Fourth Peoples' Summit
Peoples’ Summit of the Americas
The Fourth Peoples’ Summit of the Americas was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from April 16-18, to coincide with the Fifth Summit of the Americas where 34 heads of state participated — all the countries of the Americas with the exception of Cuba. The Peoples’ Summit is an encounter of social movements of the hemisphere opposed to neo-liberalism and that stand for social justice, equity, peace and sustainable development, says the call for the Peoples’ Summit. Host organizations include Alianza Social Continental/Hemispheric Social Alliance (ASA/HSA), the Assembly of Caribbean People (ACP) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN), Trinidad and Tobago. The announcement informs:
“This Peoples’ Summit is of profound importance for social movements of the hemisphere as it takes place in the context of significant changes in the geopolitical map of the Americas. Certainly, the hegemonic position of neo-liberalism that characterized the First Summit is now discredited and is under challenge. Social movements and now increasingly governments are pursuing alternatives to the neo-liberal agenda.
“We also need to consider the crisis of international capitalism as evidenced by: the collapse of the world’s financial system; the crises of debt, food, energy and water; and the degradation of the environment and its implications. We will also meet in the context of the increasing threat of militarization and the criminalization of protests.
“At this significant juncture in the history of our region and the world, it is absolutely critical that Caribbean activists, including Cuba, and members of social movements, civil society and other networks utilize this rare opportunity to fuel the work that we do through discussion, analysis and collaboration with brothers and sisters from other Caribbean states, Latin America and North America.”
About one thousand people, including workers, farmers, student leaders and representatives from other social sectors analyzed the crisis with a unified vision that can allow for the tackling of their different economic, food, environmental, energy, cultural and governability issues, Prensa Latina informs. The focal points for the discussions were U.S. policies toward the continent and the search for unified people’s alternatives.
Starting from the controversial topic of U.S. relations with the region, are migration and militarization-security were discussed. Discussions will also included the region’s cultural prospects as part of a necessary ideological renewal to generate alternatives to neoliberalism.
The Peoples’ Summit concluded on Saturday, April 18 with a march and a rally.
No More Exclusion, Neoliberalism, “Free Trade”
Message from the Forth Peoples’ Summit to the presidents gathered at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Trinidad and Tobago, April 18, 2009.
As representatives from a wide diversity of trade union, farmer, indigenous, women’s, youth, consumer advocacy, human rights, environmental and, in general, social and civil organizations that are part of hemispheric networks such as the Hemispheric Social Alliance and united here at the Fourth Peoples’ Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, we wish to transmit this message from the people we represent:
1) The Summit of the Americas continues to be marked by exclusion and lack of democracy. First, we consider the continued exclusion of Cuba from hemispheric governmental forums to be inexplicable and unacceptable. No reason suffices to justify this exclusion, especially when nearly all countries of the hemisphere – the only exception being the U.S. – have diplomatic relations with this sovereign nation. We demand the full inclusion of Cuba in all hemispheric spaces in which it chooses to participate and, above all, an end to the illegitimate and unjust blockade that the United States has imposed on the island for decades. [This Summit represents an opportunity for President Obama to demonstrate whether or not he intends to truly change hemispheric relations that have been based on impositions]. For the majority of countries in the hemisphere, we also condemn the near complete lack of channels for democratic participation and consultation on decisions that are made in the official Summit, decisions which will affect the destinies of our nations. This exclusion is one of the reasons for which we are here meeting in the Peoples’ Summit. In this same vein, we want to raise the most energetic protest to the official treatment of our summit, which has included every conceivable obstacle, direct hostility and arbitrary actions that we have had to overcome to make the Summit possible. This has included detentions, deportations, interrogations, mistreatment, spying, denying us the use of facilities and retracting guarantees.
2) In the face of the grave crisis shaking the world and our hemisphere in particular, which illustrates the failure of the so-called “free trade” model it is evident that the official Summit’s declaration is far from representing the indispensable and urgent change that current reality and hemispheric relations demand. We note with alarm that this ‘project’ chooses to ignore the significance of a crisis with such historic dimensions. It is as if by doing this, one could ‘disappear’ the crisis. The official declaration covers with rhetoric, ambiguity, and meaningless good intentions its lack of an urgently needed turnaround in hemispheric policies. What is worse, it insists on proposing solutions that are merely more of the same old policies, more of the medicine that has created the worst illness – in other words, more neoliberalism and free trade. The declaration further ratifies support for antiquated institutions that contributed to the current debacle. Even if by omission, giving forums such as the G-20, which are illegitimate and exclusive, the power to determine so-called solutions to the crisis—such as “prescriptions” to dedicate more resources to the already repudiated IMF—is to maintain a vicious circle. Canceling the illegitimate debts of countries in the South, rather than condemning them to further indebtedness, is a solution that could actually provide countries the resources needed for development.
3) The neoliberal model arose as a “solution” to previous crises, but it has only lead to an even worse crisis. The solution must not be more of the same. We, the social movements and organizations from the hemisphere, affirm that another solution to the crisis is possible and necessary. The solutions will not be found by reactivating the same economic model or establishing an even more perverse one. The solution will not be found in continuing to convert everything – including life itself - into mere commodities. Instead, the solution must be one that puts ‘Living Well’ for all people above the profits of a few. It is not a question of resolving a financial crisis, but rather overcoming all of the dimensions of the crisis - which include the food, climate and energy crises. This requires guaranteeing the people’s food sovereignty, putting an end to the pillaging of the South’s natural resources, paying the ecological debt that is owed to the South and developing sustainable energy strategies. If the governments gathered in the official Summit refuse to explicitly address the urgent changes needed, they thereby renounce their right to receive support from their people. We salute the fact that some presidents from the South are raising with dignity in the official event, alternatives which coincide with those which the peoples of the Americas are raising.
4) We demand that in the short term, the working people of the hemisphere must not be made to bear the brunt of the crisis, which is what has been happening so far. Instead of dedicating billions of dollars to rescuing financial speculators and large corporations, that profited before the crisis, provoked the crisis, and then returned to the same behavior, we demand that the people be rescued. This is one way to strengthen our national economies and promote recovery directed towards real development that inverts the order of the beneficiaries, giving priority to the people.
5) We also demand that the crisis not be used as a pretext to attack or reduce social rights that have been won. Rights do not have costs. On the contrary, the best solution to the crisis is to expand rights, making decent work, democratic freedoms, and human, economic, social and cultural rights a reality. To start with, the full rights of indigenous peoples must finally be recognized as well as women’s rights.
6) A just and sustainable solution to the crisis necessitates a complete reorganizing of hemispheric relations and a burial of the so-called “free trade” model. No more Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). It is necessary to replace the FTAs that have been proliferating throughout the region with a new model of agreements between nations based on equity, complementary arrangements, mutual benefit, cooperation and just trade. This model must protect the right to development, the right of nations to protect their goods, strategic resources and sovereignty. Processes of regional integration that are developed on these bases are also a strong lever for resolving the crisis and promoting alternative solutions. We especially call on the governments in countries of the South that have advanced these types of processes to deepen them, to not lose their autonomy and to not stray from this path. Perverse and hegemonic projects such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) should be buried forever. We ask governments in the region, namely the new United States administration headed by President Obama, to make explicit their position on the future of initiatives such as the one developed in the entrails of the Bush administration – Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas – that not only aims to revive the corpse of the FTAA, but also to subordinate the rest of the hemisphere to Washington’s policies and security forces. We hereby affirm that we, the peoples of the Americas, will not allow this to happen.
7) Cooperation between nations must not, in any circumstance, include the militarization of our societies. The security policies of each country must not be subordinated to the interests of any power, nor should human rights and individual guarantees be restricted. We demand the closure of all military bases and the withdrawal of all troops and the U.S. Fourth Fleet from the waters and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean. The future for our America demands an end, once and for all, with the colonial domination of Puerto Rico and all forms of colonialism in the Caribbean.
Presidents: listening to your people and acting in favor of their interests--not the profits of a small few—is the only true, lasting and sustainable solution to end the crisis and build another, more just America.
Hemispheric Social Alliance / Fourth People’s Summit Of The Americas
Hopes raised at the Summit of the Americas for new approach to U.S. relations with Latin America proved to be short lived when, on the day after the Summit, the U.S. Administration announced that there will be no renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and that the U.S. will begin to move forward quickly on all three pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) — Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
The timing of the announcements makes it obvious that these policy decisions had been made previously, but were not announced, in order to avoid confrontations during the Summit. The announcement also seems to confirm that U.S. policy will not embrace the urgent changes that current multiple global crises and new hemispheric realities demand.
It seems that President Barack Obama has forgotten the widespread rejection of the current trade model he encountered on the campaign trail. A large number of those in Congress campaigned on pledges for a new model on trade. Senator Brown from Ohio has issued a call for a new “blue-ribbon” commission to -formulate a new framework for trade. A hefty segment of the organized base that brought Obama into power are the same activists who will oppose him as he reverses his position on trade.
During a BBC interview Dan Restrepo, the President’s advisor on Latin American affairs, stated that he doubted that neither he nor Obama would read the book chronicling the tragic history of U.S. relations with Latin America given to him by President Chavez. It is regrettable that U.S. policy makers are unlikely to read Galeano’s chronicle. As truth commissions throughout the region have reminded us, it is crucial to learn from the past so that we do not repeat it.
Obama’s mantra that “we need to move on from the past” needs to be balanced with a full acknowledgement of the tragic policies of the past and a commitment to different actions in the future, not only regarding our behavior in Latin America, but all over the world. We applaud the President’s release of previously classified information, which is a clear indictment of those who tortured and provided legal cover. This creates an interesting scenario as European governments have signaled intent to bring charges against people at all levels of involvement if it appears that no prosecution is forthcoming in the United States. This increases the pressure on President Obama and the Justice Department to act.
Bolivia, through skillful diplomacy on Sunday, obtained a public denouncement from President Obama of the recent assassination plot uncovered against President Morales. While acknowledged as an important gesture, the Bolivian government subsequently presented additional conditions required for reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States. Bolivia has identified five themes for discussion: economic cooperation, drug interdiction, trade, political change and mutual respect.
Here in the U.S. we need to push for a policy of transparency and accountability for funds disbursed through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The books on these organizations need to be opened wide, with recipients and subcontractors clearly identified.
The People’s Forum called on social movements in the U.S. to insist on a reorganizing of hemispheric relations in function of a new economic model based on equity, complementarity, mutual benefit, cooperation and just trade. A solution to the current crisis will also require a new way of living that the indigenous peoples of the continent define as “Living Well.”
We have a lot of work to do in the weeks and months ahead as the administration forges ahead with the old model despite its promises of change. Stay tuned for more news and ways you can help.
(For more materials on the Peoples’ Summit see www.art-us.org)
The message below was sent to the three North American heads of state participating in the Fifth Summit of the Americas: President Barack Obama, Prime minister Stephen Harper of Canada and Felipe Calderon of Mexico. The message was sent by North American organizations participating in the Fourth Peoples’ Summit of the America, such as the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA). Among the U.S. organizations that are part of HSA are Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Miami Workers Center and Jobs with Justice.
We, the North American networks and organizations, members of the Hemispheric Social Alliance (and others) signing below, participants in the Forth Peoples’ Summit of the Americas in Trinidad Tobago, during April 16-18, call for swift and dramatic actions from our governments. After having lived with and suffered the negative impacts of 15 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we are concerned about the expansion to the rest of the Americas of the latest neo-liberal program: the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP).
Three aspects of the SPP that are of most concern include: a) heavily financed security and militarization components; b) an expansion of the model to the rest of the continent; c) the surrendering of multiple issues belonging in public domain to corporate control.
For these reasons we are calling on Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon (Mexico) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Canada) to:
• Conduct a fundamental reopening of the debate regarding the future of NAFTA, which includes broad representation of the most impacted sectors.
• Close all of the working groups that have been carrying forward the work of the SPP, and terminate its expansion.
• Announce that they will stop using and criminalizing migrants seeking a better life and will work to remove the root causes behind people abandoning their homes and lands.
• Demilitarize the border between the U.S. and Mexico and bring down the wall.
• Unite behind the imperative to recognize Cuba as a full diplomatic partner in the hemisphere.
Our governments need to recognize the depth and breadth of changes that are happening in the entire hemisphere. There is an urgent need for a changing of attitudes and actions of imposition. This could be demonstrated concretely by:
• Stopping the implementation of all bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), and the abrogation of all existing FTAs.
• Beginning the process of immediately closing all U.S. military bases in the Americas.
• Retiring the U.S. Fourth fleet for all time from the waters of the Americas.
• Renouncing all ‘democracy building’ programs, whether done alone or in collaboration with other countries.
• Giving primacy to environmental sustainability and protecting communities from being negatively impacted by mining and other mega projects.
• Stopping the criminalization of social protest.
• Respecting the human and labor rights of all peoples.
It is particularly preoccupying that the official declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas makes scant reference to the economic crisis, despite the widespread and devastating impacts being felt by our peoples. These impacts are the result of the irresponsible behavior of a small group of speculators. Therefore, we demand swift action to change the rules of the global economic order and protect the most vulnerable among us.
Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) United States (868-462-0223)
At the upcoming Summit of the Americas, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate how the change you promise can translate into new policies towards the hemisphere. The history of relations between the United States and Latin America is a painful one, based on domination and military intervention to assure compliance with U.S. agendas.
Progressive governments have been democratically elected in many Latin American countries. These governments are promoting agendas that meet the needs of their impoverished majorities. The prevailing economic model has not worked for most people in Latin American or the earth. For this reason, many governments, spurred by their social movements, are implementing dramatic new policies. These policies reverse the concentration of resources so that the wealth of their countries is not controlled by a few, or stolen by transnational companies, but is used to serve the common good. Four countries in Latin America have made significant improvement between 2002 and 2007 in narrowing the gap between people at extreme ends of the income spectrum; Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Nicaragua.
The upcoming Summit of the Americas will offer an opportunity for you to set a new course in U.S. relations with the hemisphere. The people of Latin America need the same things you have said people in the United States need: good jobs, education, healthcare, food, and a decent home. The United States must respect each country’s autonomy and not interfere in its sovereign right to seek the well-being of its people. New relations between the United States and the rest of the continent must be based on total respect for sovereignty, mutuality, and cooperation without conditions or impositions.
For the Summit of the Americas the people of the continent are not hoping for ‘generous offers’ from your government; they hope for horizontal relations between equals, so that together we can find solutions to the current crisis which was generated by the ambitions of a few. The people of Latin America should not be made to pay for a crisis they have not created.
To confront the global crisis and reestablish relations between the United States and the rest of the hemisphere, we need agreement on the following points:
Debt: In this moment of economic crisis, your own Administration has thrown away the rule book, articulating the need for unprecedented spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy with additional spending on education, health care, and greening the economy. Latin American countries have also been severely impacted by the crisis, yet they have no stimulus and fewer policy options available. Many countries are crippled with massive external debt that must be paid before responding to the desperate needs of their people.
The situation demands more radical debt cancellation programs, and elimination of the conditionalities imposed by International Financial Institutions that severely limit the ability of Latin American countries to respond to the crisis. We welcome your initiatives to make additional resources available, but these are only viable if they come without conditionalities that have forced privatization of public resources, leading to the further impoverishment of people in these countries. You must accept the re-nationalization of resources and services when governments determine that they belong in the public domain.
Militarization: We ask the United States to cooperate with efforts to de-militarize the countries of the hemisphere. Money spent on weapons or the military is money that is not available for food, education or health care. Latin American democracies and citizens have been brutalized by military solutions to social problems and troops trained in torture at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, previously known as the School of the Americas. Their police and military should not be trained in U.S. schools to oppress and torture. It is time to shutter these programs. The United States must also recall the Fourth Fleet from the hemisphere and close our military bases in the region.
Increased funding for the Merida Initiative and Plan Colombia will only increase violence and human suffering. Funds should be spent on meeting basic human needs. It is time for a new, non-military approach to solving drug problems. It is also time for the United States to cease manufacturing and exporting weapons which only increase levels of violence in all of our countries. At the same time the anti-democratic, corporate-driven Security and Prosperity Partnership, which has resulted in intensified military intervention in Mexico and Canada, must be halted, and not extended to the rest of the hemisphere, given its failure to resolve the problems of these countries.
Democracy building: It is clear that countries in Latin America are engaged in profound democratic change. The U.S. role has often been to undermine these governments because they don’t defend the interests of our corporations. U.S. funds supplied through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and similar institutions are routinely used to subvert popular governments, promote instability, political turmoil, and violence. Ironically, these NED ‘democracy building’ programs are often used to undermine democracy. These institutions need to be dismantled and funds redirected to governments for use in meeting vital human needs. USAID programs which promote similar objectives must also be eliminated.
Trade: We believe that trade between our countries can, under proper conditions, bring mutual benefits. However, there are fundamental flaws in the current model that was designed exclusively to promote the interests of corporations rather than people. A comprehensive re-visiting of existing agreements must be the first step, and movement on all pending FTAs must be postponed. Our concerns are articulated in the comprehensive Alternatives for the Americas document, written by members of the Hemispheric Social Alliance.
Two areas that demand urgent rethinking are investment and agriculture. Investment provisions must focus on empowering governments to raise standards of living. As currently written, investment provisions do nearly the opposite and function as a straitjacket, limiting governments’ abilities to control transnational corporations and capital. Current rules inhibit governments from protecting food security and sovereignty. The economic crisis brings into serious question the benefits that were promised under the ‘Free Trade’ model.
We propose three immediate actions you could take before the Summit begins, which could signal a change of spirit. These actions would demonstrate that you recognize that the world has changed in dramatic ways, and that a new relationship with the hemisphere is imperative. They are:
1st — Normalize relations with Cuba and end the economic blockade: Recognize that the world has changed in the last 50 years; an embargo on Cuba serves no purpose. To jump start the new relationship, we challenge you to invite Cuban President Raul Castro to attend the Summit with full status.
2nd — Normalize relations with Bolivia: The expulsion of Ambassador Goldberg was a consequence of unacceptable U.S. intervention. We challenge you to normalize diplomatic relations with Bolivia and immediately restore ATPDEA preferences that were revoked as a form of revenge by the Bush Administration and against the will of the U.S. Congress.
3rd — Normalize relations with Venezuela: The United States should not penalize President Chavez, whose rule has been legitimized by more electoral processes than any other leader in the hemisphere. We insist that you extend your hand to the people of Venezuela, who have a profound connection to the United States. Venezuela is also one of our most important trading partners in the hemisphere. Secretary Clinton needs to stop the ‘war of words’ with Mr. Chavez.
These actions would send strong signals of good will, and demonstrate a concrete commitment to the change so urgently needed at this moment and for the future.
Signed by dozens of U.S. rights and anti-war organizations
Tito Kayak, well-known Puerto Rican freedom fighter, was denied entry into Trinidad. He and a number of other Puerto Ricans were on their way to the Fourth People’s Summit. Kayak is known for his struggle to oppose the U.S. Navy in Vieques Puerto Rico and for persisting in the face of U.S. efforts to criminalize his actions for independence of Puerto Rico. When the U.S. Navy was occupying the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, he paddled his kayak out against Naval vessels, painting on them “Yankee Go Home” and “Vive Puerto Rico Libre.” He also climbed the Statue of Liberty and planted a Puerto Rican flag there. He has visited Palestine and brought out the common struggle of small nations courageously standing up to U.S. colonialism and occupation.
According to reports, the FBI and Secret Service told local authorities in Trinidad that Kayak represented a security threat. No doubt at U.S. insistence, Kayak along with several other international protesters was denied entry. Kayak was deported to Puerto Rico, while the rest of the Puerto Rican delegation was allowed entry but warned not to participate in the People’s Summit.
According to Jorge Quiles, who was traveling with Kayak, Trinidad police made a show of force with a heavy display of arms. They confiscated the activists’ passports, took the books, brochures, newspapers, posters, Puerto Rican flags and CDs on the Puerto Rican independence struggle they brought to the summit. Trinidad –Tobago Immigration officers interrogated the Puerto Ricans, kept them isolated for hours and threatened to jail them.
Speaking at the Ministry of National Security, Port of Spain’s acting police commissioner James Philbert said: “I was advised that one Alberto de Jesus Mercado [Tito Kayak] was denied entry and a large quantity of material prepared for protest and demonstration was seized from him and another quantity seized from other persons who were not denied entry.”
Philbert said “information” was given to authorities by the U.S. and found to be “credible.” At the same time, Philbert said local law enforcement officers had not detected any real threat for the Summit of the Americas.
The U.S. does not permit Puerto Rico to participate in the Summit of the Americas, imposing its dictate as a colonizer. Puerto Ricans reject this position and like Cuba, have condemned the actions of the Organization of American States against all the peoples of the Americas.
The U.S. action against Kayak also comes at a time when the Navy is considering returning to Vieques. After years of determined struggle, Puerto Ricans, joined by many internationally, had succeeded in driving the Navy out. For years the island had been used as a bombing range and the military left behind a contaminated environment it has refused to clean up. Now, after being absent for six years, the U.S. military is suggesting it could once again re-establish a presence on Vieques. Military leaders said in recent testimony that Vieques is well placed to extend the United States' reach in the Caribbean and possibly help in airspace and “drug trafficking” surveillance.
Angry objections are already being heard from Puerto Rico and beyond. "We the Puerto Ricans fought for so many years to end the bombing and to have the land turned over to the people of Vieques," said a veteran anti-Navy activist. "We are opposed to Vieques being used by the U.S. for anything else, much less that it go back to the military."