ELAP 2015: Resist US Destabilisation Efforts
R Arun Kumar
ELAP 2015 (Encounter of the Progressive forces of Latin America) was organised in Quito, Ecuador from September 28-30, 2015. ELAP is organised by the Allianz de Pais, the ruling party of that country. 63 Communist, Left and progressive parties/movements participated in this conference along with our Party.
The Communist Party of Cuba, Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), Communist Party of Chile, Sandinistas of Nicaragua, MAS of Bolivia, FMLN of El Salvador, PSUV of Venezuela are some of the prominent parties, which participated in the conference from within the continent. Prominent participants outside Latin America, apart from the CPI(M), include Communist Party of China, Portuguese Communist Party, Socialist Party of Yemen, Saharawi Republic, Peoples' Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Communist Refoundation Party of Italy, Five Star Party of Italy and the Left Front of France.
The conference was inaugurated by the vice-president of Ecuador, Jorge Glass, as president Rafael Correa was attending the UN General Assembly. It concluded with the speech of Rafael Correa and the adoption of a final declaration on September 30. In two major events organised during the course of the conference, vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera addressed on the 29th and Ramon Ballaugher, secretary of International Relations and Central Committee member of the Communist Party of Cuba addressed on the 30th morning. Apart from these two major events, there were 11 panels organised on various issues like the Colombian peace process, efforts of destabilisation in Latin America and multi-polarity in the world. Our Party was asked to speak in the panel on multi-polarity along with the representative of the CPC, Emir Sader, an eminent Brazilian intellectual and Argentinian activists.
The Cuban Five who had participated in the conference were well applauded and the role of Cuba in the entire process of social transformation was acknowledged by everyone.
The mention of Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa, every time, received thunderous appreciation from the audience. The death of Hugo Chavez had created a big vacuum in the leadership of the Left and progressive forces in the continent. Chavez had played an active role in directing the Sao Paulo Forum during the last years of his life. And after his death, Rafael Correa has undertaken this responsibility and started this process of ELAP. He had consulted the Communist Party of Cuba before taking this initiative and has their concurrence. This year, ELAP was expanded further involving many new parties and a separate ELAP was organised for the youth.
According to Correa, ELAP is an event involving the 'parties in power' in the continent. While in Sao Paulo Forum, it is only parties that are represented, ELAP provides a space for various intellectuals to participate, share their views and involve in the process. In a way, ELAP is a place where various seminars, meetings and conferences are organised and the participants join in those of their choice. ELAP is rich and progressive in political content. According to some of the participants, ELAP 2015, which is the second edition, is now having a more deeper political consciousness, than the earlier one organised last year.
The speech of Alvaro Garcia Linera is the main political statement of the conference. His speech was well received by the audience, in a packed auditorium. Last year, in the first edition of the ELAP, the speech of Rafael Correa was the main political statement, but this year, as this task was done by Linera, Correa had confined to defend the actions of his government and also explained the attempts of destabilisation.
In Ecuador, at the national level, there are three parties – Allianz de Pais, Communist Party of Ecuador (CPE) and Socialist Party of Ecuador – in alliance, while, along with them there are other smaller parties at the provincial level. All together there are fourteen parties in this alliance called 'Unidos'. The creation of this broader alliance of national and regional parties is the idea of President Correa. Initially, the CPE was not part of this alliance as many are anti-communist in their political outlook. But Correa had convinced others and insisted that there cannot be a national alliance of the progressive forces without the CPE.
The government had decided that the links between the government and workers need to be further strengthened. The government had taken many measures for the benefit of workers. It had increased the minimum wage to 500 dollars per month on an average. Domestic workers too are organised in the country at the initiative of the government. Free education up to university and free health care are guaranteed by the government. There are 21 percent of indigenous people in the country and the government is making special efforts for their development, like protection of their culture, language and livelihood.
Ecuador is one of the better administered countries in the continent and Correa is known as an efficient administrator. But the economic recession has hit the country very hard. The country mainly depends on the export of oil, flowers, shrimps and bananas for its revenue. Due to the recession, the prices of all these commodities have fallen sharply. The diversification of the economy, like trade with China, helped to an extent, but with China affected, Ecuador is facing a crisis. Moreover, with US dollar as its currency, the country is heavily dependent on the US for monetary circulation in the country. (The decision to change the currency of the country to US dollars was taken by the right-wing government during early 2000s).
One of the important points of discussion in the ELAP was the efforts of the US to destabilise the progressive governments in the region. The US is very active in guiding and bringing together all forces antagonistic to the progressive, Left governments and is trying to exploit the hardships that had arisen from the economic crisis. The situation in Latin America is turning to be very dangerous. The indigenous organisation CONAIE in Ecuador is against the president and the present government. They were always supportive of the right-wing and earlier social democrat governments. It is these sections who are leading the protests against the government, under the guidance of the CIA.
Even in Brazil, the situation is similar. The right-wing forces are mobilising people against the government. Though people are in support of some of their demands, they are also vary of them. Some of the slogans that the leaders of the opposition parties are giving are seen as a threat to the democratic rights enjoyed by the people in the post-dictatorship era. This is weaning away people from the opposition protests. However, they are not joining the pro-government demonstrations, preferring to remain silent and their involvement in political process is becoming minimum.
Similarly there is a serious effort by the right-wing to destabilise the government in Venezuela. Apart from other economic issues, Venezuela shares 2200 km border with Colombia, which is open and highly porous. Smugglers are using this as an opportunity to run a shadow economy and are supported by the right-wing forces in both the countries. They are financing and sending manpower to destabilise the Venezuelan government. When the government tried to close the borders and tackle this problem, huge protests were organised against the government. In this background, the coming elections to the National Assembly in Venezuela are very crucial.
The recently concluded Colombian peace process was another seriously debated issue in the ELAP. It is considered as a very significant and positive development for the entire continent. Peace in Colombia, is declared as peace for the entire continent.
It was stated that there are 76 points in the agreement. Initially people were apprehensive about the agreement, but now they are happy after it has been made public.
Though there are still some problems, the agreement has given the confidence that these can be overcome through further negotiations. One of the important problems is the question of disarmament. Earlier FARC was very rigid on this question and was reluctant to surrender its weapons, but now it appears to have taken a more flexible approach on this question and is ready to discuss other options too.
There is a possibility of the peace process being concluded in December this year. Right-wing forces led by former president Uribe are against the peace process, but the people are yearning for peace and are strongly behind the conclusion of the peace agreement.
A distinct feature of the ELAP is the prominent participation of women and youth as leaders of various parties and movements. They are very active in the organisation of ELAP and also as participants. Hopefully, this is a signal of hope for this process and also the future of the continent.
Over all, two features can be deduced from the current situation in Latin America. One, the US has increased its interference manifold, in the internal affairs of these countries and is spending a lot of money on destabilising these countries. More than 35,000 wikileaks cables point out various such attempts, which include the huge increase in the budgetary allocations of the US to finance such efforts. Two, the global economic recession has hit the economies of these countries very hard. These are the two important challenges that the Left movement in the continent has to face and this will define the character and the future of the continent.
In spite of the economic hardships and crisis, these progressive governments are continuing with the social welfare measures and have not cut on any one of them. This is in complete contrast to what is happening in Europe, where in the name of austerity, increasing burdens are laid on the shoulders of the working class and other common people. Largely as a result of these governments, between 2002-2013, the poverty rate for the region fell from 44 to 28 percent, after actually deteriorating during the earlier two decades.
Opposing the US moves of destabilisation through interference in the internal affairs of these countries and building solidarity to the popular efforts of resistance against such designs, should form one of our important internationalist tasks in the coming days.