•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

CELAC: A step forward for the region, with contradictions

Published Jan 13, 2012 7:59 PM

This new year of 2012 promises to be an interesting one for the region south of the Río Grande. The formal founding of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Caracas, Venezuela, marks an exciting development, yet one not devoid of challenges and contradictions.

On Dec. 2-3, delegations and heads of state of the 33 independent countries in Latin America and the Caribbean met to discuss and approve a historical and ambitious program of regional integration and collaboration in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. This will be the first time that these countries will all gather under an organization without the presence of the United States and Canada.

This approval by itself is a gigantic step forward for a region that Washington since the 1823 Monroe Doctrine has considered its “backyard” and sole “property.” That so many politically dissimilar governments could gather under the same umbrella is an amazing accomplishment.

The idea for CELAC had been developing over years. Momentum for such a grouping accelerated after the Organization of American States failed to take firm action against the June 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted president Manuel Zelaya and the 2010 attempted coup against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. In light of imperialist campaigns brewing against Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador, CELAC is now even more important.

To begin to analyze CELAC’s potential, one must first place it in the context of the global economic and financial crisis. Although impacted by the crisis, it has been generally accepted that the CELAC region has fared better than other parts of the world.

Cuban President Raúl Castro said in his opening remarks in Caracas: “The recent economic developments in Latin America and the Caribbean show that, despite the deep global crisis, export revenues have increased, mainly basic commodities; that the burden of external debt, although unjust and oppressive, has been less; and that the accumulation of reserves has increased. This scenario gives us an opportunity if we act with responsibility and true spirit of solidarity.” (www.cubavision.icrt.cu)

What contradictions in CELAC?

This reality, however, underlines the differences within the region. Who has benefited from these revenues? What are the contradictions within CELAC?

Cuba, where there are no 1% superrich, and Venezuela, where the Hugo Chávez government is trying to begin the road towards the socialist transformation of society, are in CELAC along with Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, México and Panamá — all these with right-wing governments closely allied to Washington and where profits aren’t reinvested on behalf of their people.

There is Haiti, where the productive forces are less developed, alongside a Brazil which is the largest economy and whose military forces are still part of the U.N. Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Minustah), which Haitians see as an occupying force.

Except for revolutionary Cuba, in all other CELAC countries the capitalist class still controls the main sectors of the economy, even in the most progressive societies like in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. The bourgeoisie’s power might be declining as a result of policies established by progressive governments and the uprisings of the masses, but they are still a force tied mostly to the transnational companies and finances.

However, the volatility of the U.S. and now the eurozone’s economy, and the increasing trade of many CELAC countries with countries Washington considers its opponents — China, for example — might cause this same bourgeoisie to look at CELAC as a way to increase their profits and secure their future.

The U.S., although not a part of CELAC, will try to influence it through their allies mentioned above and their well-funded nongovernmental organizations in progressive countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

Puerto Rico, absent!

One country, Puerto Rico, was not invited to join CELAC. A U.S. colony, the island did not meet the criterion of being a sovereign, independent nation. The only voice representing Borinquen was that of Calle 13, a Puerto Rican musical group with 19 Latin Grammys that supports independence for the island nation. Calle 13 performed, accompanied by the Bolivarian Youth Orchestra from Venezuela under the baton of famous musical director, Gustavo Dudamel.

Dudamel is a product of the Orchestra System, which teaches music to poor children in the Bolivarian Republic. The performance was an awesome act reflecting CELAC’S goal of cultural integration. During his performance, René Pérez, Calle 13’s lead singer, spoke against the colonialism imposed on his homeland and the need for the integration of all of Latin America.

Socialism, the only way for true integration

Before last year’s uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain, and before the mass protests and strikes in some European countries and Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., the movements in Latin America had been the vanguard of popular uprisings at an international level.

It is beyond the scope of this article to assess the current situation of all of Latin America. That a CELAC could even be founded at this juncture is due mostly to the progressive peoples’ movements throughout the region. These movements forced into office governments that are more responsive to the people than to the transnational corporations. These governments, in turn, pushed for the establishment of CELAC.

It is also important to keep in mind, however, that until their capitalist structure is replaced by socialism, the power of these governments to carry out progressive policies will be in direct correlation to the strength of the workers’ side of the class struggle. Left to do as they want, the capitalists will always try to suppress mass struggle and any progressive advancement for the masses. As long as the economic power of a nation rests in the hands of the wealthy, the president will always be a figure with limited power.

Only a government where the power truly rests in the working class can guarantee a system with social and economic justice. n