From Protest to Proposals for Integration
BY MIRIELA FERNANDEZ LOZANO
The slogan "Unity in Diversity," which inaugurated the 500 Years of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance Campaign at the beginning of the 1990s, tried to bring different social movements together. At the same time that some put away the Marxist manuals and Francis Fukuyama wrote "The End of History," the popular sectors began reorganization and fixing positions towards the governments.
The dialogue finally opened up with the coming of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a unique integration project that institutionalizes the participation of social movements.
"The final declaration at the Social Movements Forum earlier this month in Guatemala showed a recognition of the principles of cooperation, complementary assistance and solidarity which defines the ALBA and the commitment to continue advancing towards integration on that path," said researcher Ximena de la Barra who has dedicated years to studying integration in Latin America.
De la Barra, who is also the UNICEF representative in the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), was in Havana to lecture at an international seminar titled "Achievements and Challenges of the ALBA."
"In the recent history of social movements there are certain highlights: the creation of the Movement of Landless Workers in 1985; four years later the Caracazo protests against IMF policies in Venezuela; the Zapatista uprising in 1994; the protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organizations near the end of the 1990s; and the creation of the World Social Forum in 2001. In each of these, the social movements exercise the need to press their demands with the different governments.
"The 2005 Summit in Mar de Plata, Argentina -parallel to the one held by the Organization of American States (OAS) in which the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was symbolically declared defeated-, constitutes a transcendental point along the way. From that point on integration became a constant topic and the ALBA began to be seen as the path to dialogue with the governments," said De la Barra.
What’s the relation between the current need for integration and the social movements?
"The crisis we are living today has many faces. We have a financial crisis, and energy, food, multilateralism, representative democracy and neoliberal crisis. The model has brought much exclusion and polarization. Facing this panorama the social movements have taken on a global struggle because they have seen that they have common problems.
"It is from that realization that together they begin to move from protest to proposals. The ALBA opened the door to that possibility.
"Comprised today by six countries, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica and Honduras, the ALBA was born in 2004 as a project that went beyond commercial integration and privileged solidarity. This was apparent in 2006 with the creation of the People’s Treaties, which offer preferential treatment to the poorest nations.
"By the time of the Fifth ALBA Summit in 2007, also known as the Tintorero Summit, it was decided to establish a Council of Social Movements within this alternative. Thus it became the only path of integration of Latin America that institutionalizes the participation of social movements."
How does the Council of Social Movements operate?
"What was just a definition in Tintorero became reality nearly a year later in the Sixth Summit in Caracas, with 150 representatives of social movements of the ALBA member nations.
"Now each country holds its meetings and decides on its delegates to the Council, which is an ALBA structure that has the same level as the Council of Ministers. In addition, the social movements have an important role in the monitoring of the large national projects.
"Although there are a number of countries of the region that are not members of this project, the objective of the Council of Social Movements is to advance in the integration, to which the popular sectors can participate," said De la Barra.
With the lack of democracy social movements in Latin America have lived, what importance to you place on ties with the ALBA?
"Firstly it must be pointed out that we are in the presence of participative democracy in action. Starting from this project, heads of state and social movements discuss a common agenda.
"The ALBA is made up by governments seeking to meet the demands of the general population, and therefore, resulting in a way to more effectively struggle for sovereignty in the region. For a long time there was no venue for this debate.
"Now, the ALBA offers a broad space to recover the public sector and consolidate Latin American identity through dialogue. It’s like what Bolivian President Evo Morales says of ‘governing by listening to the peoples," concluded De la Barra.