At the 6th
Hemispheric Meeting in Havana, when the discussion turned to the
subject of production of biofuels from foodstuffs, which are
constantly getting more expensive, the huge majority voiced their
opposition with indignation. But it was undeniable that some
individuals with prestige, authority and good faith had been won
over by the idea that the planet's biomass would suffice for both
things in a relatively short time, mindless of the urgency to
produce the foods, which are already scarce enough, that would be
used as raw material for ethanol and agridiesel.
On the other hand,
when the debate on the Free Trade Agreements with the United
States began, several dozen people took part and all of them
unanimously condemned both the bilateral and multilateral forms of
such agreements with the imperialist power.
Taking into account
the need for space, I shall return to the method of summarizing in
order to present three eloquent speeches made by Latin American
personalities who expressed extremely interesting concepts with
great clarity and distinctiveness. As in all the summaries in
previous reflections, the authors’ exact manner of presentation is
(Mexico, Red mexicana de Acción contra el Libre Comercio- Mexican
Action Network against Free Trade).
I would like to
share with you the new plans of the empire and attempt to alert
the rest of the continent about something new which is on the
upswing or that is coming forward as a new strategy for a new
phase of the United States’ offensive. NAFTA or the FTA of North
America was merely the first step of something that it wants for
the entire continent.
The new attempt
does not seem to take into account the defeat in the
implementation of the FTAA, which even in it’s Plan “B” recognizes
that it cannot implement what it calls the comprehensive FTAA
simultaneously in all the countries of the continent; it will try
proceeding, piece by piece, negotiating bilateral Free Trade
It succeeded in
signing with Central America, but Costa Rica has not ratified it.
In the case of the Andean nations, it has not even succeeded in
sitting down at the bargaining table with all the countries, but
only with two of them; and with these two it has not been able to
What is so new
about the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership of North
America)? I see three fundamental issues:
strengthen military and security structures in order to confront
the resistance of the peoples is precisely its reaction to the
triumph of the movement that is jeopardizing its plans.
It is not a
question of simply stationing military bases in danger zones or in
areas with a high level of strategic natural resources, but trying
to establish a close coordination, with plans concerted with the
countries, in order to improve the security structures which are a
way of confronting the social movements as if they were criminals.
This is the
first novel aspect.
element, which also seems new to me: the principal actors in this
entire neoliberal scheme were always directly the transnationals.
The governments, particularly the United States government, were
the spokesmen, the ones who formally carried out the negotiations,
but really the interests that they were defending were directly
those of the corporations. They were the great actors hidden
behind the FTA and the FTAA project.
The novelty of
the new SPP scheme is that these actors come out of the blue, take
the foreground and the relationship is inverted: the corporate
groups directly talking amongst themselves, in the presence of the
governments that will then attempt to translate their agreements
into policies, rule changes, changes of laws, etc. It was not
enough for them now to privatize the public corporations; they are
privatizing policy per se. The businessmen had never directly
defined economic policy.
The SPP starts
in a meeting, let’s say it’s called, “A meeting for the prosperity
of North America”; they were tri-national meetings of businessmen.
operative agreements being taken up by the SPP, one is the
creation of tri-national committees by sectors, --what they call
“captains of industry”-- so that these define a strategic
development plan of the sector in the North American region. In
other words, Ford is multiplied or divided into three parts: that
is, the Ford Corporation in the United States, the subsidiary of
Ford in Mexico and the subsidiary of Ford in Canada decide the
strategy for the auto industry sector in North America. It’s the
Ford Motor Company speaking to a mirror, with its own employees,
with the directors of auto companies in Canada and in Mexico, to
agree on a strategic plan that they will present to their
governments which will translate and implement them into concrete
There is a
scheme to incorporate the security element; second point, to
directly privatize the negotiations; and the third new aspect of
this structure is perhaps, remembering a saying of our classic
grandparents, that phrase of Engels where he was explaining that
when the people are ready to take power through the mechanisms of
formal democracy, like the zero on a thermometer or the 100, the
rules of the game change: water will either freeze or boil, and
even though we are speaking about bourgeois democracies, they will
be first ones to break the rules.
The Free Trade
Agreements have to go through congresses, and the fact is that it
is getting more difficult to have them ratified by congresses,
including the Congress of the empire, the United States Congress.
They are saying
that this is not an international treaty therefore it doesn’t have
to get approved by the congresses. But, as it does touch on issues
that disrupt the legal framework in our countries, they will
present in bit by bit; they will decide on a modification to
legislation in a minute, and another one in the next minute;
executive decrees to be implemented, changes in operative
regulations, rules for standard functioning, but never the whole
they were negotiated behind our backs and behind the backs of all
peoples in general, sooner or later the Free Trade Agreements will
be translated into a written text that will go to the congresses
and then we will know what it was that they agreed to. They would
like us never to know what was agreed to, they will only let us
see fragments of the strategy, because it is never going to get
translated into a complete text.
I shall close
with a story so that we can realize the degree of sophistication,
with regards to security, that these agreements and operative
mechanisms of integration of security apparatuses have reached.
A short while
ago, a plane took off from Toronto with tourists headed for a
vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While the plane was on the
runway, the passenger list was examined again more carefully, and
they discovered that there was someone there from Bush’s list of
As soon as the
plane entered American air space –when you fly out of Toronto,
American air space begins after you pass the Great Lakes and, in a
jet, this takes a few minutes– two F-16s showed up flying
alongside. They led the plane out of American air space and
escorted it to Mexican territory where they forced it to land in
the military section of the airport; then, they arrested this man
and sent his family back.
You can imagine
the impression those 200 poor tourists on the plane had, seeing
the two armed F-16s flying alongside and rerouting the plane.
Later, it turned out
that he was not the terrorist that they thought, and they
said to him: “Sorry, you can carry on with your vacation now, and
make sure you call your family to come and join you.
JORGE CORONADO (Costa Rica,
Continental Social Alliance)
The struggle against
free trade in the region has various features. One of the most
devastating projects that have been proposed for the
infrastructure, for the appropriation of our biodiversity, is the
Puebla-Panama Plan, a strategy that not only appropriates our
resources, but comes out of a military strategy of the empire
covering the territory from the south of Mexico right up to
Colombia, passing through Central America.
In the struggle
against hydroelectric dams which uproot and take by force the
indigenous and peasant lands there have been cases where, using
military repression, they have uprooted various native and peasant
communities in the region.
We have the
component of the struggle against the mining industry. Canadian,
European and American transnationals have been pursuing this
We have been
confronting the privatization of public services: electrical
energy, water, telecommunications; the struggle in the peasant
sector to defend seeds, against the patenting of living beings and
against the loss of sovereignty to the transgenics.
We have been
struggling against labor flexibility, one of the focuses oriented
to the sector and, obviously, against the entire picture of
dismantlement of our small scale peasant production.
struggle against the subject of intellectual property, which
removes the use of generic medicines from our security, these
being the main distribution focus which our social security
institutes have in the region .
factor in this struggle against free trade has been against the
Free Trade Agreements and, particularly, against the Free Trade
Agreements with the United States, passed in Guatemala, Honduras,
El Salvador and Nicaragua, through blood, sweat and tears. And
this is not just a rhetorical expression.
comrades in the struggle have been murdered while they have gone
head to head against the treaty approvals. This struggle has
allowed us to ensure a coordinating and mobilizing force for the
greatest unity of the people’s movement in the region.
In the case of
the Honduran Parliament, the deputies walked out, breaking the
minimum framework of institutional legality.
We have stated
that, within the heart of the people’s movement, this has not
signified defeat. We have lost a battle, but it has allowed us to
take a qualitative leap forward in terms of organization, unity
and experience in the struggle against free trade.
Social Movement and the people of Costa Rica, which have prevented
Costa Rica’s approval of the FTA up until the present, forging
unity with various academic, political and even business sectors
to create a great national front of diverse and heterogeneous
struggle, till now have succeeded in stopping the Costa Rican
government, the right-wing neoliberals, and so they have not been
able to approve the FTA. Today the possibility of a referendum in
Costa Rica to decide the fate of the FTA is being proposed.
We are on the
threshold of a fundamental stage in Costa Rica in terms of being
able to prevent the advance of the neoliberal agenda; a defeat of
this treaty would symbolically mean that we keep on adding up
victories, like detaining and bringing FTA to a standstill.
Today we need
solidarity in the popular movement, and we request it of the
social and popular organizations which come to Costa Rica as
international observers. The right-wing is preparing to
encourage, if possible, a fraud that will guarantee it a win in
the fight that is already lost, and having international observers
from the popular movement will be an important contribution to
active militant solidarity with our struggle.
Today, after a
year, the FTA has not brought any more jobs, any more investments,
or better conditions for the trade balance to any country in
Central America. Today, in the entire region, we proclaim the
slogan of agrarian reform, sovereignty and food security, as a
central focus for our eminently agricultural nations.
Today, not just
the United States but also Europe would like to appropriate one of
the richest areas in biodiversity and natural resources. Today,
more than ever, the coordinating focus of our different movements
in the Central American region is to confront free trade in its
multiple manifestations; hopefully this meeting will help give us
coordinating elements, focuses for struggle and joint action that
will allow us in this entire hemisphere to advance as one popular
We shall not
rest in our efforts of organization and struggle until we reach
the goal of a new world.
(Chile, coordinator of REDEM - network of world economy studies -
and, now professor at the University of Puebla in Mexico.
This crisis, in
short, has to do with a manifest non-compliance with the promises
that accompanied a group of reforms that began to be applied in
Latin America in the 1980's.
banner of free trade, we were told that we were going to achieve
growth of our economies, that we were going to achieve diminished
levels of inequality in our countries, along with diminished
distances between our countries and the advanced world and, in
brief, that we were going to achieve a move towards development in
leaps and bounds. In some countries there was even talk about
making those leaps and bounds into the First World.
In the matter
of new integration or this open regionalism which took off more
than 15 years ago, what was proposed was Latin American
integration, or what we call Integration of Latin America, at the
service of an opening-up process. A whole debate was set up about
how we had to integrate in order to open up, an integration that
would not be the old-style protectionist integration, but an
integration that would bring us better conditions to include
ourselves in this global economy, in these markets which,
supposedly, since they operated in a free manner, would produce
the best possible results for our countries.
relationship between integration and opening-up, that idea whose
supreme objective of integration had to be the opening up of our
countries, took place in effect; our countries effectively opened
up and effectively and unfortunately the central theme of Latin
American integration consisted in putting it at the service of
this opening up.
were talking about what was called “the pragmatic phase of
integration”. We move forward as we are able; that more or less
became the slogan. If what we need is to trade more, let us
concentrate on trading more; if what we want is to sign a bunch of
little agreements among countries, bilateral agreements or
agreements between three or four countries, let us go in that
direction, and at some point we shall be able to call this Latin
The balance is
clearly negative. I think that there is recognition, greater on
various levels now, that what we have been calling the Integration
of Latin America is not integration, it is trade; and it is not
Latin American but a tangle of signed agreements between different
countries of the region, none of which has lead to a process
possessing an effectively Latin American character. The
opening-up, at whose service it is supposed that integration must
be placed, has not produced any of the results that were announced
in terms of economic growth, lessening of inequalities and
achieving the sorely desired development that they said was
supposed to be coming to us.
What we should
point out is that we are witnessing an extreme deterioration of a
style of integration that very clearly knew why, how and for whom
integration was taking place.
In short, what
I am talking about is an integration which was conceived on the
foundations of neoliberalism, which has failed, both in terms of
its own objectives and in terms of the objectives that we all have
a right to demand and to expect in a genuine integration process.
The new Latin
American integration was firmly supported by the policies and
proposals coming from Washington. To a great extent, those
American proposals have become something that will end up
devouring its own offspring. Just the act of signing Free Trade
Agreements has brought both the Andean community and the Central
American Common Market to a crisis point.
part of the current crisis in Latin American integration has to do
with the advance of the United States hemispheric project, not via
the FTAA which managed to be stopped, but via the signing of
different free trade treaties.
We can see the
appearance of alternatives more clearly in the current panorama of
integration. In many ways, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for
the Americas) is based on principles that are radically different
from those belonging to that integration process which is in
There are many
functions left to define and many boundaries to be traced: the
meaning of such concepts as “free trade”, “national development”,
“market freedom”, “food security and sovereignty”, etc. What we
are able to state is that we are witnessing, on the hemispheric
and Latin American scene, a growing insurgency regarding the
predominance of neoliberalism.
This is where
the opinions expressed by these three personalities end, summing
up the opinions of many of the participants in the debate about
Free Trade Treaties. These are very solid points of view derived
from a bitter reality and they have enriched my ideas.
I recommend my
readers to pay attention to the complexities of human activity.
It’s the only way to see much further.
Space has run
out. Today I should not add one more single word.
Fidel Castro Ruz
May 16, 2007.