2015-04-08

A Voice for the Region: The Latin American People’s Summit

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The People's Summit, organized by social movements and grassroots organizations, will be held in parallel with the Summit of the Americas. This effort by grassroots organizations was born as a response to the historic role of the SOA in advocating for free trade, neoliberal policies and the so-called Washington Consensus. During the event, representatives from Latin American labor unions, indigenous confederations and feminist groups, among other grassroots movements, will have an opportunity to articulate various issues affecting the region.

The People's Summit will host workshops and presentations on 15 different topics, ranging from the threat to peace in the region posed by the United States to the fight to end the economic blockade against Cuba. As part of the People’s Summit activities, Bolivian President Evo Morales will deliver a speech Friday, where he is expected to discuss the current aggression from the U.S. government toward Venezuela.

Thus far, President Morales and his Ecuadorean counterpart Rafael Correa are the only two heads-of-state who have confirmed their attendance. The summit’s organizer, union leader Olmedo Beluche, says the participants will submit a joint declaration of proposals to regional leaders, which aim to facilitate stronger lines of communication between governments and social movements.

Meanwhile, leading up to the seventh SOA, various forums for social sectors are taking place, including the second Business Summit of the Americas and the Hemispheric Forum of Civil Society. Hundreds of civil society leaders from across the region will gather in Panama City April 8-10 for the Civil Society and Social Actors Forum, to address themes such as democratic governance, security and citizen participation.

However, the meeting, which takes place just before the start of the Summit of the Americas, has come under sharp criticism following the recent decision by its organizers to exclude the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) from participating in the event, despite it having submitted its request on time. “We would have liked to have been part of the Civil Society Forum, but they were not interested in a showing of an authentic gesture of democracy, which our union represents … Nonetheless, we will participate, together with the rest of the trade unions and social movements in the region, in the People's Summit,” CTC representative Duarte Vazquez stated in an interview with Trabajadores published Monday.

Coincidentally, the event's organizers approved the participation of at least 10 right-wing opposition organizations that have received financial support from the the U.S.-backed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) including: the Venezuelan Institute for Social and Political Studies (INVESP); Consortium for Development and Justice; Alternative Justice; Ecuadorean Center of Environmental Rights (CEDA); Justice and Participation Network; the National Press Association (ANP); and the Foundation for Parliamentary and Citizen Participation Support; among others.

The Social Actors Forum also coincides with the second CEO Summit of the Americas, at which hundreds of leading business figures and heads of state from throughout the Western hemisphere will gather to discuss regional economic issues. The invited guests include keynote speakers such as Thomas J. Donohue, Co-President of Barrick gold, the world's largest gold mining company, which was listed as the 12th least ethical company in the world by Swiss Research firm Covalace.

The CEO Summit will also include an appearance by Chief Financial Officer of Cargill Marcel Smits. Cargill is the world's largest agricultural commodities trader and one of 10 transnational corporations that controls more than 80 percent of the world’s seed supply, monopolizing world trade in grains and seeds and criminalizing the ancestral practice of exchanging seeds.

Another notable invitee is Andrés Gluski CEO of the controversial AES Corporation, a Virginia-based global energy developer, which in 2011 launched the Panamanian Changuinola dam, resulting in widespread protests over the complete relocation of more than 1,000 Ngöbe subsistence farmers whom were affected by the dam. The invited guests and the corporations they represent pose a grave threat to Latin American sovereignty by undermining the interests of popular social movements.

Over the years, various Latin American social movements have launched massive resistance movements against the unethical practices of transnational corporations. As an alternative to the SOA-sponsored summits, the parallel People’s Summit represents radically different political objectives and ideological visions. The basis of these differences must be understood in terms of the region’s base-level support for progressive Latin American governments and respect for national sovereignty.

 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: link 

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