CELAC: We Are Constructing the New World

To speak of a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States [CELAC] signifies beginning to assume regional sovereignty, putting aside the “protectionism” of the United States and Canada, aware that the old recipes that they imposed upon us for 500 years only meant pain and sorrow for the great majority.


I talk of our Latin America and the Caribbean, which emerges with extraordinary strength to take another step, decisively, on the road to integration and unity, of nascent regional sovereignty, conscious that surely the United States also wants to sabotage this experience as it did in the Panama Congress [translator: convened in 1826 by South American independence leader Simon Bolivar]. To speak of a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States [CELAC] signifies beginning to assume regional sovereignty, putting aside the “protectionism” of the United States and Canada, aware that the old recipes that they imposed upon us for 500 years only meant pain and sorrow for the great majority, social exclusion and poverty, while the central countries took our natural resources.

Welcome, CELAC, to this decision to unite and seek common solutions, even when all the governments in the region don’t share the same ideology and there are some who want to continue with imperial dependence. The establishment of a framework of political, social, cultural and economic integration implies setting sovereign mechanisms of self-determination in the use of primary materials and natural resources (including the most important reservoir of water), that would directly indicate the reversion of the control and dominance that the US still exercises in our territories.

We begin to see ourselves with our own eyes and not, as we did for five centuries and more, through the eyes of outsiders. To see ourselves with our own eyes means recovering our memory and seeking to satisfy the needs of our compatriots prior to the demands international organisations. A people that doesn’t know where it comes from can’t know where it is going, and so destiny is always imposed upon it from the outside.

It is a long road to understand that integration doesn’t only mean commercial exchange or negotiation of tariffs and duties. And maybe the initial spark was given in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2005, when we Latin Americans said NO to the FTAA [the US-backed neoliberal Free Trade Agreement of the Americas]. Of course, before that the social movements achieved bringing to government (and some even to power) figures committed to their people and not with the creditor banks nor the recipes, so often the cause of haemorrhages, of the international organisations.

It is a long road that starts by assuming a historical change: we’re passing from the stage of resistance to the stage of construction. We already have postgraduate degrees in denunciations and laments; now we have to create, invent, seek ways toward new theories, programs, plans, and new paths that lead toward more equal and just societies.

More than five hundred years ago we paid the price of the capitalist disaster. However, [to assume this new path], we must first gain liberation. And I talk of the liberation of the 1,400 cubic centimetres of our brain, being aware that so many of the paradigms that they imposed upon us as absolute truths are no more than nonsense used to keep us divided and submissive. We are starting to format our own hard drive.

The brilliant French academic Remy Herrera writes: The gravity of the crisis that currently strikes Europe, especially in the Euro-zone, facing the avoidance of “sovereign” debts of Greece and Italy, leads us to pose the question: Do the European peoples not perhaps have lessons to learn from the experiences lived by certain countries of the South and the anti-crisis strategies that they have adopted there? And that, until now, it was the recipes of the North, supposedly of universal validity, that were habitually administrated in the economies of the South – although it has very rarely suited them. However those times have already changed, he signals. The neoliberal solutions proposed (or better, imposed) today, of generalised austerity and dismantling public services, to try to save capitalism in crisis and restart growth are absurd; they constitute the surest manner of aggravating even further the crisis and hasten the system with greater speed toward the precipice.

The South American presidents have said it openly: the Argentine Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in the G20, and the Brazilian Dilma Roussef, when she gave the example, “In Brazil we have employment while in Europe unemployment grows: we aren’t going to allow jobs to be exported to other countries”, after indicating that Brazil no longer receives instructions in economic policy from international organisations. Today our region is the only space in the world that has resisted the global economic capitalist crisis, which has achieved a great global anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist activism, with “indignados” in over seventy five countries, including Chile and Colombia, which still follow the neoliberal and imperial script.

Many have warned for a while that CELAC is and will be a military objective for the US, considering that Obama (on the eve of his re-election attempt) will not want to be pointed to as the President who lost his “back yard”.

It is true that not everyone dances to the same tune. Five of the 33 countries – Panama, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica – have governments that continue tied in an umbilical manner to Washington. Due to that, it will also be a forum for the debate of ideas and the exposure of consensus and discrepancies. For five centuries they divided us in order to rule us. This is the hour to seek a common destiny. We need to begin defining what is wanted with CELAC. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa put his cards on the table; it should be a forum for conflict resolution that replaces the OAS [the Organisation of American States], because we already know that the OAS isn’t going to resolve anything, nor the United Nations Security Council, and much less other bodies.

Today, CELAC countries taken together represent US $6.3 billion dollars in their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which would convert it into the third economic power in the world, the greatest oil reserve (with approximately 338 billion barrels), the third producer of electric energy and the principal economic producer of food, with Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela being the four biggest economies within CELAC. UNASUR [the Union of South American Nations] is advancing in financial architecture.

UNASUR Advances with a Financial Architecture

UNASUR’s South American Economic and Finance Council has outlined a document that contemplates advancing possible financial mechanisms to replace the dollar as the currency of payment (an experience that already takes place between Argentina and Brazil, and between the countries of ALBA [the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America] with the Sucre) and a joint infrastructure plan as tools to confront the international financial crisis.

Likewise, concrete proposals have been advanced with the goal of fostering interregional commerce that incorporates added values and consequently employment and wellbeing for the peoples of the region. Thirty one projects have been advanced that would require an investment of US $16 billion dollars. The coordination of the use of reserves also forms part of the agenda, as well as the launch of the Bank of the South, which will be able to operate once the Uruguayan parliament approves the entity’s constitutive document, expected to take place before the end of the year, according to the president José Mujica.

“Latin America is living a political, economic, and cultural rebirth without precedent. South America today presents itself as an example to the world”, stated the Colombian Maria Emma Mejia, secretary general of UNASUR, who replaced Argentine ex president Nestor Kirchner in the post.

The coordination of economic policy between UNASUR members forms part of the regional strategy to confront the international crisis – now with its epicentre in Europe – and delineate instruments of joint action to avoid any economic shock. “It is a very good indicator to confront the North’s systemic capitalist crisis and construct formulas of economic development for the region. In this bicentenary era, we are speaking of a new independence”, said the Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro.

Another of the relevant issues has to do with the possibility of coordinating the use of currency reserves at a regional level, as an anti-cyclical fund, which would reach the sum of US $600 billion. The objective is to count on a tool that can give assistance to member countries in the case of “financial speculation” around their currencies.

“There exist three different positions regarding the proposal to coordinate the management of reserves. Therefore, this issue will be maintained in the technical council,” stated Argentine minister Amado Boudou, who added, “It is important to show that in the region there is a consensus to confront a crisis that will have a global impact”.

The other instrument what has been spoken of is the Bank of the South. This entity has already been approved by the Argentine, Bolivian, Venezuelan, and Brazilian parliaments. Uruguay is in full debate on the project. Once approved, the regional entity would count on more than 60% of its constitutive capital so that it can begin functioning. The initiative contemplates the integration of a total capital of US $20 billion.

And forgive me, but with this news, viewing the world from the balcony of the South, I feel very proud to be Latin American, to be making a reality of the slogan that another world is possible…if we all work together, from below.

Aram Aharonian is a journalist, director of the magazine Question, founder of Telesur, and director of the Latin American Observatory on Communication and Democracy (ULAC).

Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com