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Approaches for an alternative strategy to the FTA
author : René Báez
Freely translated by Anoosha Boralessa (Nov 2015) ; not revised by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person.
ALAI-AMLATINA 01/11/2005, Quito - In the dawn of the 21st century and
after more than a hundred and seventy years of political independence for most Latin American nations, Latin America is on the verge of an economic and social catastrophe. With its productive apparatus repressed and dislocated, jeopardized by an internal/external debt of stellar dimensions, isolated from the main currents of productive investment, trade and innovative technology and subjugated to the diktat of a power that is both arrogant and decadent, all the escape routes for our countries would appear to be blocked. However, this “high intensity crisis”, as Agustín Cueva already characterized it at the end of the eighties, does not fully encapsulate the continental reality of this turn of the century, that also appears marked by resistance even by businesses, to liberal fundamentalism and by defensive institutional positions, such as Cuba’s non-intervention policy, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the promising progress of ALBA and the nationalist and popular trends both in the Andean Area and in the South Cone.
In these uncertain conditions, Our America – that supports the ideas of Marti instead of Munroe - faces the challenges of the FTAAs and the FTAs, that is, the challenges of its integration with the most powerful economy in the world. A plan that does not bear the remotest relation to an interest on the part of the United States to sharing with its Southern neighbours its material well-being or its technological advances. Rather, on the contrary, it implies Washington’s strategy to intensify its dominance over the hemisphere through a broad range of activities : trade in goods and services, movement of capital and technologies, government purchases, natural resources and the environment, intellectual property including political conduct. By galvanizing such a liberal proposal of “there is only one way,” the seeds of which are contained in the Bush Initiative (l99l)- the whole region would move on to develop within a Charter more ominous than in Spanish colonial times. It would be the “end of Latin America” as Alain Rouquié shall forecast.
This undesirable prospect thrust the task of shaping and defending alternative projects to FTAAs and FTAs, especially on those who do not struggle in terms of any historical determinism. What materials will assist in constructing utopias ?
There is no doubt that the major challenge consists in rescuing the sovereignty of our States, that has been chipped away in recent times by untrammelled US power and its giant corporations and by the subjugation (“by free determination”) of regimes such as those in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Given that sovereignty is not a pipedream but a concept with identifiable bases, asserting this attribute assumes at the very least, action in the following specific areas :
the struggle for peace and
the drive for schemes for integration.
As for the first area, it is fitting not to forget that, unless there is a radical resolution to the debt issue, Latin America has no future other than a collapsing archipelago of failed States. There are no miracles in the world of economics : no one can survive with debts that balloon the more one pays. If the United States, the European Union and all the other institutional or commercial creditors, including, of course, the native Shyloks - genuinely seek to stop this ulcer of the modern world, why don’t they set up a regime for the total write-off of debts every seven years ? Surely there would not be any better way to honour our Christian civilization tradition and to ensure our people survive ? Or is it desired that economic genocide reaches its final solution ?
The right to peace and self-determination is inseparable from freedom, prosperity and the well-being of nations. With almost all the boundary disputes between our countries resolved or tempered – the ignominious legacy of past colonialism – what is the point of squandering the scarce resources in internal or regional wars through the metropolitan mandate ? We refer specifically to the complement of the fledgling US – Andean FTA, the so-called Plan Colombia/IRA/Plan Patriota that has meant for my country, apart from transferring the Manta Base to the Pentagon, establishing on its Northern border, 10 -12,000 efficient soldiers and police officers. In this same regard, why doesn’t Latin America contribute to de-escalating the Colombian civil conflict by putting pressure on the United States to outlaw the consumption of psycho-active drugs, just as the US prohibited alcoholic drinks in l933 ? Why accept that our societies are forever criminalized ? Why not form a Latin American Front – similar to the Contadora Group - that supports resuming peaceful negotiations in our sister Colombia ?
With respect to the specific question of integration – disintegration (“annexationist”) that FTAAs and the FTAs represent, we think it right to close those laconic reflections with three comments pertinent to the history of the economic merger of our countries.
First. When Bolivar, the liberator, summoned the Panama Amphictionic Congress (l826), he did so seeking to sustain his ideal of a Great Fatherland to protect our countries, confronted by the perceived danger of an emerging North American power. On the basis of what scientific argument has protecting the peripheral countries been outlawed ?
Second. Four centuries ago, the governments of that time put in place the Latin American Association of Free Trade (ALALC) and the Central American Common Market (MCCA). At that time, no one thought of challenging them on the basis of the necessary defensive philosophy of States and national projects. On what logical basis rests the claim that our countries are throwing overboard their sovereign attributes ?
Third. Why not proudly recognize that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), with its theoretical/practical, anti-capitalist positions, is making a fundamental contribution to a new understanding of economics and politics. And in this way, the whole of humanity will glimmer, overcoming servitude to the civilization of ego-maniacs and businesses ?
René Báez, Professor, Economics Faculty of the Universidad Católica, Ecuador. Member of International Writers Association, IWA