The Declaration of Buenos Aires
CELAC seeks peace and economic productivity
In my last commentary, I discussed the emergence of CELAC in historical context. I reviewed the spectacular economic ascent of the United States, its need to develop imperialist policies with respect to Latin America and other regions of the world in order to respond to its problem of overproduction in relation to its national economy, and its creation of OAS as a diplomatic mechanism for the advancement of its imperialist objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean. And I discussed the resistance of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Third World to U.S. and Western imperialism, including the formation of international and regional associations to defend their interests, which attained advanced expression with the creation of CELAC in 2011. See “CELAC and OAS,” January 24, 2023.
In its first ten years, CELAC held six summits of heads of state, in Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. They were held annually from 2013 to 2017. The Second Summit of 2014 in Havana, held at the conclusion of Cuba’s presidency, was transcendental. It consolidated Cuba’s role as an actor on the regional and international scene. Thirty documents and special declarations were approved, including the establishment of the China-CELAC Forum, and the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.
There was a hiatus of four years, due to a restoration project of the Latin American Right and the U.S. unconventional war against targeted nations. But the restoration project was beaten back. In this context, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reinitiated CELAC with the Sixth Summit, held in Mexico City in September of 2021.
The Seventh Summit, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023, has given continuity to the rebirth of the regional organization. All thirty-three member nations sent delegations to the Summit. Twenty-three heads of states (presidents or prime ministers) were present. The remaining ten countries sent delegations that were headed by ministers of foreign relations or vice-presidents. Among the heads of state present were Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina; Luis Arce, President of Bolivia; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil; Gabriel Boric, President of Chile; Gustavo Petro, President of Columbia; Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of Cuba; Xiomara Castro, President of Honduras; Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, among others. Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, made a video presentation to the Summit from Caracas.
The Seventh Summit in Argentina was marked by the return of Brazil to CELAC, after three years of absence, due to the withdrawal from the regional organization by the ultra-rightist government of Jair Bolsonaro. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, head of the Workers’ Party of Brazil, has returned to the presidency of the South American giant.
The presidency of CELAC for the next year has been passed to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the first country of the English-speaking Caribbean to assume the presidency. Its Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, has been a powerful anti-imperialist voice in the region.
The Declaration of Buenos Aires: A critical review
The Declaration of Buenos Aires is a collective declaration made by the Heads of States of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, emitted on January 24, 2023.
Article 1 of the Declaration reaffirms the importance of regional integration for the protection of the sovereignty of the member nations. It declares:
“We affirm the commitment of the members of CELAC to advance with determination in the process of integration, promoting the unity and the political, economic, social, and cultural diversity among our peoples, with the purpose that Latin America and the Caribbean have full consciousness of its projection as a community of sovereign nations, capable of deepening consensus with respect to themes of common interest, and capable of contributing to the wellbeing and development of the region, as well as the gradual overcoming of poverty and existing inequalities and inequities.”
Thus, the Declaration begins by addressing the fundamental challenge of CELAC, namely, the need to maintain a unified regional quest for mutually beneficial trade within the region, in spite of political and ideological differences, as a necessary precondition for the attainment of sovereignty for the nations of the regions. In this regard, CELAC faces an obstacle: The Latin American Right, today more than ever, is economically dependent on, and politically aligned with, the United States, and it therefore tends to give U.S. imperialist interests priority over the autonomous interests of their national economies. Therefore, progressive governments now in power must maintain their majorities, which in some cases are narrow majorities; or if more right-wing governments come to power, they must be atypical rightest governments with an emphasis on national sovereignty vis-à-vis U.S. imperialism.
For the moment, key Latin American countries are in the hands of progressive movements, including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. These countries are leading CELAC toward an autonomous regional integration. It is the first time since its founding that CELAC has been able to count upon the support of the all the largest economies in the region. Moreover, this occurs in spite of the fact that U.S. imperialism has launched since 2014 an unconventional war against Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. These socialist-oriented countries are still standing, with more allies that ever, and they are allies with large economies.
Cuban journalists Yaima Puig Meneses and Alina Perera Robbio express the challenge in terms of identity. They maintain that the goal is to overcome difference and unify on the basis of common interests, without this implying the loss of the identity of the peoples. This is the meaning of unity in the midst of diversity. They maintain that CELAC seeks a true regional integration, which permits our peoples to save themselves from the loss of their sovereignty; an integration that works in favor of common interests yet respects identities and differences.
Article Two of the Declaration emphasizes the importance of the 2014 Summit in Havana and its proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.
“We emphasize the full vibrancy of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed at the Second Summit of CELAC in Havana in January of 2014, which recognizes the region as a zone of peace and free of nuclear arms and which promotes the peaceful solution of conflicts and an international system based on respectful relations of friendship and cooperation, free of threats, aggression, and unilateral coercive measures contrary to international law.”
Here the Declaration expresses the connection between peace and mutually beneficial commerce. A political-economic dynamic of peace and mutually beneficial commerce contrasts with imperialism, which has an interest in imposing economic policies, which necessarily brings forth resistance and thus conflict. It should be noted that the phrase “unilateral coercive measures” refer to the coercive measures taken by the USA, which are not developed in consultation with other imperialist powers.
Article Three of the Declaration affirms the commitment of the member nations to the principles of “multilateralism, respect for territorial integrity, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, and the defense of sovereignty.” As I have expressed in previous commentaries, these are the foundational principles that have guided the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77, and the foreign policy of China. They are the fundamental principles of the UN Declaration on a New International Economic Order and of the current quest for a more just, democratic, and sustainable world. They ought to be the fundamental principles of anti-imperialist and socialist movements in the North. (See “China and the Third World: The construction of an alternative, more just world-system,” October 1, 2021; “Cuba assumes presidency of G77: The struggle for a more just world economic order,” January 17, 2023).
Article 11 recognizes the need for the economic models of the countries of the region to prioritize the productive development of their economies with social inclusion, and to orient their available resources toward this end. This declaration is most interesting, because it coincides with the economic approach of the countries today constructing socialism (Cuba, China, Vietnam, and Korea), which proclaim and practice state direction of the economy, with an emphasis on promoting the productivity of the national economy as well as providing for social needs with respect to education, health, housing, and nutrition. Although Article 11 does not mention the role of the state in materializing this objective, there is in fact a strong tradition in the Third World of state action in the economy, as is illustrated by the practice of nationalizations of properties and by the Latin American project of import-substitution industrialization. Such as an orientation of economic models prioritizing productivity stands in contrast to neoliberal capitalism and its emphasis on profits over the productivity of the national economies, a de-emphasis on productivity that neoliberal capitalists practice in their own countries as well as the countries on which they impose their imperialist interests.
Articles 67 to 70 treat the theme of international migration. These articles make no reference to the need to reduce irregular migration through the socioeconomic development of the region. This is a significant oversight. The countries of the South should do more than defend the rights of the migrants. They should repeatedly explain, at every opportunity, that the imperialist policies of the world powers create underdevelopment and poverty in the formerly colonized regions, such that uncontrollable migration to the North is an inevitable consequence, resulting in economic, political, and cultural conflicts in the North. The problem of uncontrollable international migration is a perfect example, although not the only one, of the negative consequences of colonialism and imperialism for the wellbeing of the countries of the North, illustrating the interest of the rich countries in joining the project of the Third World plus China in the construction of a post-imperialist more just world based in cooperation.
Article 103 reiterates the need to put an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba, not only because it violates international law, but also because it causes serious damage to the wellbeing of the Cuban people. And it reiterates CELAC’s rejection of the inclusion of Cuba on the unilateral list of countries that supposedly sponsor international terrorism. As is the custom, these denunciations of U.S. policy are made without mentioning the United States by name. Such denunciations are standard fare in the declarations of Latin America and the Third World.
The addresses of Díaz-Canel and Xi Jinping
Various world leaders addressed the Summit, and I highlight here the discourses of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Díaz-Canel declared that Washington persists in its strategy of seeking to divide and stigmatize Latin American governments, in order to subordinate them to its interests. Its goal is to make imperialist hegemony eternal, against the efforts toward multilateralism and peace. In this world scenario, “unity is the only possibility for those of us that come from a common colonial and neocolonial past.”
Like Díaz-Canel, the U.S. Left makes reference to the history of colonialism. But there is a subtle difference that is significant. The U.S. Left remembers colonialism and slavery in order to castigate individuals, past and present, who have any association with these social sins, for the purpose of discrediting them. In contrast, Díaz-Canel identifies colonial and neocolonial structures, with the intention of transforming them. The U.S. Left shouts about the un-redeemability of the American Republic, while Díaz-Canel works on building a post-colonial democratic world, which includes the nation and the people of the United States of America. The U.S. Left promotes cynicism and hatred of country, whereas Díaz-Canel works on building a united community of sovereign nations. The U.S. Left provokes division in service of the interests of the elite, whereas Díaz-Canel defends the interests of the peoples.
With respect to the Organization of American States, Díaz-Canel declared:
With abundant arguments that history offers us, I say that we do not recognize and will not recognize any authority of the OAS, which is an organization in the service of the United States, supporting military interventions, coups d’état, and interference in Latin America and the Caribbean against popular and legitimate governments. The OAS is the organization that did nothing against the assassinations, the tortures, the forced disappearances, and the persecution of progressive and leftist social leaders of the region, who will remain forever in our memory.
Díaz-Canel also declared, “Cuba has repeatedly ratified, but it is not excessive to say it today, its firmest solidarity with the legitimate governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, submitted to persistent attempts of destabilization.”
Xi Jinping addressed the Summit via video. He declared that CELAC has become an indispensable force for South-South cooperation, necessary to promote the common development of the region and the world. He stressed the disposition of China to continue to strengthen ties through the China-CELAC forum, under the principles of greater equity, mutual benefit, innovation, and social wellbeing. He called for solidarity and cooperation in the face of the turbulences and radical changes that the world is experiencing today.
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