We have seen that, beginning in 1994, popular movements in Latin America emerged in reaction to the imposition of the neoliberal project, and that movements proclaiming themselves socialist arrived to power Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, all of which deepened relations with socialist Cuba.
An important dimension of this political change was the commitment of the socialist governments, with the support and participation of newly-formed progressive governments in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, to forge a process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration. They sought a new form of integration, different from neoliberal models of integration. The new integration sought to develop mutually beneficial forms of trade based of complementary economies, and it sought to include social and cultural as well as commercial relations. It sought a form of integration that broke the neocolonial relations with the United States and that benefitted the nations and peoples of the region (see various posts in the category Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration).
Hugo Chávez was the primary protagonist of the new integration. Drawing upon the vision of Latin American union of Simon Bolívar, he proposed in 2001 the formation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA for its initials in Spanish), which was conceived as an alternative to the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the America (FTAA, which is rendered as ALCA in Spanish). The first step toward implementation of the proposal was taken on December 14, 2004, when Venezuela and Cuba signed an agreement establishing ALBA. Its joint declaration described the FTAA as a mechanism for US domination, and it proposed an alternative form of union and integration, based on cooperation and solidarity, that seeks social transformation and the elimination of social inequalities. It declared:
Only an integration based on cooperation, solidarity, and the common will to advance together with one accord toward the highest levels of development can satisfy the needs and desires of the Latin American and Caribbean countries, and at the same preserve their independence, sovereignty, and identity. . . . ALBA has as its objective the transformation of Latin American societies, making them more just, cultured, participatory, and characterized by solidarity. It therefore is conceived as an integral process that assures the elimination of social inequalities and promotes the quality of life and an effective participation of the peoples in the shaping of their own destiny.
ALBA became the basis for the formation in 2008 of the South American Union of Nations (UNASUR), a process that was led by Brazil, where the Workers’ Party led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had taken power in 2002. The Constituent Treaty of UNASUR, signed by all twelve nations of South America, proclaims:
The Union of South American Nations has as an objective the construction, in a participatory and consensual manner, of space for the cultural, social, economic, and political integration and union among its peoples, granting priority to political dialogue, social policies, education, energy, infrastructure, financing, and the environment, among others, with a view to eliminating socioeconomic inequality, attaining social inclusion and citizen participation, strengthening democracy, and reducing asymmetries in the framework of the strengthening of the sovereignty and the independence of the States.
The process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration culminated in the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC for its initials in Spanish). It was founded in 2010 in Venezuela, and it was formed by the governments of all 33 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. At its Second Summit held in Havana on January 29, 2014, CELAC issued a declaration, affirming its fundamental goals, concepts, and values. The Declaration of Havana affirms a form of integration based on complementariness, solidarity, and cooperation. It promotes a vision of integral and sustainable development, in harmony with nature. It calls for the protection of the social and economic rights of all, especially those most vulnerable. It affirms the principle of the right of nations to control their natural resources. It recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to conserve their traditional knowledge and systems of production. It calls upon the international community to recognize the need for a form of development that places people at the center. It maintains that foreign investment should promote the development of the region and should not violate the sovereignty of the nations.
The Declaration of Havana can be interpreted as an anti-imperialist and anti-neocolonial declaration that symbolizes the collapse of the US directed Pan-American project (see “Pan-Americanism and OAS” 10/2/2013).
The full text of the Declaration of Havana can be found at Second CELAC Summit, Declaration of Havana, January 28-20, 2014.
Key words: ALBA, UNASUR, CELAC, Latin American integration,
2014 Declaration of Havana