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Parallel summits
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Civil society makes its presence known in meeting of regional and European Union government leaders.

“We urge the Latin American and Caribbean governments to transition towards a post-extractivist economic and social model, based on the full recognition of collective rights, labor rights, women’s rights, rights of the original peoples and communities and of the mother earth. The search and guarantee of full food sovereignty must be at the center of this model.”

This is what more than 400 organizations and civil society movements of Latin America and Europe point out in a Jan. 27 declaration they issued during the People’s Summit of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, an alternative and counterforce summit to the meeting of heads of state of Latin America and the Caribbean and their European counterparts which took place in Santiago, Chile on Jan. 26-28.

Delegates and heads of state of the 27 countries of the European Union, or EU, and the 33 countries that make the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, met at the First Summit CELAC-EU.

While it was the seventh summit of heads of state of Latin America and the Caribbean, or LAC, and the EU, it is the first summit in which the region is presented in a single bloc as CELAC. In the previous meetings (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010), the EU attended as a single, compact entity while the link among the LAC countries was almost nonexistent. The CELAC was created on February 2010 in Cancún, Mexico, during the Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit.

“We reject the current model of relations between the EU and CELAC which caters only to the interests of large corporations and seeks to deepen the already failed framework of free trade,” pointed out in their declaration the organizations and civil society movements that participated in the People’s Summit.

The debates at the parallel meeting — with the slogan “for social justice, international solidarity, and sovereignty of the people” — were centered around four topics: democracy, participation, and sovereignty of the people in facing the power of corporations; human and labor rights in facing the privatization of community goods; Good Living and rights of the Mother Earth against the commercialization of nature and life; and integration and solidarity of the people against social injustice.

In its final declaration, the People’s Summit emphasizes that “the existing relationships between the EU and LAC, which prioritize the privileges and gains of investors against the rights of the people through commercial agreements and bilateral investment agreements, deepen this model that harms the communities of both regions.”

Ideological and commercial coincidences
The Latin American Network on Debt, Development, and Rights, or LATINDADD, called attention to the Pacific Alliance, or AdP — created officially on June 2012 and in which Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru participate — which harmonizes the free trade agreements with the United States in the region. The AdP will soon expand to Central America and the Dominican Republic. In fact, the four chiefs of state of the AdP had a parallel meeting during the CELAC-EU Summit during which they announced that commercial integration is on its way to becoming a reality,  for before March 31, 90 percent of the goods of the participating countries will be free of tariffs.

Official descriptions of the AdP insist that it is only a commercial bloc meant to incentivize economic integration, promote exports, facilitate commercial movement, and increase electronic commerce, and that it does not seek to compete with other regional and subregional integration initiatives, such as CELAC itself, the Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, and the Andean Community, or CAN.

However, it is evident that there is an ideological harmony between the AdP countries — favoring free trade. As analyst Guillermo Andrés Alpízar of the Latin American Information Agency, or ALAI, said, the AdP “unveils a new era of transition between a model of subregional integration based on the territorial community (Central American Integration System, the Caribbean Community, CAN, etc.) to integration based on ideological affinities. In the current moment, at least politically, the AdP is perceived as the antithesis of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, promoted by Venezuela], and economically, of MERCOSUR [Southern Common Market].”

The latter is just what the People’s Summit has wanted to call attention to.

“We are witnesses to how natural resources, rights, and people have been commercialized in the countries and communities of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe, product of the capitalist ideology (…) that is set up and deepens through civil, political, and military means,” says the declaration.

Cuba assumes CELAC’s pro tempore presidency
At the end of the meeting with the EU, the First CELAC Summit was held; the heads of state defined the line of action for 2013 as Chile handed Cuba the pro tempore presidency of the bloc.

The final document of the CELAC Summit highlighted that “the implementation of the CELAC is a milestone in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, as it is the first time that all 33 countries in the region are permanently grouped into a mechanism for dialogue and consultation that is shaping up as a political forum and stakeholder, to move forward in the process of political, economic, social and cultural integration, achieving the necessary equilibrium between unity and diversity.”

“We reaffirm our conviction that agreed decisions reached in the scope of multilateralism are the cornerstone of an effective international order that can contribute to world peace and security. We reject, therefore, unilateral measures with extraterritorial effects that are contrary to international law and that might threaten multilateralism,” says the declaration.

Likewise, in the spirit of strengthening the regional and subregional integration mechanisms, the document welcome “the positive developments recorded in Latin America Integration Association, or  ALADI, ALBA, Pacific Alliance, MERCOSUR and Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration or, SIECA, as well as the incorporation of various CELAC member States to these subregional instances, by means of which progress is made in pursuing the values, purposes and principles of our Community.”

The next meeting of the CELAC-EU will be held in Belgium in 2015. The Second Summit of the CELAC will be held in Cuba in 2014, where Ecuador will assume the pro tempore presidency.
—Latinamerica Press.


Thousands of people mobilized in the streets of Santiago during the People’s Summit. (Photo: www.cumbrechile2013.org)
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