Opening the meeting, the leader of the host party and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, Miguel Vargas, thanked all those present and shared with them what, in his opinion, were the main challenges for the progressive political forces in Latin America and the Caribbean (see his full speech).
The SI Secretary General, responding to the words of Vargas, thanked the PRD and its president for their warm welcome, highlighting the long-lasting and strong relationship that exists with Dominican Republic since the days when José Francisco Peña Gómez established this relation between his party and the SI. At the same time, he thanked Miguel Vargas for the life and dynamism that he has given to the Committee during his term as Chair these last years. Luis Ayala expressed his satisfaction at the results obtained in the last meetings of the International: during the first half of this year, on the occasion of the Congress in Colombia, there was the opportunity to express our solidarity with the peace process underway in that country, in the presence of its President and Nobel Peace Prize winner and the colleagues of the Liberal Party; in the middle of the year, the organisation celebrated its Council at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York with the participation of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres; and now towards the end of the year, the Council in Barcelona will offer the organisation the opportunity to close a year of activities relevant to the International together with the colleagues of the PSOE and its leader and SI Vice-President, Pedro Sánchez. It has been a time of challenges and accomplishments in different parts of the world. A quick look, said the Secretary General, shows that the International is very active and very present worldwide. The organisation keeps its commitments alive, such as the struggle for peace, which was in evidence with the declaration issued the previous day on the occasion of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, to which are added new challenges of great importance.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, Luis Ayala pointed out that for more than three decades, the SI and its member parties have been the architects of the recovery of democracy. Today the dictatorships of times past no longer exist thanks to the efforts of so many in our own parties, but we must act in the face of the critical situation in Venezuela, a country where today there are political prisoners and where the rules and institutions of democracy are not respected; we must face the attempts of President Morales to stay indefinitely in power in Bolivia; the restrictions imposed by President Cartes on the political life of leaders such as the leader of our member party in Paraguay, Rafael Filizzola; or the threats of the judicialisation of politics in Guatemala, which are challenges for the democracies in the region where the SI is closely engaged. The extreme inequality, the challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean in the world economy, migration, the role of the State in promoting a fair and equitable growth, are important challenges in which the SI is and will continue to be present. Referring to the struggle for respect for the environment, the Secretary General recalled with indignation the assassination of the Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, a fact about which, only a few days ago in the report of an international group, it came to light that it was instigated by an electricity company and perpetrated with the participation of agents of the State. For this very reason, the Secretary General said in his conclusion, the work of the SI in this region is crucial and its agenda is ambitious.
The Committee then proceeded to unanimously re-elect Miguel Vargas as its Chair and decided to postpone to the second day of the meeting the election of its vice-chairs, nominating a special Commission composed of the Vice-Presidents Sandra Torres (UNE, Guatemala), Rafael Michelini (NE, Uruguay) and Bernal Jiménez (PLN, Costa Rica), with the mandate to propose to the Committee the criteria for the election that the proposed candidates should comply with.
During the first day of the proceedings, interventions where heard from Bernal Jiménez (PLN, Costa Rica), SI Vice-President, who put the emphasis on the role of education as the engine of economic development and on increased equality and good financing of public activity via fiscal and taxation policy. The challenge for achieving these priorities is eminently political more than technical, he said. Claudio Vásquez (PPD, Chile), highlighted that social democratic policies in the region should ensure the basic rights of all citizens, distinguishing different levels of action among which, in his opinion, the municipal sphere has a great importance, as well as the decisive fight against corruption. Julian Robinson (PNP, Jamaica), underlined the need to ensure the political social democratic identity, which is not always evident when measures are implemented that are also advocated by the political forces of centre and even those of the right, putting a special emphasis on the importance of political education. Francisco Rosales (FSLN, Nicaragua) emphasised that the achievement of a fair distribution is still a challenge for the social democratic forces, which must promote participative and inclusive democracies and when policies of alliances become necessary in the region, these should not take into consideration the forces of the right as has been the case in Europe.
Edgard Giménez (PDP, Paraguay), also advocated for the reaffirmation of the political identity of the parties that are members of the SI in order to achieve the longed-for objectives such as the SDGs with a view to 2030. Marcelo Stubrín (UCR, Argentina), pointed out that the region lives the paradox of an increasing inequality even though poverty has decreased, he also mentioned his concern at the low quality of the institutions and their weakness to confront corruption and organised crime. He underlined the importance of collaboration among the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to look for global responses to local problems. Rafael Michelini (NE, Uruguay), Vice-President of the SI, underlined the importance of the fight against corruption, mentioning the situation of the recent resignation of the vice-president of his country for having used an institutional credit card for minor personal expenses. José Murat (PRI, México) stressed that in order to fight against corruption and impunity, it is necessary to have a solid ideology and coherence with the principles that inspire us, the socialist thought at its origin, in his opinion, can be summarised as the search to have access to cultural goods and happiness for all, and with this idea in mind our movement must confront the different local, national, regional and global challenges.
Rubén Berríos (PIP, Puerto Rico), SI Honorary President, shared with those present the devastation caused in his country by the Hurricane Maria, pointing out that after many weeks a great part of the island is still without electricity or drinking water, in his opinion this natural catastrophe could have as a consequence the population questioning the efficiency of the colonial administration of the United States and the mood for independence recovering its momentum. Sandra Torres (UNE, Guatemala), welcomed the presence of women at the meeting and called them to actively participate in the debates; referring to the political situation in her country, she expressed her concern at the growing importance that has acquired these last years the so-called “civil society” in Guatemala and shared with the Committee her apprehension with regard to their interests, their agenda and the attempt to substitute political parties in public activities; the political parties have to be permanently strengthened; she underlined the risks involved in the judicialisation of the political activity and the election of candidates who are presented as not being in this situation but who are in no condition to carry out the basic tasks of government, as is the case of President Jimmy Morales in her country; she finished her intervention saying that her party, already in existence for 15 years, is today the main force nationally, a fact that allows her to look with optimism towards the future electoral challenges.
Francisco Aramayo (UN, Bolivia), told the Committee about the apprehensions of the opposition political forces in his country at the actions of President Evo Morales and his party MAS, who are searching, via the Constitutional Court, for ways to ignore the impediment for the President to present himself for re-election to a new consecutive period, disregarding not only the expressed text of the Constitution but also the result of the referendum of February 2016. Manoel Dias (PDT, Brasil), shared with the Committee the concerns of his party at the recent measures adopted by the government of President Temer, which go contrary to the realisations and achievements of the previous administrations of Presidents Lula and Rousseff; his party, he said, has come out well from the general wave of accusations of corruption in Brazilian politics, and his leader, Ciro Gómez, is highly valued by the population and is an option for the presidential elections next year. Víctor Benoit (FSD, Haiti), adding to the comments already heard in relation to Guatemala, affirmed that the situation is very similar to the one in his country where they live under the presidency of an outsider who clearly lacks the skills and the competence to lead the nation and is adopting bad measures and deficient public policies.
Pedro Neira (PRSD, Chile), explained that the coming elections in Chile, Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia, to name but a few of the countries of the region that will hold elections during the next months, give a special feeling to meetings of this political family in which experiences are exchanged; he also addressed the issue of parliamentary diplomacy, mentioning that the deputy of his party Fernando Meza, has assumed for one year the presidency of the Andean Parliament and could be interested in working with legislators of the Central American Parliament. Ricardo Sancho (PLN, Costa Rica), expressed that his party is well positioned with a view to the elections on 4 February next year; he also noted the interest in sharing in these meetings common experiences and good practices implemented by the different parties, in the Costa Rican case, he adds, there is a rich heritage in matters relating to environmental measures and climate change.
On the second day of the meeting the report of the Commission established to propose vice-chairs for the Committee was presented. Rafael Michelini, on behalf of the Commission, presented a proposal containing as the guiding criteria for the election, in accordance with the statutes and the practice of the SI, the following: prioritization (a maximum of a total of three vice-chairs for the Committee); gender parity; regional parity and representativeness (priority to be given to candidatures of countries and parties who do not have other authorities in the SI). The proposal of the Commission gave rise to a rich and interesting debate in which almost all the delegates took part. Finally, the proposal was approved. The Commission expressed that, taking into consideration the candidatures presented in a timely manner and the criteria just approved, the Commission proposed the following persons as vice-chairs: Rafael Filizzola (PDP, Paraguay), Francisco Rosales (FSLN, Nicaragua); and Eyra Ruiz (PRD, Panamá). The Committee ratified the proposal of the Commission.
The morning concluded with presentations of reports on national situations from Peru, Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
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