Meeting of the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, Kingston, Jamaica

1-2 September 2000

The SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, met in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, on 1-2 September hosted by the People's National Party, PNP, and its leader Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The meeting was chaired by former President of Argentina and President of the Radical Civic Union, UCR, Raúl Alfonsín, Co-Chair of the Committee.

At the opening of the meeting, Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General, commented on the strength of the International in the Caribbean, where together with Jamaica, SI member parties were in government in Dominica, St Lucia and Barbados among the English-speaking countries. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic, too, the leader of an SI member party, Hipólito Mejía, had recently taken office as president.

SI member parties were, he said, in power in Argentina and Chile and were fighting hard to gain office in other countries of the region.

Starting the debates, Alfonsín said the meeting would be concentrating on topics which were of supreme importance to the world and of particular importance to the countries whose parties made up SICLAC.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said: "Never before in history has our world been subject to such far-reaching change", a development that demanded much from political parties. He added that the PNP had rethought its mission statement for the 21st century and had issued a programme known as the 'New Paradigm'.

He added that despite the advent of the market economy peoples around the world attached "a premium to their socialist upliftment and demand a stake in the economic life of their country".

In their discussions, delegates agreed that, closely linked to the theme of independence, was the problem of globalisation that had been imposed on today's world. They agreed it was necessary to avoid the ultra-liberal way, with no rules or social or environmental concerns, which would globalise poverty in the developing and developed countries and reduce social rights to a lowest common denominator, producing negative effects on the environment, and spreading social exclusion.

The international institutions had to be fundamentally reformed, both those established by the Bretton Woods Treaty and those rules and instructions of the World Trade Organisation in order to permit a fairer trading system.

The forces of globalisation in the Latin American and Caribbean region had severely limited national decision making capacity and increased inequalities within a context of enormous market deregulation and speculative financial flows, which had led to a removal of social programmes and to increased exclusion.

Meanwhile, the developed countries spoke of opening up the economies, but when it was in their interest they attacked the same market mechanisms they proclaimed, and a new protectionism appeared.

Even the OECD Development Centre affirmed, it was acknowledged, that financial globalisation was the main cause of "the weakening of national economic policies with respect to other governments, but especially against the global market."

Globalisation was really changing the age. Little by little or suddenly, the market or consumerist principles began to act in the peoples' minds and hearts. All of a sudden it was becoming a cultural struggle.

Globalisation could be an unstoppable process to transform capitalism, diversification and multi-polarisation of production systems, to speed up changes produced by the scientific-technological revolution and by the power of communications. But, far from it, it had become a self-regulated world system, supported by a virtual financial circuit of thousands of million of computerised dollars and governed from a handful of offices. Hence, each country's politics was reduced to disorder.

It was not easy to preserve democratic values, when vast sectors did not make up the market, when human beings were stripped of their dignity by indigence.

It was necessary to create within the respective regions, a system that made their integration easier, on the basis of essential general democratisation.

SICLAC observed that it was not afraid of being against the prevailing political current, insofar as it neither compromised its own convictions nor forgot its principles. 'The only fish that always swims with the tide, is the dead fish', added Alfonsín.

On the question of strengthening democracy, the delegates declared that the first condition for becoming a democracy was to be a state, which assumes beforehand the idea of self-determination at the international level. A society would never become democratic if it found itself dominated and controlled from abroad, where the main decisions, linked to its own interest - including those relating to national and cultural identity - were ultimately taken.

Turning to the Caribbean the delegates resolved that there was urgent need for the recognition of the special problems faced by small/micro states, if they were to benefit from the opportunities presented by growth in the global economy. These included:

  • Sudden shocks from the world economic system related to unregulated and increased flows of short-term capital.
  • Threats to the offshore financial industry in a number of countries from regulations imposed by the OECD countries, which undermined the comparative advantage which these countries previously enjoyed.
  • Vulnerability to crime which was now organised globally, involving the trafficking of illegal weapons and drugs, and which was a threat to democracy, and stable social and community relations.
  • The terms of trade faced by small banana producing countries of the region which threatened the foundations and future prospects of their economic development.
  • Vulnerability to natural disasters which had the potential to destroy the social and economic infrastructure of these countries.
  • Modern communications technology which challenged the cultural norms and practices, as well as the cultural authenticity of Caribbean peoples.

On Colombia the Committee made an appeal that the application of the so-called Plan Colombia did not mean increased militarisation or violence, nor an obstacle to the continuity and development of the current peace negotiations or the lengthening of the civil conflagration.

It deplored the fact that the elections in Haiti on 21 May 2000, far from helping Haiti advance in the democratic process, have only highlighted the socio-political crisis in the country and expressed its concern that the regime in power in Haiti had practically placed itself in a situation of political isolation from the rest of the world.

The meeting found that the electoral process of 9 April and 28 May 2000 in Peru were considered fraudulent by the international community which raised questions as to the legitimacy of the third term of office of Alberto Fujimori, in violation of the Peruvian constitution and agreed to support the political dialogue developing in Peru under the auspices of the OAS.

This dialogue must give priority to the restoration of the fundamental rights of individuals and the process of democratic reform.

It reiterated solidarity with all democratic efforts in Peru and with the Peruvian Aprista Party, PAP and demanded the Peruvian government endpersecution of the former presidential candidate, Dr. Alejandro Toledo, and of all citizens peacefully exercising their democratic rights in support of democracy.

SICLAC received with concern the report presented by its member party from Venezuela, Democratic Action, on irregularities in the electoral process on 30 June this year. The Committee called on the National Electoral Council of Venezuela to check exhaustively these results and to pronounce on them.

Participants

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