What to do? A proposal for Peace and Non-Violence in Latin America

19.12.2009 - Quito - Tomás Hirsch

This proposal developed by Tomás Hirsch and delivered to the President of Ecuador, Mr Rafael Correa, comes from the Humanist Movement, as the World March for Peace and Non-Violence is approaching its final destination, arriving at Punta de Vacas, at the foot of Mount Aconcagua, on border between Chile and Argentina on 2 January 2010.

The Humanist Movement was founded by Silo at the end of the 1960s. He warned about the danger of increasing violence in all the spheres of human enterprise and proposed the need for spiritual and moral renewal in order to advance the process of humanisation in the World. Silo explained that humanising the planet is the project in which different cultures are able to come together while moving towards the construction of a world-wide civilisation in the history of humanity. The Humanist Movement took charge of the proposed direction, thereby constructing globally-interconnected social, political and cultural action organisations. During 2009, this Movement was devoted to being the driving force of the World March for Peace and Non-Violence in order to create awareness about the need for global nuclear disarmament and a new way of confronting conflicts through dialogue, tolerance and active non-violence.

Regionalisation in Latin America Latin America is moving towards its regionalisation with difficulty while the whole planet is composed of regions that try to compete among themselves. The global transformations are obliging the national states to yield part of their sovereignty in order to become regionalised. The fundamental question is which direction will this global and continental process take?

Within the capitalist creed of widespread competition in which only the strongest survive, the mechanical tendency of nations is to regionalise in order to become a superpower, which may allow them to defend themselves and dominate other regional powers. In this context, the elite assess the strength and capacity of control they may rely on. In the government of Brazil some are concerned about defending their strategic resources (water and petrol), with the aim of becoming a nuclear power. The United States is seeing its former back yard is acquiring economic, political and military might. Therefore, it is installing military bases in Colombia not to stop drug trafficking, but to maintain control of the region. Chile is increasing arms expenditure, justifying it as protection of its growing economic distance with its neighbouring countries. Peru, with its arm reduction discourse, is trying to create an international pacifist image which does not correspond with its own arms expenditure. The government of Venezuela is arming itself with the argument that it is constantly threatened by imperialism and that the Colombian government provokes it when it can while also arming itself. Ecuador represents an auspicious contrast with the closure of the Manta military base, giving a strong sign towards Latin American integration. If recent constitutional changes favouring the strengthening of non-violence are added to this, we are witnessing an example in the region to follow. The case of the people of Bolivia deserves to be highlighted. They incorporated the rejection of war as a way of resolving conflicts as constitutional mandate. The central point is that an arms race does not bode a good future for anyone. It is a social and moral backward step that will then take decades to re-establish.

We confirm our concern with the strong pressures to which president Obama of the United States is subjected to. Dispatching more troops to Afghanistan, delaying the withdrawal in Iraq, installing military bases in Colombia and his speech on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, explaining the concept of a “just war”, playing down the value of peace and non-violence warn us that global tension will continue increasing with unpredictable consequences.

The arms race, the economic race, or exercising racial or ethnic violence to see which nation will dominate over the others does not interest us. This kind of regionalisation will increase social conflict, exacerbating disintegration and producing a centrifugal force so that Latin America will fragment and will not manage to enter the process of globalisation properly. Therefore, defending natural, strategic and energy resources is key to countries not to keep losing sovereignty and not to enter into relationships of economic dependence, thereby loosing their entire identity and power of negotiation. It is necessary to give direction to South American regionalisation, understanding and accepting that the world is moving towards the conformation of a global civilisation and the regionalisation is only a step in this process in which the diversity of cultures and civilisations shall have to cooperate and converge to avoid widespread human and environmental chaos. The nations of Latin America must be made strong in their need for peace and cooperation, in their aptitude for dialogue, in the need to achieve a plan for progress which is from everyone for everyone, in understanding that this region can make a contribution to a model that avoids war, overcomes different forms of existing violence (economic, political, religious, sexual, ethnic and racial) and avoids the enormous human and financial costs that European regionalisation has had to bear. The relationship with the native peoples must deserve special care. Not merely for being one of our deepest roots, but because they are part of the diversity that produces identity, human richness and a future to our region. There is a social and historical debt to settle here.

The Armed Forces. At this time we need armies capable of playing a different and distinct role. They should generate confidence among peoples, be protagonists in regional disarmament and contribute to the safety and well-being of the population. Borders are being erased and sovereignty is no longer found solely in the Nation-States. However, this should not lessen the sovereignty of nations. A real democratic operation is needed from the base to the summit, from the locality to the interior region, passing through the nation state and arriving at the region. The Armed Forces, despite their different crises, from certain corrupt hierarchies and their unpopularity from the era of military dictators, have retained significant autonomy regarding formal and establishment power. Although financial power controls political power, it is not too clear whether it also controls military power. The old adage that says “if you want peace, prepare for war”, can be sustained through an imperial centre like the Roman Empire, but it is very far from being useful in building Peace in the era of a highly technological and globalised world. The same happens with the theory of acquiring deterrent weaponry to avoid the temptation of attacking neighbouring countries. Today this policy leads to the total destruction and self-destruction of the army in question. Armies know what the weapon of today is, what it costs to buy, maintain and renew.

They know what weapons of mass destruction mean and they know that they are within reach of any terrorist or drug-trafficking group that needs to increase its fire power. We cannot confuse the arms race with the Armed Forces. The arms race corresponds to a structure in which financial power seeks control of the Armed Forces through corruption of its command and for its own benefit. The interests of the industrial military complex progresses through distrust, discord, degradation and discrimination. We are talking about anti-humanism at its lowest form. When continuing swiftly, concentrating on the bench of financial power, the scenario in the coming years cannot be as favourable as they themselves paint it today through the media, which is also under their control. It is very likely that this same concentration will create a social scenario which is being insinuated everywhere: that of social explosion in the interior of the countries. This explosion is taking on the character of ethnic struggles, mass migrations, terrorism, the overflow of populations compelled by their basic needs and widespread common violence. In this chaotic scenario, the Armed Forces will have to defend prevailing legality and take possession in favour of an increasingly real and direct democracy which channels the will of the peoples for non-violent change. In the coming critical era, Human Rights are becoming the fundamental referent the decision of which road to take. No legality can be above Human Rights.

And if a power is imposed on them, the Armed Forces will have to intervene to restore their empire. However, if the Armed Forces violate them, then no class can claim “due obedience” in the face of murder, torture or any other similar abuse. If we place Human Rights as the governing principle, the Armed Forces will know how to subject themselves to civil power and to re-establish the democratic system when that civil power becomes illegitimate. Conversely, this institution would fall into the category of an armed band without any type of connection to civil powers. The Armed Forces of the new era will be those that fight for proportional disarmament and social welfare within the framework and recognition of Human Rights in every South American nation. There will be no more imperialist, colonialist, chauvinist, coup-participating, repressive or genocidal armies, or guardians of big capital. Instead, they will develop a human attitude which is a guarantee of popular will now undermined by the dictatorship of money under the form of lobby, terrorism and drug-trafficking.

The politicians Venezuelans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Argentinians, Peruvians, Chileans…, no people is superior to the other and they all have the same right to suitably satisfy their needs. The unity of the peoples in the region demands the strength of moral sentiment, appreciation of human life and the acknowledgement of human rights for everyone. The above will be possible in the measure in which high, spiritual, intelligent states people with a long term vision are found. Those who are able to experience that in the human soul there are things much more important than money, fame and power.

The era of regionalisation implies the loss of national state sovereignty. The national state is in a deep crisis, since on the one hand economic power removes sovereignty by privatising all its wealth and its functions and on the other, the same process of regionalisation leaves sovereignty for the benefit of regional power which is being fashioned. Additionally, the increasing demand for decentralisation continues reducing the central power of the State. If the politicians do not understand this process, they will not have much to offer in the new era. Conversely, if they understand that the enemy is not the neighbouring country, not the people who emigrate, but multinational economic and financial power which has been concentrated; if they understand the need for more democracy; if they understand the need to open up space for non-violent revolutionary change in order to transform the prevailing order which is the cause of the approaching social explosion; if we are in the presence of new politicians offering a Regionalisation that leads towards a human and universal nation. Placing Human Rights above any prevailing legality is also worth the social agreement for politicians. The struggle for the right to quality health and education, currently violated by discriminatory privatisation, will cause substantial and revolutionary changes. This is when the road to the possibility for change through non-violent methodology must open up to avoid eruptions that will not help the progress in any way that we all want and need.

Considerations for peaceful regionalisation without violence. Today sovereignty is divided between the regional powers, the National States and the financial-economic power which, in the last instance, rules. Therefore it was shown – once again – in this latest financial crisis, in which States had to succumb to the demands of banks, because it was the only way of saving the system. This is an interesting example of understanding that the only genuine current power is money. It is necessary to correct the economic and arms direction of regionalisation. But from where is it possible to do it if fear and distrust rule our countries? Where, if the accumulation of power and money have interwoven all human relationships? It is possible from a human act, from a human gesture, from meeting, from dialogue and from personal, social and political conviction based on moral principal “to treat others as you wish them to treat you”. This new spirit of the people must be reflected in a New South American Social Agreement, which fundamentally contemplates a new relationship between Capital and Work, in equitable conditions for both factors of production.

Final proposals It is arms that are the enemy and not the Armed Forces. It is the concentration of money that is the enemy and not those who emigrate in search of a better life. The sense of constructing a Region is to be able to make a contribution to humanity, making South America the vanguard of the future Universal Human Nation.

Our proposal is precisely:

a) That we ratify the Tlatelolco Treaty, in order that every country in this region is committed to not using nuclear energy for building weapons of mass destruction and let us extend it towards creating a war-free zone in our region.

b) That we reduce the war budget in the short term by progressive and proportional disarmament throughout the whole region.

c) That we build a treaty of regional sovereignty to guarantee the just and universal application of human rights and recuperation and protection of environmental resources, without leaving to one side full sovereignty. This new treaty must also contemplate a new agreement between Capital and Work, generating equitable conditions for both factors of production.

d) That we close all the bases in the region, as has already been done in Ecuador.

Those steps will begin a change of direction and will change the conditions of dialogue and current regional policy.

To create awareness: the World March for Peace and Non-Violence

The great change will not arise from speeches drawn up for television or formal declarations, but from sincere concern because in each one of our Nations different forms of violence will have been overcome. No more exploitation of the worker, or discrimination of the woman, or contempt and open or underhand genocide against native peoples. No more ethnocide or ecocide. No more fanaticism or indifference in the face of the terrible conditions of ignorance, sickness and poverty.
It is for this reason that we invite everyone to the closing of the World March for Peace and Non-Violence in the Park of Study and Reflection in Punta de Vacas on 2 January 2010. The great March that began on 2 October in Wellington, New Zealand, which has travelled through more than 100 countries, is seeking to create awareness in the face of the dangerous global situation that we are going through, marked by the heightened probability of nuclear conflict, by arms and by violent military occupation of territories. This project, which travels through the hearts of the world, reviving the conviction that a world without violence is necessary and possible, demands:

• Nuclear disarmament at global level, • Immediate withdrawal of invading troops in occupied territories, • Progressive and proportional reduction of conventional arms, • The signing of non-aggression treaties between countries and • that governments renounce using war as a means to resolve conflicts.

The World March is a call to all peoples to add their effort and take responsibility for changing our world into their own hands, overcoming their personal violence, giving support in their local sphere and as far as their influence reaches.

Thousands of us will be united on the high mountain range of the Andes on 2 January. Perhaps from there, in the middle of the mountains, rocks and wind, a new dialogue with oneself and, therefore, also with others is possible. We invite everyone to join and be inspired in order to begin this human change.

*(translation: Rhona Desmond)*

Categories: International, Opinions, Politics, South America

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