From 22 to 24 February next, the Latin American and Caribbean Day of Peoples’ Integration will take place in Foz do Iguaçú, at the apex between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay known as the Triple Frontier.

The aim of the conclave, which is expected to bring together around five thousand activists from different parts of the region, is to establish a dialogue to discuss the systemic crisis of capitalism, the threats to peace, the sovereignty of the peoples, and to make an economic, political and cultural diagnosis of the challenges facing Our America in a context of global right-wing advances.

The meeting is convened by a diversity of networks and articulations of popular movements, peasants, trade unions, students, feminists, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, communicators, youth, human rights defenders and environmentalists, artists, academics and intellectuals and will have as special guests with political leaders of the region as the president of Brazil, Lula Da Silva, and the former president of Uruguay, José “Pepe” Mujica, among others.

The conference, beyond the event, will take up again the process of building a process of unity of social organisations in the wake of the regional movement that led to the rejection of the FTAA, a process that had a lot to do with the subsequent rise of progressive and left governments. This unity in continental diversity is now seen as a fundamental element in blocking the way to the currents of the ultra-right, the right, and imperialism that strive to regain or retain political power and halt sovereign integration processes.

Integration, so near and yet so far

People often perceive integration between Latin American and Caribbean countries as something distant, which has little to do with their daily lives. At first glance, they are not without reason.

Successive summits in which representatives meet behind walls erected by security agents, long declarations full of good intentions that few read and whose positive effects are difficult to appreciate, among other aspects, constitute barriers that are difficult to overcome for ordinary citizens, who are much more preoccupied and occupied with staying afloat in the global systemic social shipwreck.

Communication on state integration, far from focusing on conveying its tangible benefits to the population, tends to be reduced to institutional photos, in which leaders display an obligatory formality that contrasts with the growing chaos in which the inhabitants of Latin American and Caribbean shantytowns find themselves.

Most likely, the disconnection between attempts at interstate convergence and the ordinary citizen is nothing more than a projection of the growing divorce between the modalities of a devalued democracy, which appears insufficient to resolve shortcomings and to meet popular yearnings for human development.

However, there must be something positive about these efforts at collaboration between sister nations, if one observes the excessive and illegitimate eagerness of multiple agencies of the North to dismantle them, thus preventing any hint of sovereignty.

There is an enormous difference between the bodies under the tutelage of the invasive and unsolicited interference of the United States of America in the internal affairs of Latin America and the Caribbean and those that have emerged in the heat of the post-neoliberal emancipatory wave of the 21st century.

The OAS, created in 1948, operated as the executing arm of the capitalist strategy, led by the United States, to prevent socialist expansion in the region. This organisation was and is responsible for ensuring the “good behaviour” of the region’s governments. Conduct that was, for many decades, synonymous with submission to the dictates of US foreign policy. The rebels would be subjected, in case of transgressions, to media ridicule, to blockades devastating for the needs of the people, or simply to expose or surreptitious coups d’état to break their resistance to the capitalist model.

It is not for nothing that courageous Cuba was excluded from that forum in 1962, after the failure of the counterrevolutionary attempt at the Bay of Pigs. Decades after, this time of their own free will, the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua would choose to withdraw from that ambit, having seen their sovereignty repeatedly undermined by the belligerent attitude of the organisation, headed by its chief official, Secretary Luis Almagro.

Hence, after the popular victory achieved in 2005 in rejection of the FTAA – precisely during the IV Summit of the Americas organised by the OAS – the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and, somewhat later, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) emerged as valid alternatives for sovereign consensus-building.

This process was fiercely opposed by the geopolitical strategists of the North, who achieved partial successes by paralysing UNASUR, forcing the withdrawal of several of its members during the conservative ebb in the middle of the last decade, and eviscerating CELAC of its most contentious and anti-imperialist aspects through forced consensus.

The current moment of lack of definition and lukewarmness in the direction of integration invites us to consider it as a time for redefinition, rejuvenation and regeneration, in order to undertake a new cycle with effective answers to popular aspirations. But for this to happen, it is necessary to identify the transforming element that will make it possible: the participation of the people as the main protagonist.

The missing link between revolutions and integration

The current multidimensional crisis has as its main factor, in the socio-economic field, the unscrupulous activity of financial accumulation and the power of transnational corporations. The size of these companies and the investment funds that control them often exceed the capacity of individual nation-states to establish and maintain redistributive social policies.

The structural exclusion of the great majorities and the growing dissolution of solidarity ties promoted by staunch individualism, together with the weakness or ineffectiveness of governments to resist these tendencies, are the breeding grounds for the advance of the right and market fundamentalisms.

Sectoral demands confined to national borders are ineffective in the face of this onslaught, given the globalised and structural characteristics of the crisis.

On the other hand, the old paternalism of delegating popular destinies to individual leaders no longer has sufficient consistency to bring about change. Among other things, these same leaders are easy targets for a concerted attack by the hegemonic media, corrupt judges or prosecutors, intelligence agents and hostile diplomats, who are busy neutralising them through brutal persecution.

Therefore, the only possible answer lies in the protagonist’s participation of the peoples and in their integration at regional and international levels, to be able to give joint answers that safeguard the collective future.

This is why social organisations are today, as during the dictatorships of the last century, the main target of the corporate attack embodied by ultra-liberal figureheads, determined to destroy any hint of rebellion that comes from the reconstruction of the fabric of the social base.

Reconstruction, moreover, must give a clear, forceful, novel and revolutionary image, poetic but also efficient, which concentrates a well-founded, guiding hope for change for the people.

So, what does the integration of the people mean?

In addition to providing a vital strategic direction for complementing diverse struggles and forging a new social model in the face of evident capitalist decadence, proclaiming the participatory and protagonist integration of the peoples means the conversion of a false democracy into a real democracy, re-founding the current political models and returning to the true sovereign, the people, the capacity to decide their destiny.

It also means that there will be no foreigners in America and that everyone is welcome with equal rights and opportunities. This will not lead to the spread of the “all against all” that is intended to be imposed, nor to the appearance of scapegoats – migrants, minorities, or petty thugs – that divert the look from the social and environmental crime of big capital. On the other hand, integration means tearing down walls and borders so that people can move around and choose their place of residence freely.

The integration of peoples involves the unrestricted defence of peace, and the non-violent resolution of conflicts between brotherly peoples, unlike the state of permanent war that the empire promotes to increase the profits of arms corporations.

It consists, at the same time, of claiming in unity the just compensation for five hundred years of plunder, slavery, discrimination, and cultural imposition and two centuries of imperialism, interference, and neo-liberal exploitation.

This integration led to the strengthening of a great Latin American and Caribbean pole from the South to debate on more equal terms the unjust rules and institutions designed by the global North.

The participatory and protagonist integration of peoples implies the recovery and convergence of cultural identities submerged by colonialism, but also the emergence of new values that collaborate with the recomposition of the community fabric to replace competition and individualism.

It also entails deploying the best elements of the rich spiritual treasure of American cultures rather than taking on the voids of consumerist meaninglessness or the rituals and beliefs imposed by force of violence and humiliation. The best spirituality for this new time will be the one that helps each human being to find in the profundity of yes, paths to goodness, compassion, and encounter with others.

The integration of peoples means complementing existing capacities so that every last inhabitant of these lands has the best health care and education, housing, and quality services just because he or she is born and can enjoy life without having to struggle day after day for a crust of bread. It also calls for a return to the historical process of solidarity and brotherhood, taking up the challenge of building together new models of society that are essential today.

It means healthy food, and being able to take advantage of, share, and exchange the gifts of the magnificent land of Latin America and the Caribbean, rich in sufficient resources for all. For this reason, popular integration also includes environmental care, so that the territories are safe from the insatiable depredation of multinational corporations.

The way forward for the integration of peoples, on a planet of sophisticated technologies, is to ensure technological sovereignty, taking advantage of the intellectual and creative capacities minted by our collective efforts in education and public investment.

And for all this to be possible, communication must be in the hands of the people, that it be communitarian, democratic, decentralised, diverse and not concentrated in the hands of a few mercantile monopoly groups that articulate a monochord narrative in defence of established inequality and violence.

In synthesis, the integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples is a step towards a new world, a world where people are the central value and preoccupation. A humanist world.