The Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean convened in La Romana, Dominican Republic, on 3-4 June, 2022.
At the opening of the meeting, the leader of the host party (PRD), Chair of the Committee and a Vice-President of the SI, Miguel Vargas, addressed delegates and thanked them for their presence at the meeting. He emphasised his satisfaction at resuming the face-to-face activities of the organisation after more than two years marked by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and highlighted the constant effort of the SI Secretariat during this time allowing us to continue meeting regularly by electronic means to give a timely response to the challenges that have marked this period. The social democratic family, he pointed out, must now think about its priorities for the agenda that will characterise the post-pandemic stage. The topics proposed for this meeting – the economy, migration and citizen security - are undoubtedly the most significant challenges facing the region today. Covid19 brought to light the fragility of many of the advances that had been made in recent years in our countries, which today face scenarios marked by social and economic setbacks, increased poverty and inequalities. These realities constitute threats to our democracies, many of which are experiencing social unrest and advances in populist and authoritarian trends. Vargas reiterated that the commitment of our political family must always be to democracy and the fight against the lack of opportunities and the exclusion of important sectors of our peoples. Promoting recovery processes in employment and the economy that coordinate public and private initiatives and emphasise social justice continues to be an imperative of our movement today, he stressed. He concluded his words of welcome by calling for unity and solidarity between the different social democratic forces in the region.
Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General, thanked the PRD for its hospitality and constant support for the organisation. He recalled that it was in the Dominican Republic more than three decades ago, where this Committee was formed under the influence and determined will of its leader at the time, José Francisco Peña Gómez, with his commitment to democracy, freedom and the solidarity of the progressive political forces of the region. Today, Ayala emphasised that Peña's legacy continues with strength in the figure of Miguel Vargas, highlighting his commitment to the SI and his valuable contribution to Dominican politics. He expressed his confidence that the PRD and its president will continue to be the voice of the progressive forces in national politics and noted the support of the entire social democratic political family in this regard. Luis Ayala stressed that although we are in difficult times due to the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine and its effects on the global economy, the SI remains active and mobilised to respond to various challenges. As an example, he recalls some recent actions of the SI, such as the organisation's sanction of the Just Russia party for not having made a determined commitment to peace; calls for human rights where they have been violated; the denunciation of coups in African nations such as Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, among others. These are times when the commitment of the movement and its members to social democratic values and global challenges has been reaffirmed and will continue. At the SI World Council to be held in Geneva in just over a month, we will review applications received in recent years from more than 45 parties around the world that want to be part of the SI, a good sign that the daily work of our political forces is recognised and valued at a global level, concluded the Secretary General, who in closing took the opportunity to once again welcome all the delegates and wish for two days of fruitful debate.
After the inaugural speeches and a press conference in which the Secretary General and the Vice-Presidents of the SI present at the meeting participated -Miguel Vargas (PRD, Dominican Republic), Kattia Rivera (PLN, Costa Rica), Víctor Benoit (RSD, Haiti) and Rafael Michelini (NE, Uruguay) - the delegates began their review of the proposed agenda: Priorities in the new post-pandemic scenario: Challenges and proposals for the region; working to strengthen democracy and end populism and authoritarianism in Latin America and the Caribbean; for a fair, regulated and humane migration policy on the continent; and towards the construction of a citizen security model based on our social democratic vision to confront the growing crime in Latin America.
In their speeches, the delegates addressed the different topics on the agenda with a regional perspective, as well as reconciling it with recent political developments in their nations.
The delegates from Chile, Marco Antonio Núñez, Claudio Vásquez (PPD) and Ricardo Navarrete (PR), shared with the Committee the progress of the constitutional process underway in the country and the first three months of the government of President Boric, who has sought to broaden its base of support with the SI member parties. The Vice-President of the SI and leader of the New Space Party of Uruguay, Rafael Michelini, shared the steps that the Frente Amplio, today in opposition, has been taking to strengthen its presence in Uruguayan society and to be able to look with renewed confidence at the future elections due to be held in two years. The delegates of the PNP of Jamaica, Horace Dalley and Janice Allen, expressed their joy at reuniting with the region’s members of this political family, whom they had not seen since the Montego Bay Committee meeting at the end of 2019, and said that their party seeks to respond to the economic and social crises provoked by the pandemic with progressive formulas. Dalley commented that democracy in the '70s had come up against aggression and ignorance in practically the entire continent but flourished again, and they were confident that in the face of the new onslaughts of populism and authoritarianism, social democracy will once again react energetically and be strengthened. Dalley also pointed to insecurity as a very central challenge for the entire region. José Inés Castillo (UNE, Guatemala), intervened in the same sense: to work tirelessly for the most dispossessed in our countries. He also informed the members of the Committee that the leader of his party and Vice-President of the SI, Sandra Torres, is in a good position in the Guatemalan polls for the 2023 elections and expressed his hope that this time her candidacy will not be hit by illegitimate judicial or administrative constraints.
José Murat (PRI, Mexico) brought greetings from the leader of his party and Vice-President of the SI, Alejandro Moreno, and contributed to the debate by emphasising that the economic deterioration and the living conditions of our peoples explain to a great extent the populist and authoritarian trends, migration and insecurity. Delegates Sandra Noriega and José Castillo (PRD, Panama) recalled that in the face of conflicts such as the one Ukraine is experiencing today, it is appropriate to once again highlight the commitment of the social democratic forces to peace, multilateralism and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Regarding migration, they pointed out that their country, like others in the area, is not a nation of origin or destination, but fundamentally a nation of transit; distinguishing between these three conditions is relevant for the clarity of the debate, they noted, as well as addressing both regionally and sub-regionally -as Panama does in the PARLACEN- crimes related to migration. Finally, they informed the Committee that the PRD is preparing with great force to obtain the best electoral result in 2024. The delegate of the Dominican PRD, Juan Carlos Guerra, shared with the attendees his reflections on the migratory phenomenon, among which he highlighted the co-responsibility between countries of origin, transit and destination and the phenomenon of growing intra-regional migration since 2010.
The representatives of the two member parties in Haiti, Chantal Ociel (RSD) and Mozart Clerisson (Social Democratic Fusion), expressed that their country continues to be strongly aware of the migratory phenomenon and the degradation of the living conditions of its population. For his part, the leader of the RSD party and Vice-President of the Socialist International, Victor Benoit, in his remarks highlighted Haiti's persistent institutional weakness and the seriousness of the worrying increase in the phenomenon of insecurity and crime: in Haiti, some strongly organised gangs, that are armed and often have an understanding with the authorities, control important territories and operate in strategic locations for the territorial unity of the country. Marcelo García (UCR, Argentina) highlighted that in Argentina living conditions have also deteriorated considerably, despite the fact that during the last two years the country's exports have increased by 45%, however these resources were largely spent by the government on subsidies. The UCR today, as an opposition party, is committed to maintaining a democratic government, with the separation of powers and with the strengthening of the mechanisms of supervision and management control. At the same time, he said, the party around the Alem Foundation is advancing in a process of reflection and reactivation, with a view to recovering Santa Fe's relevance in future regional elections.
The leader of the PLN of Costa Rica and Vice-President of the SI, Kattia Rivera, reflected on four priorities for the social democratic parties of the region: recovering the trust of our peoples with transparency and accountability; achieving a more efficient and effective State that promotes where appropriate the synergy between the public and the private; promoting an economic reactivation with social equity and a gender approach; working for robust, inclusive educational systems that fulfil their role as an essential tool for human development, promoting, among other things, the consecration of connectivity as an essential human right to close gaps and inequalities; and ensuring environmental respect. The delegates from Venezuela, Mauricio Poler (AD) and Carlos Valero (UNT), recalled that there are more than 6 million Venezuelans who currently live outside their country, so migration represents a major challenge for them. They updated the members on the dollarization of the Venezuelan economy, which in their opinion is far from producing the phenomenon of the beginning of the economic recovery announced by the Nicolás Maduro regime, a very marginal improvement for a nation that has known the destruction of over 75% of GDP. They also highlighted the problems some opposition political parties are going through due to an attempt at official control, in response to which they proposed a declaration by the Committee. Finally, they expressed their confidence that the negotiation process being carried out in Mexico under Norwegian auspices is an initiative to be supported for progress in overcoming the country's crisis.
Miguelina Vecchio (PDT, Brazil), spoke on the issue of democracy, emphasising how it is rapidly deteriorating with the emergence of populist leaderships such as the one that her country is living today with Jair Bolsonaro. She recalled that although the Lula government made great progress in lifting more than 45 million people out of poverty, it was also left with significant debts in matters as important for the country as agrarian reform. She concluded by pointing out that the upcoming presidential elections in her country are being presented in polarised terms between the figures of Bolsonaro and Lula, but that the PDT has confidence in the experience and proposal of Ciro Gomes, their candidate. Miguel Ángel Sánchez (PLC, Colombia) explained to the Committee that with a view to the presidential elections, of which the second round will take place in two weeks, the PLC has decided not to support the candidate Gustavo Petro; he appreciates the Committee's openness to understand this situation and try to learn in depth about the internal politics of the country with the tolerance and respect that characterise democratic socialism.
The first day of work concluded with the interventions of Luis Ernesto Camilo and Janet Camilo (PRD, Dominican Republic): the first made a call to strengthen the institutional framework in the face of the proliferation in our countries of symptoms of what he called inorganic democracies, such as constitutional amendments to the charter, increase in public debt, use of the judiciary, constitutional judges and control bodies by the authority, management of the media, among others. For her part, Janet Camilo urged us to strengthen our political parties and actively work to regain the trust of the electorate to allow the social democratic forces to be in the governments of the nations of the region.
During its second day of work, the Committee listened to Fernando Martin (PIP, Puerto Rico), who urged delegates to support a declaration for the self-determination and independence of his country; and the president of the Bolivian UN party, Rita Elizabeth Reyes, who asked the delegates to adopt a decision in favour of judicial independence and the legitimate protection of freedom in political action without threats or judicial or administrative sanctions motivated by political persecution, as in the case of her country or Guatemala, among other nations in the region.
Having reviewed its agenda and discussed the political situations in the different countries of the region in light of its main themes, the Committee concluded its meeting with the adoption of six resolutions: Declaration of La Romana, Declaration on Judicial Independence, Declaration on Venezuela, Declaration on Haiti, Declaration on Uruguay and Declaration on Puerto Rico.
The Committee reserved a moment between its exchanges and debates to hear from the president of the PLN of Costa Rica and of NE of Uruguay, Kattia Rivera and Rafael Michelini respectively, both vice-presidents of the SI, who expressed words of tribute, admiration and affectionate memory for Bernal Jiménez, a Costa Rican public figure, leader of his PLN party, a very active and beloved vice-president of the SI, who recently passed away. The Committee observed a minute of silence in his memory.
Before concluding the meeting, the Chair of the Committee, Miguel Vargas, and the SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, reiterated their satisfaction with the participation of the delegates, the quality of the debates and the resolutions agreed upon at the meeting, and expressed their confidence that Latin America and the Caribbean will have a significant presence of parties and an up-to-date and clear position on the main challenges in the region at the SI World Council to be held in Geneva on July 7 and 8, 2022.