Gathering in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, hosted by the Democratic Labour Party, PDT, the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean recently held its second meeting of the year, on 24-25 October.
Leaders and delegates of member parties and guests were warmly welcomed by the leadership of the PDT, headed by the president of the party and Minister of Labour and Employment, Carlos Lupi, who also brought greetings from H.E. the President of the Republic, Dilma Roussef; by Congressman Carlos Eduardo Vieira da Cunha (PDT), a Vice-President of the SI; the Mayor of Porto Alegre, José Fortunati (PDT); the SIW Vice-President Miguelina Vecchio (PDT); the President of the PDT for the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Romildo Bolzan Jr; and they also received a fraternal welcome from the President of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Congressman Adão Villaverde (PT); and by the State Governor, Tarso Genro (PT), who also addressed the participants.
The discussions centred on three main themes: 1. ‘Facing the global financial crisis: ensuring economic growth through policies which promote greater equality and opportunities’; 2. ‘Strengthening democratic institutions and citizen security in the face of organised transnational crime, drug trafficking and criminality’; and, as agreed by the Committee at its previous meeting, the agenda included a point 3. ‘Reproductive health and the right of women to decide freely in regard to their body and policies which do not violate the human rights of women’. In addition, reports on the national situation in countries of the region were presented.
At the opening of the meeting, the SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, thanked the PDT for their fraternal hospitality. He said the work of the International in the region had continued to strengthen in recent years following the holding of the XXII SI Congress in Sao Paulo, with meetings of the SI Council in Chile, Mexico, Dominican Republic and soon in Costa Rica, along with regular meetings of this Committee and numerous other initiatives in the area. The global financial crisis prioritised the challenge of ensuring growth with opportunities for all. Organised transnational crime posed serious challenges to democracy and the wellbeing of citizens. The question of women’s reproductive health required a progressive strategy. These were all key issues that needed to be addressed.
The Chair of the Committee, Martín Torrijos, also extended thanks to the host party and said that the region, although having maintained growth in recent years despite the financial crisis, still suffered unacceptable high levels of inequality. He also underlined that it was very important to tackle criminality, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote policies which foment the aggregate value of exports, knowledge and the development of human capital in Latin America and the Caribbean. Finally, he expressed his satisfaction that the Committee would be discussing the human rights of women with regard to their reproductive health, and the promotion of policies conducive to diminishing the inequalities in relation to gender.
During the inaugural session, different speakers paid homage to the late Leonel Brizola, founder of the host party, PDT, highlighting his stature as a Latin American social democratic leader and his permanent commitment to democracy and human rights in the region, a tribute which was particularly opportune, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the “Campanha da Legalidade”, the campaign in defence of the legal constitution of the country, which he led, and which succeeded in halting the attempted coup d’état of 1961. Also during the opening session, the SI Vice-President Carlos Eduardo Vieira da Cunha, on behalf of the PDT, conveyed his party’s recognition of the Secretary General of the SI for his work in favour of the causes of the Socialist International, presenting him with a symbolic statuette.
Reflections on the global financial crisis
The first theme of the agenda was introduced by the economist and academic, André Scherer, Technical Director of the Economy and Statistics Foundation of Porto Alegre, a university professor and specialist in international financial regulation, who made a presentation on the latest developments in the Brazilian economy and the strategies adopted in the country to face the financial crisis with growth and without compromising employment or social programmes. For their part, the delegates participating in the meeting shared with the Committee the measures implemented in their respective countries to confront the crisis. Growth with social justice and overcoming inequalities continued to be key objectives of the Socialist International, and singled out as a priority was the need to strengthen policies which promote stable employment and social investment to foster persistent, just, inclusive and sustainable growth in the region. In facing the international financial crisis, it was reiterated that only through policies which promote greater equality and opportunity, could sustained economic growth be ensured.
Strengthening democratic institutions and the security of citizens
The Attorney General and Public Prosecutor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, and former president of the Brazilian National Group to Combat Criminal Organisations, Mauro Henrique Renner, introduced the second theme of the agenda. In his presentation, Renner shared with participants informative comments and analyses in relation to the sociological, economic, cultural and political dimensions of criminality. He underlined the importance of preventive action, providing a very negative diagnostic of the situation of prisons in Brazil and the rest of the region, along with worrying statistics in regard to the number of homicides committed each year in his country, with close to 40 thousand deaths per year. On the subject of organised transnational crime, Renner emphasised the importance which should be accorded to prevention and fighting corruption. In the discussions and exchanges on these questions, the Committee noted that compared with other regions, the levels of fear and victimisation, the high number of homicides, abductions and other violent crimes, along with the high levels of prison population in Latin America and the Caribbean, were a cause of great concern. Participants also reflected on the impact of organised transnational crime and the challenge it posed to the democratic institutions in the countries of the region. There was agreement on the need to promote policies which tackle the very causes of the problems, including marginalisation, the lack of opportunities, segregation and exclusion, as well as on the importance of coordinated international collaboration to address transnational crime in its entirety.
Reproductive health and the rights of women
Addressing the third point of the agenda, Miguelina Vecchio, a Vice-President of Socialist International Women, thanked the Committee for including in its debates the theme of reproductive health and the right of women to freely decide in regard to their body. In her introduction, she presented information and regional statistics in regard to pregnancies, births, induced and spontaneous abortions, maternal mortality, among others. The participants were also shown a documentary on a particular case requiring abortion which had gained notoriety in Brazil some years prior. Those present concurred on the significance of opening the discussion on this subject and the importance of knowing the reality which existed in the different countries of the region in regard to the reproductive health of women and their rights. The Committee called on member parties in the region to continue discussion on these subjects with a view to the development of public policies which would guarantee the rights of women in regard to their reproductive health while at the same time provide the necessary health care and protect the lives of both women and the young in general.
Lastly, the delegates of the parties from the region participating in this meeting shared information on the development of the national political situation in their respective countries since their last meeting held in Bucaramanga in May 2011. At the conclusion of the debates on the main themes of the agenda, the Committee discussed and adopted the Declaration of Porto Alegre which reflects the salient points of the discussions. The Committee also issued a statement on the announcement by ETA a few days before, declaring an end to its terrorist activity and the triumph of Spanish democracy.
Other meetings of the Committee