They favor reducing social projects, increasing taxes
[Translation of an article from the May 19 edition of La Jornada of Mexico City. See also "Massive protest held in Madrid," below.]
by Claudia Herrera and Armando G. Tejeda
Madrid, May 18 – Declaring themselves “global partners,” heads of states from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean today closed their sixth summit by stengthening commercial ties. In the Madrid Declaration, they committed themselves to “improving energy efficiency” and reducing contaminating emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The Latin American leaders conveyed to their European counterparts their concern over possible consequences of the crisis confronting Europe as a result of the threat of bankrupcy in Greece and its possible contagion to Spain and Portugal, considering that exports from Latin American countries to Europe could be affected as well.
The two block, which together account for more than a billion inhabitants, agreed, for the purpose of facing the financial crisis together, to strengthen their cooperation and to move toward a strategic alliance that will avoid protectionism. To this end, the more than 60 leaders gathered here argued for working “in favor of a new international financial architecture” with better reform and regulations.
After reaffirming their support for Haiti, devastated by the eathquake of last January 12, the countries represented in Madrid agreed on a diagnosis: the greatest challenge to face them in the future is to reverse the destruction wrought by the international financial crisis, which translates into an increase in unemployment, inequality and poverty.
Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, serving currently as president of the European Union, argued for accelerating the process of negotiating free-trade agreements, and for seeking greater liberalization in strategic sectors like energy, infrastructure and telecommunications, as well as for establishing regulatory frameworks that “stimulate direct foreign investment.”
During the official summit as well as in meetings of businessmen from both continents, there was an insistence that the best way to resolve the crisis is to continue with neoliberal policies: to reduce public spending as much as possible, to suppress social programs, to increase direct and indirect taxes and to open markets to free trade. There was as well support for “strengthening the Euro as a stable currency.”
This collective harmony over opening Latin American markets to Europe was translated into three free-trade agreements between the EU and Central America, Peru, and Colombia. And negotiations were resumed for a possible agreement between the EU and Mercosur: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
In contrast, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez recalled that the current crisis was predicted ten years ago as a consequence of speculation and financial, managerial and fiscal corruption in the United States and western Europe. With that in view, he said, its effects should not be unloaded on Latin America, the Caribbean, or the Third World or on the workers, or retired and poor Europeans.
After demanding that the EU relate differently to Latin America and the Caribbean, as a group of independent countries with 570 million inhabitants, he emphasized that what is called for is “a new world governance, but based on international law, democracy and social justice.”
He declared that today multilateralism is a fiction — “hegemony, double standards and hypocrisy.” He said it is enough to “read the NATO doctrine or to look at US military deployment in Latin America and the Caribbean, or the military coup in Honduras.”
He said that colonial plundering and capitalist sacking had turned Europe into a creditor and Latin America and the Caribben into a debtor, and that now “everything is still the same, although it is disguised by free trade.”
Meanwhile, the blocks of both continents also declared they were against impunity for crimes against humanity, as defined by International Criminal Court statutes.
The message of struggle against impunity coincides with trials in progress in several countries, including Spain, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina and Chile, to resolve atrocities perpetrated by previous regimes, making it relevant. But the condemnation of impunity tends also to become a call for attention to the lack of guarantees in the judicial systems of other Latin American countries, including Mexico.
Another topic that sparked debate as soon as it was introduced was the question of gender violence and femicides, after a block led by Spain and Brazil attempted to make specific reference to the phenomenon and to discuss the steps necessary for eliminating it.
But Mexican diplomats from the outset maintained an obstructionist position, since any mention of femicides would call attention to the Mexican government, which a ruling by the International Court of Human Rights condemned in the campo algodonero case, in which the state was judged to be responsible for the killings of three women [whose bodies were found in an abandoned cotton field, a campo algodonero].