The Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean met in Caracas on 19-20 July.
The meeting, which was attended by over 70 delegates of member parties of the SI in the region and other representatives, as well as guests from other political and trade union organisations from Venezuela, opened with contributions by Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International, who chaired the proceedings, and by Rafael Angel Marín, General Secretary of SI member party, Democratic Action, AD. Felipe Mujica, President of the Movement to Socialism, MAS, and Antonio Ledezma, leader of the "Bravo Pueblo" Alliance, also took the floor in the first session dedicated to the political situation in the host country. Miguel Henrique Otero, President-Editor of the Venezuelan Diario El Nacional newspaper and Manuel Cova, General Secretary of the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela, CTV, also contributed to this theme during the meeting. (Full list of participants at the meeting)
The afternoon session of the first day began with a tribute in the memory of Anselmo Sule, President of the Radical Social Democratic Party, PRSD, of Chile, and Co-Chair of the Committee, who passed away recently. Claudio Sule, Anselmo's son, and, in the name of the delegates, Senator Rafael Michelini, leader of the New Space Party of Uruguay, took part.
The situation of democracy in Venezuela was the subject of a detailed analysis, as a result of which a resolution was unanimously approved which expresses concern for the weakening of the rule of law in this nation and "urges the creation of a Committee between the government and the Coordinadora Democrática of the opposition with the aim of defining a mechanism of negotiation between both parties to strengthen the democratic institutions, citizens' security and resolve conflicts which arise in Venezuelan society."
The meeting also received reports on national situations, among them one on Colombia by the leader of the Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC, Horacio Serpa, and another on the challenges for democracy in Haiti, presented by Victor Benoît, leader of SI member party, KONAKOM. The meeting approved resolutions on the situation in these two countries and another which urges the authorities in Panama to maintain the independence of the Supreme Court of Justice and of the Electoral Tribunal in that country.
A declaration on strengthening and defending democracy and its institutions, which sums up the common elements and values of the political approach of the member parties of the International in the region to this theme on the agenda, was approved by the Committee.
A document on Latin America and the Caribbean in the global economy, prepared by the Chair of the Committee, Raúl Alfonsín, Argentina, UCR, was presented, and will serve as a basis for discussion of this issue by the members in a future meeting.
The meeting agreed unanimously to hold a meeting of the Committee in Cuba, with the object of gaining firsthand information on the reality in that country.
1. Political democracy is a core value of the Socialist International, as it provides the necessary foundation and framework for ensuring all other fundamental rights and liberties, including economic and social rights.
The Socialist International has been in the forefront in the struggle for democracy throughout the world, and our sustained efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean over the course of decades, against military regimes and all other forms of repression and dictatorial rule, have led to more democratic nations and greater freedoms for the citizens of the region.
The role of social democracy in the victories for democracy and progress in the respect for human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean has served as a model and an inspiration in other parts of the world.
Democratic successes have been achieved because the member parties of our International have connected directly with people's desire to live in liberty, to be sovereign within their own countries. At the same time, they have given them hope during the darkest moments and solidarity to nurture their democratic spirit and growing strength against oppression.
2. The struggle, however, continues today. The tasks now are to defend the gains that have been made, and to strengthen, renew and rejuvenate the institutions of democracy and adapt them to the challenges created by globalisation and the threats of the new millennium.
Among the top priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean is the need to reverse social and economic inequality, by developing policies and programmes, from the local to the global level, through which people, communities and nations are able to bring unemployment, hunger and indigence to an end.
This means rejuvenating the political process, revitalising political parties and other institutions and creating new channels to institutionalise the political participation of people. The aim is to ensure that politics is driven by citizens for the long term, an energetic politics of participation and inclusion that can make markets decrease social imbalances and inequality, and technology work in the service of and for the betterment of everyone.
3. For the Socialist International, democratic governance embraces a wider range of values, is defined in deeper terms and is closer to the aspirations of people for a more just world than any other political movement.
Specific forms of democracy may vary from region to region, from culture to culture, but the democracy we embrace is of a universal nature and requires that a range of fundamental elements be present and protected, starting with the freedom to choose leaders and representatives, through free and fair elections, from among various political options in a pluralistic society.
The practice of democracy also means a clear separation between the executive, legislative and judicial branches, firmly rooted in national constitutions, to ensure proper checks and balances between governmental institutions and a balanced, principled exercise of elected authority.
Presidential reelection in Latin America and the Caribbean has been historically damaging for democracy, constituting a source of corruption of governments which have advocated it; in this way our member parties must foster the incorporation of the principle of non-presidential reelection in the constitutions of the countries of the region as a means of maintaining democracy.
Citizens must be able to hold their elected officials accountable not only through the ballot box during periodic elections but through a solid rule of law, rooted in an effective, independent and impartial judiciary, and carried out so that no one can gain impunity through the exertion of political, economic or military power.
The democratic rule of law must guarantee the full rights of individuals, women and men, in practice and in law, as well as the complete respect for the rights of organised minority opinions, whether based on ethnicity, religious belief, language or culture.
Fundamental to democratic governance are the full functioning of political parties, guarantees for free and open expression, through the media, both publicly and privately owned, in public discussion and debate, and in all institutions of society so that no one is denied a voice.
No less important are full guarantees for the right of association in all forms, such as in non-governmental organisations. This includes free trade unions with the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, as well as the entire range of civic organisations which are testimony to the determination of citizens in the world today to group together to struggle for their rights and to contribute to the improvement of their communities and their nations.
The trends of development in Latin America and the Caribbean today serve to underline the critical need for strengthening and defending democratic governance.
Economic globalisation and new technologies hold the promise for material advance, but the inherent inequality in the course of this process and the accelerating pace of change have put enormous pressure on fragile and, in many of our countries, newly born democratic institutions.
The form in which the globalising process is developing is limiting the scope of the nation state, discrediting its political leadership and diminishing the operation of its own democracy, with the establishment of the working of the market as the supreme criteria above all other values.
Also, the pressures against democracy and the fear this generates among some citizens open the way for anti-democratic elements, echoing the past, who irresponsibly promise easy answers to difficult problems. It is a climate in which insecurity fosters greater violence, when what is urgently needed is the peaceful resolution to destructive conflicts.
It is therefore incumbent upon social democrats in Latin America, the Caribbean and throughout the world to redouble our efforts in support of democratic governance.
This means renewed efforts in defence of individual and collective rights, as well as democratic institutions such as political parties, free and fair elections and an independent media, all of which form the foundation upon which democratic systems are built. It is recommended that these include information on the incorporation of technology in vote-counting, especially those procedures which allow the wishes of the electorate to be verified and which can investigate any evidence of fraud.
The current situation also calls for greater emphasis on economic and social democratisation, in which citizens can participate more fully in the decision-making process at the local, national and global levels, to ensure a greater degree of economic opportunity and social justice necessary for democratic systems to be sustained.
It is equally important to recognise the need to prioritise education as a major aspect in achieving democracies which can guarantee the wellbeing of the majority.
Finally, only social democracy can provide the solidarity needed in such difficult times to help alleviate people's fears and doubts, to give them renewed confidence in the possibilities for the future, a future that can be freer, fairer and more productive as long as everyone can participate democratically in building it.
The Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, considering that Venezuela is an important democratic reference in the region, and respecting the principle of self determination of its people enshrined in the Constitutional Charter, observes with concern the weakening of the rule of law and its institutions, the increasing generalised political violence among its citizens, the impunity in the violation of human rights, the lack of independence of the public authorities and the forming of armed civil groups in defence of the government, which all serve to create an atmosphere of social and democratic insecurity and instability in the country.
The Committee agrees:
• To call on the governing, judicial, moral and parliamentary authorities, to ensure their action is transparent and in accordance with the strengthening of the democratic principles accepted by Venezuela in international organisations.
• To declare that the Socialist International is ready to offer its good offices and urges the creation of a Committee between the government and the Coordinadora Democrática of the opposition with the aim of defining a mechanism of negotiation between both parties to strengthen the democratic institutions, citizens' security and resolve conflicts which arise in Venezuelan society.
• To support Democratic Action, AD, and the Coordinadora Democrática of the opposition, made up of Venezuelan political parties and organisations of civil society in the mobilisation and defence of the democratic system and its institutions, as well as the protection and respect of human rights, rejecting any attempt to break with the democratic order, such as the militarisation of politics.
• To ratify the resolution of the Council of the Socialist International held in Casablanca on 31 May to 1 June 2002, with respect to political developments which have taken place in Venezuela.
• To continue to follow with urgent priority the situation in Venezuela, where the growing vulnerability of governance is of concern.
In the face of the repeated threats of the illegal armed groups in Colombia, which seek to destabilise democracy and which have intensified the armed conflict, leading among other situations to mass resignation by legitimately elected mayors, councillors and deputies,
SICLAC proposes to reactivate the resolution approved at the XXI Congress of the Socialist International in Paris, relating to the establishment of a standing committee responsible for following events in Colombia, to keep all member parties informed of developments in the peace process in that country and to focus the support of the Socialist International in achieving a negotiated end to the armed confrontation.
The Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, meeting in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, on 19-20 July 2002,
1. Condemns the serious violations of the principles of the rule of law reported in Haiti. Specifically, SICLAC is concerned by:
- the absence of justice in the cases of the murdered journalists, such as Joan Dominique in April 2000 and Brignol Lindor in December 2001;
- the physical and psychological maltreatment inflicted on the journalist Jacky Cantave taken by armed civilians in the night of 15 July 2002;
- the intolerable action of "armed bandits" against the family of Jean-Claude Bajeux, a human rights' worker, during the day of 16 July 2002;
2. It protests against the acts of violence committed in Haiti on 17 December 2001; the fire at the opposition political parties' headquarters, as well as at the personal residences of leaders of the opposition, among them that of Victor Benoît and of Gérard Pierre-Charles, members of the Socialist International, as well as anonymous attacks at the National Assembly.
3. It calls on the Lavalas regime, President Jean Bertrand Aristide, as well as on the opposition parties (Democratic Convergence), to negotiate as quickly as possible a real political Accord, with a sense of compromise, and in conformity with resolutions 806 and 1841 of the OAS so allowing Haiti to come out of this crisis by means of pluralist and democratic elections.
4. It encourages its member parties, KONAKOM, PANPRA and OPL, to strengthen their unified strategy under the banner of social democracy: an indispensable condition in playing a positive role in the process of democratisation of Haiti.
SICLAC shares the concern expressed by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) of Panama, regarding the political influence that the government of that country has brought to bear on the Supreme Court of Justice and the interference that this body, in turn, has begun in the work of the Electoral Tribunal of the Republic of Panama. This leads to a loss in trust in the independence, professionalism and adherence to the law of the said bodies of the Panamanian state, in detriment to the democratic development of that country.
SICLAC urges the authorities and political parties of Panama to maintain the independence and impartiality of the said institutions, in consideration of their respective constitutional qualities.
Secretary General of the SI
Popular Socialist Party, PSP
Radical Civic Union, UCR
People's Electoral Movement, MEP
Peter F. Davidse
Democratic Labour Party, PDT
Radical Social Democratic Party, PRSD
Miguel León Prado
Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC
National Liberation Party, PLN
Oscar Alfaro Zamora
Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD
Hatuey De Camps
Peggy Cabral vda. de Peña Gómez
Luz del Alba Thevenin
Socialist Party, PS
Party of the National Congress of Democratic Movements, KONAKOM
Democrats of the Left, DS
Donato Di Santo
Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI
Celso Humberto Delgado
Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD
Peruvian Aprista Party, PAP
New Space Party, PNE
Socialist Party of Uruguay, PSU
Hugo Rodríguez Filippini
Democratic Action, AD
Henry Ramos Allup
Rafael Angel Marín
Alfredo Coronil Hartmann
Carlos Canache Mata
Humberto Celli Gerbasi
Lewis Pérez Daboín
Ramón Rangel Mantilla
Beatrice Rangel Mantilla
Socialist International Women, SIW
International Union of Socialist Youth, IUSY
Sergio Moya Mena
Parliamentary Group of the PES
Secretariat of the SI
María Paula Escobar
Social Democratic Convergence
Innovation and Unity Party-Social Democracy (PINU-SD)
'Bravo Pueblo' Alliance, ABP
Movement to Socialism, MAS
Confederation of Workers of Venezuela, CTV
(National Council of
Miguel Henrique Otero
(President-Editor, El Nacional newspaper, Venezuela)
If you are looking for an earlier meeting, please consult the LIBRARY section.