These days we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
At the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana, the 33 signatory nations committed themselves through its adoption to provide a non-violent solution to any disputes that might arise, to banish forever the use and threat of the use of force in the region.
In another of its significant paragraphs, the communiqué makes explicit the commitment of the states to strictly comply with the obligation not to intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other state and to observe the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
The signatory countries also expressed their firm intention to promote friendly and cooperative relations, regardless of the differences existing between their political, economic and social systems or their levels of development, practising tolerance and non-violent coexistence.
In addition to fully respecting the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, they affirmed their willingness to promote a culture of peace based, inter alia, on the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Culture of Peace.
Finally, they declared the commitment of the States of the region to continue to promote nuclear disarmament as a priority objective and to contribute to general and complete disarmament, in order to promote the strengthening of confidence among nations.
From words to deeds…
It is a fact that what is said in these declarations faces political and geopolitical vicissitudes that are not always favourable, thus risking their effective fulfilment. It is therefore worth reviewing what happened in the decade following that landmark summit.
The first fundamental achievement was the Peace Accords between the government and the FARC in Colombia. Despite narrowly losing the vote that was to give them popular approval, the government of Juan Manuel Santos was able to renegotiate the text, which was finally signed in November 2016 and ratified a few days later by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Despite the violations of the Accords that occurred, caused by the wake of six long decades of an internal war and by the existing relations of force, both in the territories and in institutional bodies, the peace policy was able to overcome the difficulties, becoming, the current government of Gustavo Petro, the centre of state policy in Colombia.
This defused another crucial focus of continental conflict on the border with Venezuela, which threatened to escalate during the presidency of Iván Duque and Juan Guaidó’s US-backed parallel government charade in an attempt to overthrow the constitutional President Nicolás Maduro.
However, the external siege against the Bolivarian Revolution, which began twenty years ago when Hugo Chávez took office, has not stopped at all. Nor has the blockade of Cuba or the attacks on the Nicaraguan government, all accused of being part of the “axis of evil” for not adopting the rules imposed by the US.
Another episode in the saga of destabilisation against the Venezuelan government, including the incursion of a British warship into adjacent maritime waters, took place on the border with the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, in the dispute over the Essequibo, a territory rich in oil wealth whose exploitation is coveted by the Exxon Mobil corporation. And even more recently, with the thwarting of new assassination plots against the Venezuelan president, the full unveiling of which is underway.
If the region avoided open wars between states in the last ten years, severe internal conflicts conspired against the aspiration for true peace.
The repressive plans previously implemented with US support in Mexico and Colombia with the aim of “defeating drug trafficking”, such as the Merida Initiative or Plan Colombia, did nothing but spread weapons and deaths throughout the region.
Meanwhile, the Central American cordon between Colombia and the southern US border, ravaged by internecine wars against the leftist insurgency and subsequent neoliberalism, became populated by youth gangs that imitated the criminal model that emerged in American jails and streets.
In 2022, Nayib Bukele launched a “mano dura” (iron fist) offensive in El Salvador that imprisoned almost 2 per cent of its population, breaking the power of the gangs, but also democratic guarantees. The president, born into politics in the FMLN and backed by families with strong economic power, jumped into the “outsider” mode and has now reached a level of popularity that, just a few days before new elections are held, would ensure his re-election.
Another politician with a publicised youthful air, the scion of the multimillionaire Noboa clan, is currently trying to imitate this policy in Ecuador, this time with the direct support of the United States and the Southern Command. This support has earned him revenge on the country to the North, with his advisors returning fifteen years after losing their military base in Manta, during the government of Rafael Correa.
With the state of “internal war”, Lasso’s successor government seeks not only to cover up the re-entry of US militias into the country but also to forge the possibility of re-election that would prevent the return of a progressive government to the country.
Nor was the rest of the Andean region exempt from victims of state violence. Coups in Bolivia and Peru both repressed subsequent popular protests, claiming the lives of defenders of violated democracies. The subsequent elections in Bolivia managed to reverse the coup, while Peru continues to be held hostage by the economic mafias that emerged in the heat of the radical neoliberalism implemented by the Fujimori dictatorship.
The great Haiti, the forerunner of liberation from slavery and independence in Latin America and the Caribbean, continues to be torn apart by poverty, interventionism, banditry and corruption. A nation that is attacked even by a right-wing Dominican government, which, far from offering the support of a good neighbour, develops a discriminatory policy of walls and expulsions.
In Chile, the political and business right continues to violate the rights of the popular majorities while maintaining the main features of a dictatorial constitution, while in Brazil, once again the military party managed to place an emissary from its ranks in the highest political office between 2019 and 2022. Fortunately for the Brazilian people, that government did have an end.
Finally, the hatred instigated by an unholy alliance of the media, lawfare officials and big business, together with the mistakes of a lukewarm government, led to a far-right delirious man, the errand boy of the big local and transnational corporate groups, slipping into the presidential chair in Argentina. A chair from which he could be ejected if he persists in his violent onslaught against acquired social rights and uses extortion and repression as his only argument in the face of an already massive popular opposition.
The proclaimed adherence of the current Argentine government to the aggressive bloc made up of the United States, NATO, the United Kingdom and Israel, the expressions of sympathy with Zelensky’s government, the quarrelsome and McCarthyist rhetoric against “communism” and even the unexpected change in the military leadership, could be the prelude to a misguided action that seeks to involve the country’s armed forces in a conflict outside the country’s borders.
Meanwhile, disappearances, the persecution of youth, the mistreatment of migrants, forced displacement, violence against women, the lethal aggression against journalists and social leaders, the deplorable situation of imprisoned people, discrimination against minorities, neglected social demands and the silenced mental health pandemic continue to be part of the daily landscape of our America. All of this is the result of a flawed model of life and social disorganisation based on appropriation, dispossession and difference.
Without covering the whole picture, the Zone of Peace Declaration has been an important step forward for Latin America and the Caribbean. On the one hand, in terms of a symbolic aspiration shared by the peoples of the region, but also in terms of a practical refusal to become directly involved in conflicts outside the region, which are as abundant and widespread today as they were yesterday.
At the same time, the upward status of the Zone of Peace is today at severe risk, undermined by a general geopolitical conflict in which all sides, through offensive action or defensive reaction, continue to support the logic of war and arms build-up.