Meeting of the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bogotá, Colombia

4-5 October 1999

The Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, met in Santafé de Bogotá, hosted by the Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC, on 4-5 October, with close to thirty parties and organisations participating.

The meeting focused on 'The path to peace and solidarity' as the main theme and the Committee continued its discussions on the priorities for the social democratic agenda in the region.

Luis Guillermo Vélez Trujillo, PLC leader, welcomed delegates and reflected on the challenges for social democrats in his country historically. In terms of the current situation in Colombia, he expressed his party's concerns for the destabilisation and delegitimisation of the State, asserting that "the restoration of that fragmented order" required the support of friendly countries, particularly those with governments led by SI member parties.

Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the International, expressed his satisfaction at the holding of a meeting of the SI in Colombia for the first time. It provided, he stated, an opportunity to reflect on the hopes and expectations for peace and a better future for all Colombians. The member parties in Latin America had contributed greatly to the development of the universality of the organisation and the gathering in Bogotá would further "enrich the identity of democratic socialism".

Joaquín Almunia, Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE, reiterated the concern felt by the international community in the face of the suffering of the Colombian people. Everybody, he underlined, should work to finding real and progressive solutions to such a complex and painful problem, as it was solidarity that distinguished the social democratic search for peace.

Anselmo Sule, Co-Chair of the Committee, of the Social Democratic Radical Party, PRSD, Chile, reasserted the Committee's commitment to the Colombian people and to making globalisation into a real instrument of development, peace and progress in Latin America.

Maria Emma Mejía, Director of the Institute of Liberal Thought, PLC, Colombia, presented an introduction on the main theme from the Colombian perspective, placing the conflict in its historic context. The path forward to peace, she proposed, needed to count on the cross-party support for negotiation and dialogue, and advances had been made in this direction. She declared that international participation and cooperation could be a potential way to look for new solutions.

Hatuey de Camps, President of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD, Dominican Republic, reported on some possible developments towards such international cooperation.

Horacio Serpa Uribe, former President of the PLC, emphasised that it was also necessary to open up political spaces within the democratic process and allow all forces to have a voice.

Piedad Córdoba, President of the Human Rights Committee of the Senate, PLC, who was kidnapped in June of this year by a paramilitary group, shared her experiences and warned of the rigours of war against the most vulnerable sections of society.

As a result of the detailed discussions and contributions, the Committee adopted a resolution on peace in Colombia which addressed the urgent concerns for the country, expressing SICLAC's solidarity to the people of Colombia with their democratic struggle in search of reconciliation. 'Without peace no country has a future. Without peace the objectives of democracy and social justice demanded by the peoples of the world cannot be achieved', it stated.

The resolution also applauded the proposal, initiated by different sectors of the community, to work towards emphasising the human aspect of the armed conflict as part of the peace process. The Committee shared the principle that the people of Colombia had a sovereign right, without any kind of foreign intervention "to organise and direct the process which will lead to understanding and agreement". SICLAC agreed to propose to the SI XXI Congress that a Permanent Commission of the International be established to follow developments in Colombia and to further cooperation in pursuit of a negotiated settlement.

Fernando Martín, Vice-President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, in the absence of Rubén Berríos, PIP President and Co-Chair of the Committee, outlined the situation in Puerto Rico. Berríos, he reported, was continuing the campaign of civil disobedience on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques against the bombing and military training of the US Navy there. The Committee adopted a resolution expressing its solidarity and support for 'his action and leadership in this cause, which is that of all the people of Puerto Rico'. The resolution reiterated its call for the immediate cessation of all military manoeuvres there.

The Committee also expressed its alarm and deep concern for the situation of the rule of law in Peru following a report by former President, Alan García. It lent its full support to the Aprista Party, a member of the International, in its struggle for the defence of democracy and social justice, and it denounced the systematic persecution of political leaders, the harassment of opposition and presidential candidates and the coercion of the independent mass media. SICLAC called on the regime of Alberto Fujimori to respect the popular will, through the holding of free elections, and to cease all hostile acts towards the democratic opposition and the enforcement of unconstitutional laws intended to prevent García from exercising his political and civil rights.

In a further declaration, the Committee repudiated the unilateral decision of the Fujimori Government to withdraw Peru from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Turning to Mexico, the Committee issued a declaration which recognised that the armed conflict in the region of Chiapas had been through many phases and the country was now at a point where re-establishing a climate of dialogue and negotiation in the search for just solutions was indispensable. The Committee urged all parties to fulfil the previous agreements and demanded full respect of human rights in the region, calling for an exhaustive investigation into the violation of human rights there.

Following a presentation by Timoteo Zambrano, Secretary General of Democratic Action, AD, the Committee issued a declaration on Venezuela which welcomed the fact that tensions between the Congress of the Republic of Venezuela, the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Constitutional Assembly had been resolved respecting the rule of law. Reaffirming the need for political consensus and agreement to maintain stability and the strengthening of democracy, SICLAC called on the political institutions in Venezuela to avoid such crises of governability in the future, which threaten freedom there and put the democratic system in danger.

Participants

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