On October 9, the Latin American Solidarity Centre [LASC], together with the One World Centre of Galway, held a ‘think-in’ for its members and supporters at which éirígí was represented.
A special guest at the event was Javier Orozco of the Committee of Colombian Refugees in Asturias, Spain. The purpose of the think-in was to provide a space for activists in Ireland to update themselves with regard to the political and social changes happening in Latin America and to discuss these in relation to the work that solidarity activists carry out. Most solidarity work is usually focused on one country, or one issue, and this event provided an opportunity to look at the bigger picture.
Participants on the day had different insights and contributions to make. After a round of presentations and an activity that allowed people to talk about their interest in Latin America and what would they be interested in getting involved in, there followed a good debate on the nature of the political changes taking place in Latin America.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the shifting nature of Latin American politics throughout the last decade has been the fact that Latin America generally has become more independent than ever before of the US in terms of its capacity to dictate its own political agenda. This relative shift in focus has gone hand-in-hand with the development of different initiatives and perspectives on what a more integrated Latin America might look like.
It was argued by some contributors that the cycle of struggles which started in the mid-90s has, in fact, shifted the balance of power to a large extent in ordinary people’s favour; they have managed to shift the political focus of the region towards a model of development that is based upon integration and increased independence. Integration has been the top priority in this agenda. Having succeeded in shifting the focus decisively towards the question of Latin American integration, they are now focusing on the ‘integrationist’ camp’s own internal contradictions. The primary contradiction is that between the ‘integration from above’ model, proposed by some governments, and the ‘integration from below’ model proposed by the continent’s popular movements.
This general move towards greater independence for the region is happening against the backdrop of continued US reaction and intrigue which cannot be underestimated, even though the US is certainly weakened in its ability to influence the Latin American political agenda. What the US is trying to do at present is recover its power through the traditional means of encouraging anti-democratic and putschist movements as, for example, the cases of Ecuador, Honduras and Venezuela clearly attest to. Notwithstanding this aspect of US influence, that remains quite important, it was commented upon that there are other imperial actors, such as the EU, which are exercising an increasingly negative influence in the region, pursuing their own economic agenda to the detriment of the peoples of Latin America.
An element of the discussion focused on the issue of how solidarity work itself is effected by the reality of ongoing US imperialist pressure [Honduras, Ecuador, Haiti, Colombia, the presence of US military bases and of the 5th Fleet in Central America and the Caribbean, the so-called war on drugs etc], but also by the increasing neo-colonial role of the EU through the imposition of Free Trade Agreements on Central America, Colombia and Peru, and the EU’s recognition of the illegitimate Honduras regime.
At the afternoon session, participants spoke on various themes to do with their own solidarity work and interests. Particular note was made of the importance of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America] in terms of it providing an alternative model of integration for Latin America and against US hegemony in the region. It was pointed out that some ALBA member states have come under pressure from US-sponsored anti-democratic right-wing movements in Bolivia, Ecuador and Honduras for instance – in the latter country, they were, in fact, successful in overthrowing the government.
Another theme of discussion was that of how Latin America is perceived and portrayed by the Irish media – how some events pass unnoticed, how others are noticed, about the class bias of some journalists that communicate with their own peers in Latin America instead of the ordinary people, and the role of editors in editing stories to fit their own political angle. It was also mentioned that the main channels of Latin American news into Europe [via Spain] are the media corporations PRISA and Planeta. Both are structurally linked to the Colombian government – something that accounts for the extreme bias of reportage in favour of the Colombian state in its war against its people. The discussion then focused in on what activists in Ireland can do in order to make sure that Latin America gets better, more accurate coverage in the media.
Judging by the range of participants and contributions, the think-in event proved that there is widespread interest in Latin American issues and Latin American solidarity in Ireland. LASC found this opportunity to discuss different areas of solidarity work and political changes occurring in Latin America generally very useful, more are expected to take place in the near future.
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