Latin America and the Caribbean in the global financial crisis: Meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean in Guatemala

23-24 March 2009

Meeting in La Antigua Guatemala (World Cultural Heritage site), Guatemala, on 23-24 March 2009, the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean held in-depth discussions on issues of major concern to the region: Latin America and the Caribbean in the world financial crisis; how to reaffirm the role of state and government institutions from a democratic and progressive perspective; and a social democratic strategy for integration in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hosted by the National Union for Hope, UNE, leaders and representatives of some 35 political parties and organisations from across the region and beyond were warmly welcomed by the President of the Republic of Guatemala, H.E. Alvaro Colom Caballeros, who inaugurated the meeting. In his speech, President Colom said the world faced a crisis of civilization as much as economic and environmental crises. Social democrats’ efforts in favour of societies that were democratic and egalitarian were more relevant than ever.

Addressing the gathering in the inaugural session, SI Secretary General Luis Ayala underlined the importance of social democratic solutions to the economic crisis and that this meeting in Guatemala was an important step in confronting the challenges the whole region faced in the global economic downturn. He stressed that the answers to the current crisis were to be found in politics, not in the markets or the leading financial centres in the world.

The Committee elected its new Chair, H.E. Martín Torrijos, President of the Republic of Panama and General Secretary of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD, by acclamation to hold this position for the current inter-Congress period of the International. The President of Panama thanked the committee for its confidence in him, and pledged to work for social justice, equal opportunities and towards the contribution of Latin America to a globalised world, paying tribute to the talent and experience of committee members.

During the one and a half day discussions, participants developed a common approach to the economic crisis, reflected in the Declaration of La Antigua Guatemala. Their talks highlighted that although this crisis was not caused by Latin America and the Caribbean, the region would suffer as a result. They also underlined the role of progressives in protecting the poorest and most underprivileged members of society from the undue consequences of the economic turmoil and in guaranteeing public policies centred on people as fundamental to comprehensive development, including universal access to basic services such as health, education, housing, decent work and facilitating credit to benefit the most needy.

Through a full exchange of views, the Committee further forged a consensus on a number of important issues affecting nations in the region. The Resolution on Guatemala expresses the Committee’s full support for the government of the National Union for Hope, UNE, and President Alvaro Colom Caballeros, highlighting the initiatives introduced by the new government in solidarity with the poor and placing people at the center of its public policy. In a Resolution on Haiti the Committee called on US President Barack Obama to postpone the decision of the Bush Administration to deport 30,000 Haitian citizens in light of the calamitous natural disasters, food shortages and economic crises the country has faced. The Committee, in a Resolution on Venezuela, expressed its concern at the tense and difficult political situation in that country and noted the existence of numerous denunciations of disregard for the rule of law and of political harassment by the authorities. The Committee agreed to send a special mission to visit the country to gather information on this and promote dialogue among the political actors. In a Resolution on Puerto Rico, the Committee called on SI parties to intensify their efforts to encourage their governments to support the request by the Special Committee on Decolonization for the UN General Assembly to examine the case of Puerto Rico, as well as calling for the freedom of long-term Puerto Rican political prisoners. In a Declaration on Uruguay, the Committee extended greetings to its member parties there and success to their presidential candidate Danilo Astori in the forthcoming primary elections. A Motion of Solidarity with the Cuban People was also agreed, calling for an end to the blockade by the United States on Cuba.

A further resolution, directed at the forthcoming Summit of the Americas which will take place in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 18-19 April 2009, called on all the Heads of State and Government at the Summit to advance a new dialogue and a new relationship with the United States to confront the pressing global crises and other issues of regional concern.