Latin America and the Caribbean seeking unity and peace despite the storm clouds brewing in the North

Jan 17, 2018 by

Latin America and the Caribbean seeking unity and peace despite the storm clouds brewing in the North

The turmoil seen in the North, during 2017, confirmed that regional unity and integration are essential for Latin American and Caribbean nations, in their efforts to continue advancing along the path of development in peace

Latin American unity is increasingly strengthened. Photo: Granma

The turmoil seen in the North, during 2017, confirmed that regional unity and integration are essential for Latin American and Caribbean nations, in their efforts to continue advancing along the path of development in peace.

As a Presidential candidate in 2016, the Republican tycoon Donald Trump defended aggressive policy against migrants and announced the building of a wall on the border with Mexico as one of his campaign promises.

Since entering the White House, Trump has refused to renew permits and visas that protect millions of Latin Americans and Caribbeans residing in the United States and, although he has not yet secured the funds, he remains committed to completely closing the Southern border, forcing migrants to take even more dangerous routes.

Trump also outlined his intentions for Latin America and the Caribbean on announcing a change of policy toward Cuba, which strengthens the application of the blockade. This aggressive strategy is condemned every year by the international community (including all the countries of this region), lacks support among the U.S. public, and is even negatively viewed by the majority of the Cuban community in that country.

The escalation of attacks by the new U.S. administration, including the threat of the use of force against sovereign nations of the region, as well as the current advance of the domestic ultra-right, made for a convulsive political scenario during 2017.

VENEZUELA’S RESISTANCE

Last year saw the heroic resistance of the Venezuelan people and government, who faced an internal economic war, aggravated by an unjust and illegal round of international sanctions.

The election of the National Constituent Assembly at the end of July 2017 marked a turning point for the Bolivarian nation. President Nicolás Maduro’s commitment to allow the people to decide the country’s future put the brakes on violent attempts to bring down his government, and left the country in better conditions to deal with the economic and structural problems inherited from decades of oil rentierism.

Meanwhile, international maneuvers against Venezuela, mainly within the OAS, clashed throughout 2017 with the dignified position of a group of nations who did not submit to Washington’s pressure, or the manipulations of the organization’s Secretary General, Luis Almagro.

In this regard, noteworthy was the integrity of island nations of the Caribbean, which suffered blackmail and threats after maintaining their principled positions with respect to Venezuela.


ALBA REJUVENATED

At the end of 2017, Havana hosted the celebrations for the 13th anniversary of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, and the 16th meeting of its Political Council. Both events offered a space to take stock of the successes of this integration mechanism, based on the solidarity and complementarity of the region’s economies.

Member countries recognized the legacy of two great Latin American and Caribbean figures, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, from whose united vision ALBA emerged.

“Without the creation of ALBA, without the consolidation of ALBA, the founding of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States would not have been possible;” President Nicolás Maduro acknowledged in his speech at Havana’s International Conference Center, on December 14.

With a history of 13 years, the bloc continues committed to unity within diversity, and stands as a bulwark for the consolidation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, as was proclaimed in Havana in 2012, during the 2nd CELAC Summit.


A UNITED CARIBBEAN

In addition to the interventionist attempts of some powers, which continue into the 21st century, in 2017 Caribbean nations suffered the ravages of nature, whose unusual intensity is directly related to the effects of climate change.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit within just a few days of each other, reached maximum intensity and left a trail of destruction of homes and vital infrastructure in their path, as well as the regrettable loss of human life.

The force of the winds and the magnitude of the disaster put Caribbean institutions and international solidarity to the test. The first aid shipments to arrive to the most damaged areas came from neighboring countries.

Despite also suffering the impact of Irma in much of its national territory, Cuba offered aid to the worst affected islands, including Dominica and Antigua, and Barbuda.

In addition to sending urgent humanitarian aid by sea, Cuban electricians, builders and forestry workers joined doctors of the permanent brigades on these islands to help in the recovery efforts in which both nations were immersed.

At the 6th CARICOM-Cuba Summit, held on the island of Antigua, Army General Raúl Castro reiterated that the Caribbean “can always count on the eternal friendship, gratitude, and support of Cuba,” willing to continue sharing the resources at its disposal with its Caribbean brothers and sisters.

Puerto Rico was also hit by the fury of these hurricanes, revealing the vulnerabilities and deficiencies of its colonial system.

The damages in this U.S. “free associated state” amounted to 90 billion dollars, which added to the 74 billion dollar debt it has with Wall Street bondholders. Several months after the events, the island’s recovery appears to be in slow motion. A large percentage of the population still lacks power and drinking water.


LOOKING TO THE SOUTH

A quick look at the south of our continent – that which, beyond geography and following José Martí, extends from the Rio Grande to Patagonia – offers a panorama that is far from homogeneous.

On the one hand, the right wing has achieved significant success in some countries, where the setbacks are already beginning to be felt.

Increases in the costs of public services, and the reduction of pensions, to mention just one example, revealed the true neoliberal character of the Mauricio Macri administration in Argentina.

In Brazil, following the coup against President Dilma Rousseff, labor laws were turned back more than a century, and millions of people are now suffering the effects of the abandonment of the state. Despite attempts to block the candidacy of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the leader of the Workers’ Party has the lead over candidates of the Brazilian right, going into this year’s elections.

Meanwhile, Mexico is en route to the Presidential elections of July, 2018, with Andrés Manuel López Obrador leading the polls. The proposals of his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), have taken root in the midst of insecurity, institutionalized corruption, and the dark clouds brewing in the United States. Mexico also suffered adversities this year, including a series of earthquakes that left hundreds of dead and billions of dollars in economic losses.

In Chile, right-winger Sebastián Piñera regained the Presidency, but the real news in the first round of voting was the spectacular result of Beatriz Sánchez’s Broad Front. Having secured about 20% of the vote, coming in third place, demonstrated that a platform proposing profound changes has support in this country that sells itself as the showcase of neoliberalism in the region.

On the other hand, several processes are underway that demonstrate the strength of social transformations, aimed at leaving behind the past of underdevelopment in our region.

Nicaragua, led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, has seen one of the highest growth rates in our continent, close to 5%, and the reality in this, one of the poorest nations in Latin America, continues to transform. Likewise, Bolivia under Evo Morales provides evidence of just how much progress can be made by countries that recover control over their natural resources and devote them to social development.

In El Salvador, President Sánchez Cerén, working to avoid the blunders of the right wing, managed to reduce the rates of violence in the country and leave it in better conditions to attract investment and develop the economy.

But, above all, 2017 witnessed the strength of the peoples. Tens of thousands went out to protest in Honduras against the announcement of the victory of President Juan Orlando Hernández, in elections overshadowed by allegations of fraud. The opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, leader of a progressive political alliance, maintains that he secured the most votes and announced a new stage of social resistance for this year.

The rights of Argentine social leader Milagro Sala, who has suffered political persecution in her country, were also defended in the streets, and the forced disappearance of the young Santiago Maldonado was denounced.

This year is also expected to be one of struggle, in which the geopolitical map of the region will continue to be drawn.

However, the forecasts of some that 2017 would see an end to the progressive cycle in the region and the return to the “long neoliberal night” that impoverished millions of Latin Americans and Caribbeans and left entire nations in ruins were far from the reality.

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