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Translated by Anoosha Boralessa (October 2015). Not reviewed by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person
Interview: Alternatives for Integration and Free trade Must Be Considered for the Continent
In this scenario, the social movements are organized and are resisting proposals such as the FTAAs. In putting together the Third Summit of the Peoples in Cochamba, Bolivia, this December, it will be necessary to consider several alternative models for integration and trade between Latin American countries through several initiatives. To delve into this in more detail, Agencia Noticias del Planalto talked to Gonzalo Berrón, of the Intercontinental Network of Organizations and Social Movements, The Continental Social Alliance (ASC). Listen now to some extracts from the interview:
Agencia Noticias del Planalto: What did defeating the Free Trade Area of the Americas mean for Latin American popular movements?
Gonzalo Berrón: For us, the FTAAs signified the possibility of organizing a multi-sectoral movement at the continental level, and a mechanism to bring together at the continental level, trade unions, movements of peasants, indigenous people, women, NGOs and students, including joining or reuniting movements from the North and the South against free trade. This is something unprecedented. This allowed building what was called the Continental Campaign against the FTAAs. I attributed this primarily to the political maturation of the movement. However, there is another subsidiary cause: our common enemy - the FTAAs initiative. We are destroying the FTAAs. I can’t declare we did it by ourselves but for sure, our campaign ensured that much public opinion was mobilized on the continent. And all the organizations that belong to the popular camp introduced the FTAAs as an item on their agenda. This appeared a sensitivity reflected in the governments’ agendas.
ANP: What is your analysis of Lula’s victory in these elections and its consequences for alternative projects on the continent?
GB: We consider it’s good news for all South American countries. And for MERCOSUR, no way! Why? Because it was plain that the candidacy of Alckmin signified a retreat from what were the normal parameters of free trade and proposals for the most neoliberal sectors of the Brazilian economy. Obviously, we cannot say that Lula made them relevant or faithfully followed the precepts of development if one wishes to call it this, or was opposed to neoliberalism. Because, in some sense, it signified this: that is, yes, there is some continuity with the government of Fernando Enrique et al., but at the same time yes, there is a clear willingness to do things differently. One of them, in particular, is or was, this government’s willingness to have greater dialogue with civil society, with movements. This then would surely be a pathway for us because as bad as it was there was a distinct sensitivity and priority given to dialogue with civil society. That was missing in the other government. There is also no question we would lose it if an Alckmin government came into power. There is something else that seems to me to be to be important and that helps this context in which we want to insert alternatives for integration and so on: that is a calling that, with nuances, gives priority to scenarios of regional integration, of MERCOSUR and now the South American Community of Nations.
ANP: And on the proposal for a Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). How are these plans and negotiations faring?
GB: Actually, ALBA is like a desire. Why? Because it’s a desire for another type of integration - one given life through some agreements (some bilateral agreements, plans and initiatives). On the issue of bilateral agreements, Venezuela, which is pushing ALBA, has made an agreement with Cuba for cooperation on matters such as health, trade and economic complementarity. Venezuela has also entered into agreements with Bolivia. In addition to these agreements (the fundamental criteria of which is complementarity and cooperation between countries), and in contrast to free trade agreements, ALBA also includes proposals such as, for example, the so-called Bank of the South, the South American gas pipeline, that is also an initiative to bring Venezuelan oil to this part of the continent, to the South. And like these, other initiatives, the Milagro Operation, these initiatives that in fact, in short – have a spirit, a different way of doing things.
You have just listened to Gonzalo Berrón, of the Inter-Continental Network of Organizations and Social Movements – the Continental Social Alliance (ASC).