The gathering also endorsed the current process of Norway-mediated dialogue in Barbados and efforts to construct peace in the region.
“The U.S. imperialist counteroffensive and the oligarchy (…) are dangerously threatening the geographical space that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) declared a Zone of Peace,” Cuban President Miguel Canel-Diaz said at the closing of the gathering.
Diaz-Canel also went on to stress the need for solidarity with Venezuela, describing the country as “the primary anti-imperialist trench in the world.”
During the closure of the Forum in Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro underlined the importance of unity between the near 700 political and social movements present so as to confront the “neoliberal advances” in the region, as well as encouraging members to embrace the legacy of late-President Hugo Chavez.
The title of this year’s meeting, which came on the back of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Caracas last week, was “Peace, Sovereignty and Prosperity of the Peoples.”
While the majority of delegates came from the Americas, there was also a presence from Europe, Asia and Africa. Big-name participants included Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba and South Africa’s African National Congress leader and grandson of Nelson Mandela, Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela.
The program generated exchanges with local feminist, afrodescendent, indigenous and youth organisations, as well as a host of bilateral meetings between member organisations. A special activity was also held to commemorate the 65th birthday of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez.
Apart from condemning US aggression against Venezuela, the Forum’s final declaration also included solidarity with imprisoned Brazilian ex-President Lula da Silva, support for the upcoming electoral campaigns of progressive candidates Evo Morales (Bolivia), Daniel Martinez (Uruguay) and Alberto Fernandez (Argentina), as well as for the current administration of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico.
The Forum also expressed solidarity with the people of Honduras and Puerto Rico, currently witnessing popular demonstrations which have seen the Puerto Rican governor forced to resign.
Likewise on the agenda were the backing of Bolivia’s demand for access to the Pacific Ocean; support for Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution; denouncing the Organisation of American States as a “Ministry for Colonies”; a call for an end to the Cuban blockade and the return of the Guantanamo Naval base to Havana’s control; an end to colonial rule in the Caribbean and a rejection of drug- and human- trafficking and terrorism “in all its forms.”
Finally, members condemned the “permanent genocide” committed by the Colombian state and demanded that the terms of the peace agreement signed between the government and FARC rebels in 2016 be upheld, including the release of all political prisoners in the country.
Media speculation over the possible participation of fugitive FARC peace negotiators and Senators Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, however, turned out to be false. Despite their no-show, Maduro was quick to clarify that both men were “welcome” at the event as they are “peace leaders.”
Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe had earlier tweeted that Santrich was in Caracas “avoiding photographs,” while current Colombian President Ivan Duque hit back at Maduro, describing his comments as an “ignorant blunder.”
Following the arrest of Santrich in 2018, Marquez went into hiding, with Santrich doing the same upon his release in June this year. Both are wanted by US and Colombian authorities for alleged drug-trafficking, with Bogota putting a near US $1m bounty on Santrich’s head. Both men deny the charges, while the peace agreements stipulate a special jurisdiction for cases such as these.
FARC’s presence at the Sao Paulo Forum has been a contentious issue in the past, with Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) ruling out their formal membership since 2005. PT, alongside the Cuban Communist Party, were among the founding members of the Forum, which held its first meeting in Sao Paulo in 1990. The Venezuelan members are the Communist Party (PCV), United Socialist Party (PSUV), Homeland for All Party (PPT) and the People’s Electoral Movement Party (MEP).
While the meeting was welcomed by Venezuela’s progressive movements, which held a march on Saturday, it was greeted with disdain by opposition parties which coined it the “Forum of Death.”
A public statement from the First Justice party accused Maduro’s government of spending US $200 million on hosting the meeting, describing this as “a joke.” “Venezuelans reject the presence of this club of Nicolas Maduro’s worshippers,” the right wing party went on to claim.
New airspace “provocation” by US spy jet
As the Forum was underway in Caracas, Venezuelan armed forces denounced another US violation of Venezuelan airspace.
Venezuelan armed forces sources alleged that an incursion on Saturday followed a similar pattern to that of July 19, involving a US EP-3E Aries II plane which entered the airspace of Caracas’ Maiquetia airport without following due procedures nor responding to radio contact. Unlike the previous incident, this jet turned around and returned to international airspace without the need for action from Caracas. EP-3E Aries II are reconnaissance planes, and Venezuela claims that this is the 78th such episode so far this year.
Following confirmation that the US Air Force are carrying out flyovers in the Caribbean sea by US Southern Command chief Admiral Craig Fuller, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described the move as a “provocation” with a “grave and criminal confession,” promising to take the case to the United Nations. Fuller claims that the US plane was in international airspace.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.