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Conferences strengthen int’l workers’ solidarity

Published Oct 8, 2009 10:23 PM

Ignacio Meneses represented the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange at the Second Nuestra Americas labor conference held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 22-24. Since 1991 the Labor Exchange has built international ties between working people in the U.S. and workers throughout Latin America, particularly in Cuba.

Workers World spoke to Meneses about the recent Sao Paulo conference.

WW: Tell us about this meeting.

Meneses: The second “Nuestra America” union conference united labor federations from every country in Latin America including large labor federations like the central Brazilian labor federation, representing 7 million members, and the Confederation of Cuban Workers with 3.5 million members. The union leader representatives are actively making changes in their own countries—like Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and others. Guests came from Europe, Vietnam, and Japan.

WW: What was discussed?

Meneses: A very exciting discussion about the global economic crisis. Everyone agreed that it wasn’t just a typical crisis of capitalism, but of the very structure of capitalism. It doesn’t matter that the traditional economists say everything is improving; they don’t know what will happen or what to do.

In this crisis, working people are the most hit, really suffering the most. Lower wages, benefits cut, pensions are up in the air and so many problems. Unemployment is increasing in the world. Close to 60 million are newly unemployed. There is no bright future for young people and capitalism is not giving an answer for them.

WW: Were any solutions discussed?

Meneses: Favorable changes for working people, very important changes, are moving forward in Latin America— especially the Venezuelan revolution, the changes in Ecuador, Bolivia and other countries, too. These advances are important not only for working people in Latin America, but in the U.S., too. Although hard hit by the crisis, workers in the U.S. don’t have clear leadership on what to do.

The demonstrations in Pittsburgh at the G-20 to mobilize the working people —that is what is needed. That is what is being done in those Latin American countries I mentioned: Mobilize the people.

WW: What other problems were analyzed?

Meneses: The right-wing elements in Latin America together with the U.S. are regrouping, trying to return to governments that completely follow the orders of U.S. imperialism. The election this year in Panama is an example. Another is the coup in Honduras that workers are struggling right now to reverse. U.S. bases in Colombia threaten all of Latin America but especially Venezuela.

In the U.S. we need to be alert. If the advances in health care, education, uplifting of the poor of the ALBA countries are pushed back, it will not only harm Latin America but workers in the U.S.

WW: What is ALBA?

Meneses: In Latin America governments are uniting for independence on many different levels–UNASUR, MERCASUR, for example. But special attention must be paid to the ALBA group— nine countries trying to integrate their economies in solidarity to improve the lives of people in the most essential areas: education, health care, culture and sports, for example. The lives of working families are improved by these very important steps. At Nuestra America II we agreed that the labor movement in Latin America will support and defend those advances.

WW: Was the Honduran labor movement represented?

Meneses: We received daily updates on developments in Honduras focusing a very important spotlight on what we need to do. If the coup government supported by the U.S. wins it will be an important defeat. We are confident that the workers will win, but workers in the U.S. will also gain or lose in this struggle and need to show their support. U.S.-made weapons are used against the workers and peasants of Honduras who are mobilizing to support their elected president, Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya supported benefits for the poorest Honduran people. That is why the coup-plotters kidnapped him. The same “sound cannon” LRAD used in Honduras was used on the streets of Pittsburgh, too.

I had the opportunity to invite the Honduran workers’ movement to come to the Sixth U.S./Cuba/Venezuela/North America Labor conference on Dec. 4-6. Representatives from the major labor federations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean will participate. Working people from the U.S. are invited to join the discussion that will follow up the Nuestra America II in Brazil and Nuestra America I held in Ecuador in May 2008.

The Labor Exchange’s Sixth U.S./Cuba/Venezuela/Latin America Conference convenes at the Palacio Azteca hotel in Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 4-6. Register online at laborexchange.blogspot.com.