Time is on the side of progressive and radical movements in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region’s right wing governments have no viable policy agenda to meet their peoples’ needs. Last week in Nicaragua’s capital Managua, representatives of progressive and radical political movements from across Latin America and the Caribbean met in the 23rd Sao Paulo Forum to take stock and regroup in the face of renewed economic and diplomatic aggression from the United States and its allies. Coinciding with the 38th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution of July 19th 1979, this year’s Forum was a chance for the continent’s progressive political forces to reaffirm priorities and consolidate a common regional strategy.
The Forum stressed unity and solidarity against the region’s anti-democratic right-wing offensive and foreign intervention from the US and Europe. The forum included delegations from China, Europe, Vietnam and the Saharawi Democratic Republic. As Salvadoran President Sánchez Cerén said, “Sao Paulo is the biggest meeting of the Left in the world and now in this forum important Resolutions have been debated and decided, but more than that it has strengthened something you in Nicaragua have demonstrated, that without that Unity of our Peoples, it is more difficult to conquer our objectives.” In that spirit, representatives at the Forum gave categorical unqualified support to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega remarked, “On the Constituent Assembly they have announced, in the first place, no one from outside has any reason to say whether it is good or bad. That is a sovereign right of the Venezuelan people; and it is the people who will decide with their votes. That is why we completely support the Forum’s Resolution not only to support the Assembly’s proclamation but also to send a delegation from the Forum to accompany this sovereign act of Venezuela’s people.” Venezuela’s representative to the Forum,Roy Daza, affirmed, “we are going to win this decisive battle” insisting “the proposal by President Maduro for a Constituent Assembly has deep democratic roots.”
The Forum’s agenda of integration and solidarity, unity and sovereignty also framed the July 19th celebrations in Managua of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Nicaragua filled the plazas and boulevards next to Lake Xolotlán listening to a fiesta of revolutionary and popular music, song and speeches. There was huge applause when President Ortega awarded Puerto Rican independence hero Oscar López Rivera Nicaragua’s highest distinction and another award for two Mexican journalists Pedro Talavera and Edgar Hernandez. Talavera and Hernandez risked their lives in 1979 filming the documentary “The Final Offensive”, reporting the desperately fought last days of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. Their reports always began with “Here, Free Nicaragua …! Here, Free Nicaragua…!”
The presence of Oscar López Rivera, of Talavera and Hernandez, reinforced the message of Latin American unity, independence and sovereignty stressed throughout the Foro Sao Paulo, a message forcefully emphasized by all the speakers on the 19th. in Managua. A common theme in all the speeches was the determination to reject and defeat the vindictive anti-democratic offensive by the region’s reactionary right wing supported by the imperialist powers of North America and Europe. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Maria Fernanda Espinoza, made clear the leading role of gender equality in that process:
“There cannot be just societies without equality and gender equality. Our peoples will be better with women leaders committed to Justice. So we want to recognize here the historic career of beloved Vice President Rosario Murillo. Your presence, Compañera is an example for the women of Latin America. And all of you, beloved Nicaraguan women are an example that shows how to break the circle of injustice, including salary injustice and inequities between men and women. We cannot go on being one of the richest regions in the world but at the same time the most unequal region on the planet. This is a disgrace that demands of us greater commitment to our peoples. That is the fundamental rationale for our Popular Revolutions : to put an end to centuries of exclusion, misery and injustice….”
In his address, Bolivian president Evo Morales declared, “We see every day and we hear every hour the crisis of the Capitalist System spreading across the whole world, there is more poverty but also more military intervention by NATO and the United States. The Capitalist System can no longer resolve its financial problems, its social problems and for that reason we need to be stronger and more united and this enormous concentration in Nicaragua gives strength not just to the Peoples of Latin America but to all the Peoples of the World… thanks to the Unity and Awareness of the peoples of various countries, we have freed ourselves democratically so as to develop, emancipate ourselves and guarantee the Liberation of our peoples…
“…I want to take the chance to express our Solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela. Over the last few days and weeks we have heard new threats, new aggression against Cuba and Venezuela. That aggression is not just against Cuba and Venezuela but against all the peoples of Latin America, against Life and all of humanity on the Planet. That is why we express our Solidarity with the world’s Peoples. Now Cuba is not alone. Brother Maduro, Venezuela is not alone, we are all your People saying to you Maduro from here, “Hit the North American Empire as hard as you can!” Our Peoples here don’t accept any intervention, or permit any domination. We are Peoples who set ourselves free and that process of liberation will continue not just in Latin America but the world over.”
All these speeches strengthened the message underlying the special tribute paid at the Foro Sao Paulo to Fidel Castro, to Hugo Chávez and Che Guevara. That message is a reaffirmation of the revolutionary commitment those leaders embodied to a multi-polar world of sovereign countries working together in unity and solidarity for the common good of all the world’s peoples. While mainstream commentators talk wistfully about a non-existent conservative restoration, the reality across Latin America is the opposite. Only in very few countries do the right wing elites enjoy a secure solid electoral majority. Nowhere does any right wing political movement offer a credible policy program aimed at reducing poverty and inequality.
In Argentina Mauricio Macri’s regime is set to pay a heavy political price in November’s albeit limited legislative elections for duping voters into supporting his deceitful shell-game political program. In Brazil, Workers’ Party leader Iñacio Lula da Silva is a clear favorite to win next year’s presidential vote. In Venezuela, President Maduro’s decision to call a Constituent Assembly has stripped away what little legitimacy the violent right wing opposition retained after they frittered away chance after chance of winning broad political support following their decisive win in the 2015 National Assembly elections. Honduras has presidential elections this year with every sign that the country’s new progressive coalition will win decisively. In retrospect, this year’s Sao Paulo Forum will look like a watershed event prior to a new resurgence of progressive forces in Latin America and the Caribbean.