Cochabamba and living well PERSPECTIVES
By Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
December 4, 2006

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SOUTH American integration is coming!

South American leaders are giving a clear thumbs-down to the Washington Consensus through the creation of countervailing forces: the South American Community of Nations (SACN); Venezuela’s Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), strongly supported by social movements as a counter to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA); and Brazil and Argentina’s Buenos Aires Consensus with a 22-point plan for South American integration.

And, indeed, the growing number of centre-left democracies in South America is now beginning to produce cracks in the Washington Consensus. Interestingly, these centre-left democracies already have shown tremendous inclinations for dialogue with centre-left social movements, quite dissimilar to the past.

Today, this more overt Washington Consensus, birthed from the ‘Cold War’, however, continues to damage multilateralism and increase harsh inequalities within and among developing vulnerable sovereign states. The Washington Consensus engineers the form and content of globalisation that functions solely at the behest of the developed world.

But regional integration is South America’s only way out to end the deepening effects of globalisation: social exclusion, economic stagnation, inequality, and shocks from the human ecological interface. This regional integration is fast happening in the form of the SACN, an integration that transcends commercial aspects; a new integration not beholden to multinationals that drive the usual trade integration for profit-making.

South American integration is coming! And SACN has historical roots. A little history of South American hunger for integration is yelling for exposition.

In many ways, Bolivar is the architect of South American integration, independence and solidarity. Through military victories over the Spanish, he secured independence for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

He was born on July 24, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela. The death of his parents, while still a child, pushed Bolivar to have a sojourn in Europe at an early age. Bolivar enlisted with a patriotic group on his return to Venezuela and captured Caracas from the Spanish in 1810. He then declared independence from Spain; Caracas eventually was recaptured by the Spanish. But in 1813, Bolivar restored Caracas to local hands.

The geopolitical significance of Caracas attracted long and hard battles between the Spaniards and Bolivar’s patriot group. The Spanish crushed Bolivar’s patriot group and caused him to retreat to New Granada (now Colombia).

But Bolivar took command of Bogota in 1814. However, inadequate supplies of men and materials brought several defeats and Bolivar fled to Jamaica. He then took refuge in Haiti and with considerable help from Toussaint L’ Overture, returned to Venezuela and captured Angostra (now Ciudad Bolivar).

In 1819, Bolivar recaptured Colombia at the battle of Boyar. Bolivar then returned to Angostra and set up the republic of Colombia (now independent sovereign states: Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela).

In 1824, Bolivar defeated the Spanish at Ayacucho in Peru and then renamed upper Peru ‘Bolivia’ in 1825.

As a result, the history of integration moves on, now gradually taking on an enduring form, especially when you think of the military dictatorships of Latin America in the latter part of the 20th century, the lost decade of the 1980s, and the beginnings of a return to democracy and integration in the 1990s.

The SACN became a living reality in the Declaration of Brasilia of 2000, the Declaration of Guayaquil of 2002 and was strengthened through the Declarations of Cusco and of Ayacucho of 2004.

The SACN is expected to address the challenges of economic stagnation, inequality, and shocks from the human ecological interface. It will contain a strong social agenda that is more amenable to bringing economic growth and better standards of living through an equitable distribution of income, access to education, social cohesion and inclusivity, and environmental preservation, among other things.

And the thirst for integration has reached fever pitch. About a year ago, the Presidents of the 12 sovereign states of South America selected their envoys to work on a High Level Strategic Reflection Commission, to produce a draft Reflection Document with ‘integration’ details.

This High Level Commission already has had five Reflection Meetings: three in Montevideo, Uruguay, one in Buenos Aries, Argentina, and one in Caracas, Venezuela; with two working-group meetings, one in Caracas and one in Montevideo.

The Vice-Foreign Ministers considered this draft Reflection Document at a meeting on November 22-24, 2006 in Santiago, Chile.

And the South American heads of states will review this draft Reflection Document in Cochabamba, Bolivia on December 8-9, 2006.

What will the draft Reflection Document at Cochabamba (Cochabamba Document) look like? For whatever it is worth, we can use former President Clinton’s New Democrat philosophy to summarise some of the values enshrined in the draft Cochabamba Document (referred to hereafter as Cochabamba Document).

Clinton believes that the following rules should guide policy formulation: (1) Change may be the sole constant in the American economy; (2) human capital today has a greater value than physical capital; (3) establish a cooperative working partnership between business and government; (4) cooperation rather than conflict is the key to resolving problems; (5) waste in managing the economy has severe consequences; (6) sustain a strong sense of community, a strong sense of mutual obligations, and (7) a conviction that people’s needs are interdependent.

These values and there are others in the Cochabamba Document, clearly recognise, too, the multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual character of the South American peoples. These values will dynamically keep alive the form and content of the SACN.

The Cochabamba Document talks about a strategic plan for expanding South American integration. At Cochabamba, Heads of State could endorse a Commission of High Officials to implement presidential and ministerial decisions; to set up working groups to focus on infrastructure, energy integration, ICT, financial mechanisms, institutional convergence of MERCOSUR and CAN, productive integration, commercial integration, citizen participation, and social policies; to consider a Constitutional Agreement that eventually could produce a South American identity and citizenship.

The Cochabamba Document’s strategic plan also talks about political dialogue where political coordination among the sovereign states will be the foundation of regional stability, a political coordination that will enhance a democratic culture and respect for human rights.

And the Cochabamba Document acknowledges the need to deepen international consensus and international solidarity.

The South America-Arab Summit and the South America-Africa Summit have happened; and perhaps it’s time to now move toward a South America-Asia Summit.

It’s no secret that all these summits and the unfolding drama of SACN are about Living Well! And that’s what people want.