility in itself ultimately leads to economic competition and development. The anxiety perceptible in such criticisms (especially those of the ETUC) is that a ‘two-stage’ strategy could emerge: first of all immediate liberalisation, and then in the distant future some sort of solution in respect of welfare and citizenship rights, delayed on the usual grounds of resource shortages. In addition, almost all the respondents were astonished at the lack of references to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (known as the Charter of Nice) in the areas addressed by the Green Paper, which are explicitly regulated by the European ‘Bill of Rights’. (For instance, Article 30 prohibits unjustified dismissal, thereby making solutions based purely on liberalisation impossible, although it does allow for a certain amount of discretion in determining the penalties to be imposed on the employer.)

Given these criticisms the Commission, to its credit, immediately appointed a group of experts which back in April 2007 presented over 400 European associations with some points of convergence: these were very general and certainly very ambivalent about the social policy mix for relaunching its ‘social model’. The ‘flexicurity pathways’ document, in which these lines of convergence are developed further and an attempt is made to identify various steps that Member States could take to come closer to achieving an effective balance between flexibility and security, was put forward in an official Commission communication in June 2007 with a view to adopting common principles on flexicurity by the end of the year. The document defines that notion as ‘an integrated strategy to enhance, at the same time, flexibility and security in the labour market’; it then explains that flexibility is also about ‘optimal development of talent’ for workers, ‘upward mobility’ and ‘facilitating the combination of work and private responsibilities’. It recommends substantial investment in training and in support (financial and through employment services) for transitions into employment, as well as a restructuring of social protection systems to make them less biased towards employees in full-time, permanent jobs. Strong emphasis is placed on involving the social partners, emulating what happens in the North European countries. Compared with the previous document, the new one gives greater consideration to guarantees and to the issue of ‘new rights’, yet the reprehensible, incomprehensible absence of explicit references to the Charter of Nice still persists.

However, as if to prove the persistent weakness of the Commission’s work and the great value of hearings, the European Parliament stated in its resolution of 11 July 2007 that, although the ‘flexicurity’ approach was of great interest, it ‘strongly disagrees with the analytical framework presented in the Green Paper, which claims that the standard indefinite employment contract is outdated, increases labour market segmentation and the gap between “insiders” and “outsiders”, and must therefore be regarded as an obstacle to employment growth and improved economic dynamism’. Parliament stressed that ‘labour legislation is only efficient, fair and strong if it is implemented by all Member States, applied equally to all actors and controlled on a regular basis and in an efficient manner’. The resolution furthermore pointed out that ‘recent OECD and other studies have shown that there is no evidence for the claim that reducing dismissal protection and weakening standard employment contracts facilitates employment growth’, adding instead that ‘the example of the Scandinavian countries shows clearly that a high level of dismissal protection and employment standards is fully compatible with high employment growth’. Parliament likewise called for the definition of a new frame of reference for the honest and non-fraudulent identification of paid employment, for which the full protection and rights of paid employment must be recognised. It nevertheless added that ‘business start-ups and micro-entrepreneurs may be economically dependent, if they initially participate in the economy with one client’; therefore, their activity ‘should carry with it a core of rights regardless of the specific employment status, which should include: equal treatment, workers’ health and safety protection and provisions on working/rest time, freedom of association and representation, collective bargaining, collective action, and access to training’.

EU initiatives proceeded with determination and perseverance in the wake of this resolution. Indeed, the European Council of 5-6 December reached agreement on the principles (after a favourable vote in the European Parliament on 29 November 2007): the conclusions of the December European Council (which approved the Treaty of Lisbon) refer to this agreement, thereby further ‘sanctifying’ it. However, EU action in this sphere was even more far-reaching. In its communication summarising the outcomes of the debate on the Green Paper, the Commission did note the numerous critical remarks received (in particular about the failure to refer to the Charter of Nice, mentioned as the principal objection); however, it also identified some points of convergence and issued another communication on the ‘fight against undeclared work’. In addition, another key document was unveiled on 17 October 2007: ‘Modernising social protection for greater social justice and economic cohesion: taking forward the active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market’, in which the Commission stresses the need to cover essential needs with reference by all Member States to ‘appropriate indicators’. It cites the Charter of Nice (Art. 34(3)) at last and states its intention to adopt a specific recommendation after the end of the public discussion forum scheduled until February 2008.
 
We have now reached the crucial point. This last text raises the issue of the right to an income in Europe: it asserts that Member States must ensure basic needs are covered (in terms of both a sufficient wage and a basic income), benchmarked against current national levels of pay. The document shows a clear preference for a form of welfare which ensures continuity of income in association with (free) access to public services and services of general interest and to training opportunities tailored to individual needs. It by no means rules out the proposals currently being aired about the introduction of a European income for all as a distinctive sign of EU citizenship. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the adoption of a recommendation will involve official EU political circles, including the European Parliament and national parliaments. Therefore, the income question is on the European agenda at last.
 
Obviously all of this is not enough; we shall have to await the ‘proof of the pudding’. The two EP resolutions and the partial acknowledgement of criticism from the trade unions and organised civil society do not constitute adequate safeguards against the use of an image of flexicurity geared not to redressing the balance of national and EU policies in the direction of greater social equity, but to moving towards further insecurity and an undermining of workers’ concerns. That is indeed what some national governments (especially in the east) are evidently hoping for. In short, even in the context of what has so far been an open process of dialogue, the prospect of flexicurity still appears to be ideal terrain for confrontation; in other words, it remains wide open to differing, often opposing, interpretations. Although in its latest report on the Lisbon Strategy 2008-2010 the Commission includes flexicurity as one way of reviving the Lisbon Agenda, it once again omits the necessary references to the fundamental rights at stake and to the Charter of Nice (now cited in as many as seven judgements of the Court of Justice). The upshot is that the Commission continues to convey the idea that the competitiveness of ‘system Europe’ is unconnected with the protection of its citizens’ fundamental social rights.
 
Therefore, the other Europe must independently develop its own criteria for appraisal, alliance and action concerning social and labour law in the 21stcentury. To this end some working hypotheses in question form are put forward here, by way of a preparatory contribution ahead of the Malmö European Social Forum:
 

  1. Do you agree with the assertion that the defence and revival of social and employment rights in the 21st century call for a comprehensive strategy capable of combining contractual safeguards and protection in the marketplace, labour law and the right to social security, production and citizenship?
     

  2. Do you believe that there is a need for an honest and non-fraudulent redefinition of the notion of paid employment and, at the same time, for the identification of a set of common, binding employment rights, irrespective of any legal classification of a contractual nature?
     

  3. Do you concur, however, that the point of compromise certainly cannot lie in a reduction of the rights inherent in the employment relationship in return merely for an extension of the list of beneficiaries of those rights?
  4. Do you consider, on the contrary, that – without an across-the-board, clear-cut, binding and legally valid ‘Bill of Rights’ which expands rights and adequately counters all forms of abuse and unlawfulness, beginning with unjustified dismissal – it will be possible neither to construct a European social model nor to embark on a dignified road to development, one that is respectful of gender and difference and ecologically sustainable?
  5. Do you believe that the collective dimension of labour market regulation should be preserved and strengthened? Do you think this inevitably entails redefining the rules of trade union democracy, so as to equip workers involved in regulation with the necessary mandate upstream and the necessary validation downstream?
  6. Do you believe that the chain of value should be rebuilt, with clear rules preventing the fraudulent subdivision of firms and in any event requiring all entrepreneurs involved in the production of a given good or service to accept joint liability, including across borders?
     

  7. Do you believe that the new production paradigm has changed the nature and meaning of unemployment benefit once and for all, given that it is synonymous with the present phase in the production of value, both in activity formally defined as work and in what could be defined as non-work?
  8. Do you agree that, in order to extend and strengthen rights in the employment relationship, it is vital to institutionalise and generalise a basic income and a broad-based right of access to training and to public services and goods and that, simultaneously, such plans are only meaningful in terms of social progress and innovation if they are developed alongside the protection and revival of decent, quality employment freely chosen by workers wherever possible?
     

  9. Do you agree that a basic income and the universal, properly sanctioned right not to be unjustifiably ousted from one’s job are, together, the precondition for avoiding individual and collective disputes, a cornerstone of the new labour law to be established for the 21st century?
     

  10. Do you believe that a strong, universal set of rights (including a minimum wage) for workers, whatever their specific legal status, and an equally strong, universal basic income, represent the other precondition for enabling workers to pursue their own personal life plan, the second cornerstone of the new labour law to be established for the 21st century?
     

  11. Do you believe that, within this framework of robust guarantees, to be established jointly and as a first stage, it is desirable or at least acceptable for there to be rules simplifying the transition to different types of contract, and that these in turn should provide for flexibility within employment relationships which are freely chosen wherever possible and capable of reconciling working time and personal time?
     

  12. Do you agree that this new social blueprint for employment rights and for the right to work, income, training and security can and must come about only within:
     

    • a new historic revival of individual and collective protection;
    • a yet-to-be-established European citizenship;
    • a renewed notion of social security in the context of a reform and expansion of welfare and the replacement of Fordist, workfare-based labour law;
    • a new, participatory and self-managed relationship with the local area, the local authorities and bodies promoting active citizenship?

www.europe4all.org

Anuario de la Integración Regional de América Latina y el Gran Caribe (2008-2009)

Emir Sader

When Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez launched the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Spanish acronym ALBA [1]) back in December 2004, such an initiative seemed to be the institutional framework for the agreements Cuba and Venezuela were then developing. It represented a great example of fair trade the World Social Forum had been advocating for several years. Each country supplies what the other lacks: Cuba receives Venezuelan oil — although not at market prices — and in exchange Venezuela receives the only thing Cuba can give: its best personnel in public health, education and sports. Other agreements signed in April 2005 highlighted both countries’ positive attitude toward structural and strategic integration in order to fight capitalism and advance towards 21st-century socialism.

One year later, web Evo Morales was elected in Bolivia and in April 2006 he joined ALBA. In January 2007, it was Nicaragua ‘s turn when Daniel Ortega was sworn in as president. A meeting held last April in two Venezuelan cities — Barquisimeto and Tintorero, in Lara province — included the participation of both the president of Haiti, René Preval — who signed several agreements with governments already within the FTAA — and Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Fernanda Espinosa. It could be said that these two governments identify with the spirit of ALBA and their joining to it is only a question of time.

Where does ALBA stand and how is it different from other regional integration projects?

The subcontinent’s general dividing line is not between a supposedly “good left” and a “bad left.” This is a right-wing vision intended to split the progressive movement in the continent in order to co-opt more moderate governments. The fundamental dividing line lies between the countries that have already signed free-trade agreements with the US (Mexico and Chile; Colombia and Peru are well-advanced in the process) — thus jeopardizing both their future and any possibility of managing upcoming events under a radically unequal relationship with the world’s largest imperial power — and the countries that favour regional integration.

Among these are ones that, despite this option, maintain the neo-liberal economic model — such as Brazil , Argentina and Uruguay — and the ones that have opted out of it — Venezuela , Cuba , Bolivia and Ecuador . This is a second front — centred on Mercosul [2] — and is also contributing to a multipolar world that is weakening the unipolar US hegemony.

This process is happening in Latin America because the subcontinent has been the privileged laboratory of neo-liberal experiments; and the hangover from these experiments is still throbbing. Neo-liberalism was born here; this was where the most extensive neo-liberal experiments were carried out and where the great neo-liberal crises took place in the most intense form — Mexico in 1994, Brazil in 1999, Argentina in 2002.

Latin America became the weakest link in the imperialist chain due to a combination of several factors:

exhaustion of the neo-liberal model;

failure and isolation of the Bush Administration’s policy on the continent;

the accumulated strength of resistance, especially by social movements fighting neo-liberalism;

the appearance of leaders and political forces able to catalyse those factors to promote breaches with the FTAA and fight imperialism.

Hegemonic power in the world currently revolves around three great monopolies:

the power of weapons;

the power of money;

the power of words.

Regional integration processes are working toward creating a multipolar world thereby creating obstacles to US imperial hegemony. The countries that broke with neo-liberalism are now facing the kingdom of money. The initiatives taken by alternative media — among which Telesur is the best-known example [3] — are working toward the democratisation of the media. No other region in the world currently has such a profile.

After many years of resistance to neo-liberalism by social movements as the main protagonists, and once the neo-liberal model was exhausted, post-neo-liberal governments won the right to initiate a struggle for alternative hegemony. Neo-liberalism still predominates in the subcontinent: suffice to say that the model is currently in force in countries like Mexico , Brazil , Argentina , Colombia , Chile , and Uruguay , among others. Successive breaches with it happened in areas where it was less entrenched, less central in the subcontinent, where neo-liberal capitalism was less consolidated: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador. This model can also be applied to Nicaragua and Haiti, not to mention the country that abandoned capitalism decades ago: Cuba.

A Council of Social Movements integrated with ALBA’s structures was created during the meeting held in Venezuela . ALBA also has a Council of Presidents and a Council of Ministers. At a meeting preliminary to the next presidential meeting, forecast for December either in Bolivia or in Cuba, representatives of social movements from each of the subcontinent’s countries will discuss this and any other subjects they decide to include in the agenda regarding debates and the construction of a post-neo-liberal Latin America , while defining their specific forms of participation.

By bringing together these countries and their social movements, ALBA has become the new historical focus of Latin America and the Caribbean , around which all progressive forces will think about their identity, aims and forms of action. It presents itself as an exemplary model of “fair trade”, solidarity and cooperation. It is an alternative space to free trade and market control, demonstrating its specific nature through exchanges based on needs and possibilities, strengthening itself by ending illiteracy, reinforcing family farming, guaranteeing nutrition and restoring the eyesight of millions of visually-impaired people [4] — in short, by placing people’s needs above market mechanisms and the accumulation of capital.

We live in a period marked by the transition from the capitalist regulator model to the neo-liberal one and from a bipolar to a unipolar world under imperial US hegemony. Latin America is shaping a large part of the world’s future in the new century and ALBA is the most advanced space in that struggle.

Notes by the Translator

[1] ALBA was created to counter the US-backed FTAA (the Free Trade Area of the Americas , or ALCA in its Spanish acronym) and its spelling goes beyond simply substituting a ‘C’ for a ‘B’ as “alba” means “dawn” in Spanish. See:

http://www.alternativabolivariana.org/pdf/alba_mice_en.pdf

[2] Mercosul (in Portuguese) or Mercosur (in Spanish) is the Latin American Southern Common Market. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercosur

[3] Telesur is a pan-Latin American television network based in Caracas , Venezuela . It began broadcasting a limited schedule on 24 July 2005 , and began full-time broadcasts on 31 October 2005 . See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TeleSUR

[4] See “Literature and Operation Miracle”, by Belén Gopegui: http://www.axisoflogic.com/cgi-bin/exec/view.pl?archive=144&num=21924

Emir Sader is Professor of Political Sciences at Sáo Paulo Univ. and Rio de Janeiro Univ.

Source: Cubanow.net

“La integración regional continúa siendo una fuente inagotable de viejas y nuevas polémicas. El presente Anuario de la Integración regional de América Latina y el Gran Caribe pretende mantener en debate los cada vez más amplios temas de la integración, desde el prisma de sus interrelaciones con otras temáticas: diseño de política económica, seguridad pública, defensa, liderazgo, política exterior, conflictos regionales, paradiplomacia, actores subnacionales, construcción de regiones, sociedad civil, entre otros. Desde una perspectiva multidisciplinaria e interdisciplinaria, las contribuciones que se presentan en esta edición agrupan las realidades económicas y sociopolíticas de diversos esquemas regionales: Comunidad del Caribe, Asociación de Estados del Caribe, CAFTA-RD, MERCOSUR y UNASUR, entre otros.”


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