At a time of deep social and political unrest throughout the continent, the Socialist International held a meeting of its Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean in Jamaica on 19-20 December hosted by the SI member party in that country, the People’s National Party (PNP). The agenda included four key themes of great relevance and importance for the whole of our political family: (i) The defence and strengthening of democracy in the countries of the region; (ii) Ensuring respect for the rights and freedoms of all; (iii) Today’s priorities in our struggle for social justice, and (iv) Civic peace as the foundation and objective of good governance.
The meeting opened with contributions by the President of the Committee, Miguel Vargas, Leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic; the President of the People’s National Party, PNP, of Jamaica, Dr. Peter Phillips; and the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala.
The President of the Committee, along with thanking the hosts, underlined that the region today faces big challenges that must be addressed with boldness, creativity and common sense, among them, climate change, criminality and inequality which undermine democracy and political stability. According to a recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), during the past five years the downward trend of poverty and extreme poverty has been halted and it is expected that the number of the poor will change from 185 million in 2018 to 191 million in 2019. The upheaval and social turbulence that affect many nations in this part of the world is rooted on the deep inequalities that afflict the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean, threatening the peace and political and social stability that the continent has known this century. Together with calling on the social democrats of the region to be the guarantors of peace and the promoters of democracy, he emphasised that dialogue and mutual respect must be the way forward to achieve the wellbeing of all. Referring to his own country, the Dominican Republic, he called to protect and preserve political stability, and to sustain the economic growth and social peace in the country.
The President of the People’s National Party expressed his satisfaction at the holding of this meeting which, in line with the tradition of the democratic left was a family meeting, and he offered a warm welcome to all the participants. For the past three decades the party has been mainly in government, preoccupied with the challenges inherent to this responsibility and he seized this opportunity re-assert their identity as members of this global political family. He declared that the PNP is anti-colonial, supports the rule of international law, opposes hegemonic pretensions and influences, and is committed to the pursuit of a more equitable and socially just world. These are the principles on which are based the hopes for an improvement in the standards of living and quality of governance in developing countries, with policies of global development that today are being challenged by unilateral policies or major power politics, while it becomes ever more evident that thirty years of increased globalisation has resulted in a greater inequality among and within the nations, as is the case in countries of the Caribbean. The debt crisis and the spread of IMF programmes has created a fiscal environment that has severely limited the policy options of governments in the region and has contributed to undercutting popular confidence in the institutions of governance and in democracy.
The SI Secretary General expressed his appreciation to the host party, pleased that the Committee was meeting in Jamaica. He said the PNP was linked to the development of this International through the action of historical leaders like Michael Manley, who helped to deepen the global character of the SI, not only with his work in this part of the world but also by providing key definitions for the North-South dimension that contributed to giving a universal profile to social democracy. We are living in times when nationalistic, populist and conservative political forces in different parts of the world present a challenge to our values and ideals. This challenge is posed by those who undermine freedoms and rights and who put forward narrow and discriminatory policies that contrast with our vision of a common world with integrating ideas for the building of a State which is modern and democratic and ensures freedoms and rights for all. Likewise, our member parties are committed to advancing equality and social justice, as experience has shown us that these are essential and necessary to strengthen and preserve democracy.
Representatives of parties from the region, including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, contributed to the discussions sharing their experiences and perspectives on the realities that prevail today in their respective countries. The Committee registered in particular the following conclusions drawn from the exchanges:
With reference to the situation in Bolivia, the Bolivian representatives informed that after a wide-ranging citizen mobilisation in that country in protest over the electoral fraud which was reported and verified by an investigation carried out by the Organisation of American States (OAS) of the elections held on 20 October, the president Evo Morales did not suffer a coup d’état, highlighted by the fact that no one in the Armed Forces nor any the commandants who took military decisions during the crisis, ended up occupying positions of power in the State. The new situation in the country after the resignation of the president presents today for democrats enormous possibilities for the full recovery of democracy and the implementation of the values of pluralism, alternation and accountability by the authorities. Aware that Bolivia faces the risk of a conservative restoration that, ignoring the lessons of the country’s past history, could try to govern favouring only one sector of the society and in a technocratic and repressive way, those who are today at the head of the provisional government were called on to ensure a transition that, in line with the will of the people and the expectations of the international community, would lead that nation towards a pluralist democracy with presidential alternation and respectful of the rights of the minorities. The Committee also urged the Bolivian people to express in the next presidential elections all their will to give themselves a democratic and progressive direction that will ensure a stable and sustainable government, overcoming the threats that extremism poses to their wellbeing and security.
The events of the last two months in Chile are evidence of a serious level of political unrest, rooted in the inequality resulting from an unjust wealth distribution. The massive social mobilisations demanding fundamental change to the model of development, have been damaged by minority sectors which promote looting, vandalism and violence. Together with rejecting and condemning these kinds of actions, we make a call to protect human rights and to investigate the outrages perpetrated, and to recognise the veracity of the reports issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other specialised bodies. The crisis in Chile is political and therefore the agreement reached by the great majority of the political parties to engage in a constituent process is a significant step forward. The Committee called for the promotion of a social pact accompanied by greater tax justice. We declare our solidarity with the people of Chile and our sister parties, the Party for Democracy, the Radical Social Democratic Party and the Socialist Party.
The Committee expressed its concern over the deterioration that has characterised the general situation in the sister Republic of Haiti for more than a year, a situation that endangers the hard won democratic gains by the Haitian people since the fall of the dictatorship. It strongly condemned the multiple human rights abuses, the excessive use of force to suppress demonstrators, as well as the killings and other crimes committed by government agents and their militias. Those responsible for the massacres in Lasaline, in Cite Soleil and Bel-Air must be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
The Committee extended its firm support to the Haitian people in the responsibilities which they must assume with lucidity to advance the process of democratisation, as well as its solidarity with their struggle to change the way in which the State affairs are carried out, to put an end to corruption in the government administration and improve the living conditions of the people. The Committee also invites its member parties and supporters in the country to meet with other democratic and credible political forces in favour of a new governance for the country and to put an end the economic crisis in the interest of the Haitian people.
In view of the general elections that are expected in Jamaica during 2020, the Committee expressed its solidarity with the PNP that was facing a party in government that has failed its citizens and the international community in not maintaining the required standards of good governance and transparency. In particular, the Committee noted with concern the rise in criminality, as well as the increasing level of inequality whereby a fifth part of the population is today living under extreme poverty. In the face of general elections, the PNP remains committed to continue its fight for equal opportunities and social justice and to maintain the highest standards of integrity and transparency, objectives in which it has the full support of the Socialist International.
In relation to Panama, together with reiterating the satisfaction shared by all the members of the International at the electoral victory of President Laurentino Nito Cortizo, the Committee expressed its solidarity and support for the government, which under the leadership of the new president, has assumed a social agenda that includes the objective of freeing themselves of the “sixth frontier” that is inequality and the social debt, while maintaining a commitment to strengthen multilateralism in opposition to the unilateralism of the current US administration, as informed by the Panamanian representative. The date of this meeting, 20 December, coincided with the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Panama, a date that President Nito Cortizo had declared as a Day of National Mourning, rendering justice to the victims and their families.
Referring to Peru, the Committee considered that the dissolution of the Congress on 30 September signified a step backwards in the deepening and consolidation of the democratic system in that country, sharing the OAS criteria that the application of the Constitution in this case by the president of the Republic of Peru, Mr. Martín Vizcarra Cornejo, must be addressed by the highest Constitutional Court of Peru, a matter that has still not been resolved by that Court responding to a demand for their jurisdiction in this case to establish if the procedures were duly observed. Otherwise, the corresponding legal measures should be taken. Regarding the next legislative elections called for 26 January 2020, the rules of the Special Electoral Constituents must be clearly established, in particular in regard to the restrictions on the representatives of the parties of the democratic opposition.
In relation to Venezuela, the Committee firmly rejected all types of political violence and called for respect for the Constitution, the laws, the National Assembly and its President Juan Guaidó and its other authorities, for human rights and for all the political rights of all Venezuelans. It also called on the parties in conflict to seek a political solution to the crisis in order to achieve a process of re-institutionalisation that will allow, as soon as possible, the holding of free and fair presidential elections with guarantees for all parties, as well as the rest of the elections that are part of the constitutional timetable.
The Committee will continue to permanently follow the Venezuelan conflict, demanding the freedom of all the political prisoners, among whom are members of parties from this International in that country, as well as an end to the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of members of the National Assembly and the freedom of the Member of Parliament Juan Requesens and other political prisoners recognised in the report presented by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
The international community must continue to work together with the UN bodies overseeing the huge migration crisis, which up to now, according to the IOM, reveals that more than 4.8 million Venezuelans are in a situation of diaspora, fleeing the political conflict and the economic crisis.
At the close of the meeting, the Committee agreed to hold its next meeting in April 2020 in the Dominican Republic.