Second Summit of South American
We shouldn't expect pears from elm trees
By Eduardo Dimas
It is difficult to evaluate the
results of the Second Summit of South American Nations, held in Cochabamba,
Bolivia, Dec. 8-9. Perhaps because most people like to "turn wishes into
realities," I was expecting a lot more than what actually occurred. For some,
the Summit was a success and an important step in the process of regional
For others, it ended without
substantial advances, except that the positions of the presidents became better
defined in terms of one of the most pressing problems in the region: the
unpostponable need for an economic and political integration that will deal with
the challenges of the 21st Century.
Almost simultaneously with the
summit of South American chiefs of state -- and without any demonstrations
against it -- a Social Summit for the Integration of the Peoples was held,
attended by more than 3,000 representatives of indigenous, labor, social and
political organizations from more than 20 Latin American countries.
As could be expected -- because
it represents not governments but the poorest and most ignored sectors in the
region -- the Summit of the Peoples posited the need to adopt swift measures to
achieve integration. Above all, those measures should enable the people to fight
poverty and alienation, and should guarantee the independence and sovereignty of
Latin America in the face of the Empire's hegemonic intentions.
One fact that drew the
attention of observers was that only two presidents, those of Bolivia and
Paraguay, mentioned the Summit of the Peoples in their official speeches: Evo
Morales, one of the organizers, who praised it for its profound political and
social content, filled with solidarity and cooperation, and Nicanor Duarte, who
said that "the people's feelings are different from the governments'."
Duarte's statement lends itself
to several interpretations, especially because it comes from a president who was
elected in a free and democratic ballot by a majority of the population -- as
presumably all Latin American presidents are. If you substitute the word
"feelings" for "interests" or even "chances" the phrase is a lot more
If we listen to the analyses
and reports from the news agencies, the summit was not a "bed of roses" because
confrontations and opposing positions abounded, from the radical views of Hugo
Chávez and Evo Morales (who refuse to accept the free-trade agreements because
they view them as harmful to South American integration and the people's
development) to the "globalizing" positions of Alan García of Peru and Michelle
Bachelet of Chile (clearly more amenable to an FTA with the United States) to
the more measured positions of Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Tabaré
Vázquez of Uruguay and Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay.
Answering a recommendation by
the Uruguayan president to proceed slowly, the Venezuelan president recalled a
statement he made during a previous summit: "We presidents go from one summit to
another; the people go from one abyss to another." Chávez was clearly referring
to the fact that many summits are held in Latin America and many agreements are
reached that, in most cases, don't go beyond the printed paper, while the
people's condition stays the same.
For his part, Lula proposed
steps in the integration process that will be more favorable to the countries
with some industrial development than to less-developed countries.
Among other things, the
Brazilian president stated the need to create "regional industries and
consortiums in strategic areas" such as aeronautics and naval construction, and
to create a South American Development Bank. He also proposed coordinating
efforts in the exploitation and distribution of hydrocarbons, and integrating
energy sources and infrastructures which, in his words, constitute the pillars
All that must be developed
"with the active participation of the region's social movements," he said.
Elsewhere in his speech, Lula
proposed the start of negotiations for a Constitution that would provide content
to the South American Summit and hoped that "the document may be signed at the
next summit," to be held in Colombia in 2007. However, he declined to create a
Permanent Secretariat of the Summits in Brazil, despite the insistence of Hugo
Chávez and Evo Morales. In its place, the attendees created a commission of
high-ranking officials whose term of office will be one year and who will
oversee compliance with the accords.
This Second Summit of South
American Nations made clear that there are governments in the region that aspire
to integration, while others -- who do not reject integration -- have
inescapable commitments to foreign interests that make the process very
difficult. That issue has affected these summits since they began in 2004 in
Cuzco, Perú. Therefore, one of the challenges is to overcome the differences
that exist among the various governments, a complex task because the positions
are well-defined and opposed.
This is one of the reasons why
several analysts opine that it will be very difficult to form a bloc similar to
the European Union, one of Lula's hopes. They cite the existence of "weak
states, with fractured societies and a huge distributive inequity." In contrast,
the E.U. "became what it is because the states overcame significant problems and
had the capacity to respond to the demands of their citizens."
I'm inclined to think that,
propaganda aside, the real steps toward the process of integration are being
taken in Venezuela and Bolivia and, to a lesser degree, in Brazil. They are
almost nonexistent in the rest of the South American nations, where very little
is done to achieve a fairer, more equitable distribution of wealth -- in other
words, to answer the needs of the population.
Nevertheless, if we look at the
13 points approved in the Declaration of Cochabamba by the attending presidents
or their representatives, we can say that South America is marching toward
integration. I summarize below some of the points in the Declaration, as
reported by the news agency Prensa Latina.
• "The construction of the
South American Community of Nations seeks the development of a space that is
integrated in political, social, cultural, economic, financial, environmental
and infrastructural issues. [Integration] is necessary not only as a means to
correct the major afflictions that beset the region, such as persistent poverty,
exclusion and inequality, which have become the central concern of all national
governs, but also as a decisive step to achieve a multipolar, balanced, and fair
world, based on a culture of peace."
• "We have conceived a new
model of unity with its own identity, a pluralist model among the diversity and
the differences, acknowledging the distinct political and ideological concepts
that correspond to the democratic plurality of our countries.
• "Integration encompasses the
area of trade and a broader economic and productive articulation. But it also
envisions new forms of political, social and cultural cooperation and other
forms of civilian society. The final objective of this process is (and will be)
to favor a more equitable, harmonious and integral development in South
• "Solidarity and cooperation
in the search for greater equity, reduction of poverty, reduction in the
asymmetries and strengthening of multilateralism are fundamental premises for
the bloc's international relations and the guiding principles on the road to
• "The statesmen commit
themselves to respect the territorial integrity and self-determination of the
peoples, according to the principles and objectives of the United Nations,
guaranteeing the prerogatives of the national States to decide their own
strategies for development."
These are some of the principal
points in the Declaration of Cochabamba. As can be appreciated, it clearly
establishes the bases for the creation of a true community of nations totally
integrated in all areas, except in those that are part of the sovereignty and
independence of each country.
What remains to be seen is if
all the governments in South America take the necessary steps to consolidate
this process of integration and social justice whose necessity is unpostponable,
given the existing trends in the world we live in.
Let us hope that these accords
will not suffer the fate of the accords reached in other summits, such as the
Ibero-American summits, which every year reflect the terrible reality in the
Latin American region but that (so far and in most cases) have produced only