Source: Cumbre de los Pueblos 2018
Part 1 of a two-part piece about the history of the Summit of the Americas.
The VIII Summit of the Americas, to be held between April 13 and 14 in Lima, Peru, is the last hurrah of a polemical mechanism that contributes little to regional integration, and on the contrary, serves to establish the positions of the South against those who search to impose from the North.
The journey of more than two decades from the founding meeting in 1994 in Miami, to now in Lima, shows the existing tensions between the two very different social and political projects: the pan-Americanism of the United States in contrast with the efforts of integration of the liberators south of the Rio Bravo.
The focus of the meeting in Peru is “democratic governance against corruption”, however became subject of ridicule with the resignation of the host president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, after he was involved in a scandal for shady business with the company Odebrecht.
However, the plans to use the Summit to single out certain countries, one of the common practices since 1994 till today, continue.
It will now be much more difficult to cover up corruption and the governance crisis in many of Washington’s allied countries, which have been used to attack sovereign nations like Venezuela.
At the same time, the calls to overcome the exclusion that characterized the first six meetings of the block grow – meetings which Cuba didn’t attend because of American pressure- and to permit the participation of Venezuela (Venezuela’s invitation was withdrawn without the consensus of all the member countries).
Peru will also be a space for the meeting of people, the parallel summits have been a constant since the meeting of Chile, in 1998.
The People’s Summits do not gather the wealthy members of civil society and the NGOs paid for subversion, but the native people, the forgotten majority, the environmentalists, the students, the farmers, the defenders of the immigrants’ rights, those who denounce torture, extrajudicial executions, police brutality, racist practices, those who demand an equal salary for equal work for women, those who demand reparation for damages caused by transnational companies, among many others who have the support of sovereign and progressive leaders of the continent.
Now, a brief history of these summits.
I Summit of the Americas
Date: December 9 to 11, 1994
Location: Miami, USA
Washington’s dream was to create a single market, from Alaska to Tierra de Fuego, with almost a thousand million consumers at its disposal, as well as countless natural resources to exploit.
The FTAA (Free Trade Areas of the Americas) was born under the auspice of Bill Clinton’s government, who decided to baptize it in the Summit where all the Heads of State of the region were meeting.
The place chosen to celebrate it was not by accident. In addition to its Hispanic influence, Miami was the capital of subversion against the leftist and progressive governments of Our America, which marked a clear agenda for the region.
Although the Summit emerged under the umbrella of the Organization of the American States (OAS), it still maintained some sort of independence.
The OAS is in charge of the secretary and the organization of the meetings, but the host country and the member countries also have the capacity to decide about who is invited and to decide the issues to be addressed.
Due to the pressure from Washington and amid the context of aggression that was reinforced after the fall of socialist bloc, Cuba was not invited to the Miami Summit.
At the Miami table, next to Clinton, sat Carlos Menem, Ernesto Zedillo, Eduardo Frei and Alberto Fujimori, among others. It was the heyday of neoliberalism, but the laughter and the congratulations wouldn’t last long.
II Summit of the Americas
Date: April 18 & 19, 1998
Location: Santiago de Chile, Chile
Although Chile served to give continuity to the issues addressed in Miami, the ideas of free flow of goods between the North and South of the continent started to cause some concerns.
Neoliberalism, implanted with blood and fire in Latin American, was far from “spilling wealth” as it had promised, and its effects were felt strongly among the working majorities.
Still, the implementation of ALCA continued and the formal negotiations for its creation began. Clinton even promised that he would use a “fast track” to approve any free market agreements with Latin America.
In the Chilean meeting, the absence of Cuba began to be questioned, especially from the Caribbean countries. The Prime Minister of the Barbados, Owen Arthur, said that Santiago should be the last Summit of Americas without the participation of Greater Antilles.
Chile also saw the birth of the People’s Summit, an alternative to the high-level event to address issues that really concerned the region.
III Summit of Americas
Date: April 20 to 22, 2001
Headquarter: Quebec, Canada
In Quebec, the neoliberal vision driven by the United States began to show its weaknesses. The continuing economic crisis and the consequent popular discontent was rampant across the continent and the spirit of celebration began to decay.
A mid-level commander of the Venezuelan army, Hugo Chavez had been elected president of Venezuela and didn’t hide from the world his plans of transforming the country and recovering the natural resources in favor of the people.
The Bolivarian project would mark the starting of one of the most profound social transformation processes that Latin America and the Caribbean has experienced. The end of the “long neoliberal night” began, as the Ecuadorian Rafael Correa would call it.
At the III Summit of Americas, however, the United States maintained its idea of implementing the FTAA by 2005.
At the same time, the meeting gave way to the future creation of an instrument that today is the source of selective manipulations and attacks: the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
From Cuba, Fidel warned about the Quebec Summit: “the people of Latin America and the Caribbean can be devoured, but not digested; they will escape sooner or later from the whale’s belly. ”
The summit in Canada was also historical because of the high degree of mobilization of all the sectors of civil society and the brutal police repression. At least 435 people were detained and more than a hundred were injured in the course of two days protests, demonstrations and clashes that involved some 60,000 people.
IV Summit of Americas
Date: November 4 & 5, 2005
Location: Mar del Plata, Argentina
If Miami wanted to give life to the ALCA, the IV Summit of Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, was its official burial.
The meeting had the undisputed prominence of Chavez and the host President, Nestor Kirchner, whose country just started to emerge from the bankruptcy that had been left behind from the neoliberal debacle.
The triumphs of new leftist political forces in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay radically transformed the balance of forces in the region, which began to seek alternative integrations.
From that spirit would emerge the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), Petrocaribe, Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and finally, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
The majority of the participating countries came together to face Washington, and pointed out the stark imbalances between the two regions regarding the signing of free trade agreements.
For the first time in the meetings, the will of Latin American and the Caribbean would prevail. The President of the United States, George W. Bush, was unable to hide his surprise at the position of the participating countries.
Although the issue had been presented since the first meeting in Miami, it was in Mar del Plata when there was a strong demand for the presence of Cuba.
The III People’s Summit of America, which included the participation of some 500 civil organizations, including a Cuban representation, concluded with a strong a pronouncement against the FTAA and the alternative proposals to this initiative, driven by the United States.
In the final act of the peoples’ meeting, Chavez uttered his historic sentence: “ALCA ALCA, fuck ALCA”. (the acronym of FTAA in Spanish is ALCA).