2012 Final Declaration of the XVIII Meeting
of the Forum of São Paulo

[Meeting date: July 2012 Place: Caracas, Venezuela The Foro or Forum is a coalition of progressive organizations and political parties from all over Latin America. They meet annually to discuss regional issues and make recommendations. They are highly critical of US-led neoliberal economic policies. This is an abridged version. See the full version of the Declaration online but beware of the many popup ads.]

Peoples of the world, against neoliberalism and for peace:

The XVIII Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo, gathered in Caracas on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of July, 2012, is held amidst a severe structural crisis of capitalism, concurrent with a dispute for geopolitical and geostrategic spaces, the rise of new centres of power, threats against world peace and the military and intrusive aggressiveness exerted by imperialism in its attempt to reverse its own decline. Furthermore, environmental, energetic and food crises, as well as the crisis undergone by systems of political representation add to the economic crisis. All of these situations demand a firm response by the Latin American and Caribbean peoples along with effective action taken by progressive, popular and left-wing forces.

The world economic crisis is far from being surmounted. The Heads of international financial institutions cling on the neoliberal dogma. The United States hard landing and the stall of the European economic engine entail effects that are already being felt in vast regions, even in the vigorous Chinese economy. The Latin America and the Caribbean are no strangers to the negative impact of the world crisis, although social and economic policies implemented by most of their governments have averted a greater impact.

In regions such as Europe and the United States, neoliberalism is still the ideological cornerstone of their economic policies, advancing its principles of ongoing austerity and prioritizing financial capital. On the other hand, in Latin America, progressive and left-wing forces run the destinies of a significant portion of the nations in the area and launch initiatives that have made it possible to prevail -to some extent- over the “long neoliberal night”. They have achieved undeniable success in the struggle against poverty and have promoted an unprecedented integration process by underpinning far-reaching social welfare plans. The challenge lies in maintaining the continuity and further development of these changes during the current downturn.

Imperialism and the Right try to offset the growth of democratic, popular, progressive and left-wing forces in Latin America and the Caribbean in several ways, for example, with the systematic aggression of the United States government, the manipulation and criminalization of social demands in order to spur violent confrontations and a counter-offensive to stage coups [examples include Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, Paraguay].

Simultaneously, several overwhelming triumphs at the ballot box reflect the step forward made by progressive and left-wing forces, as seen in the victories of Dilma Ruseff in Brazil, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina and Danilo Medina in Dominican Republic. [Comment by Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator: "Brazil's ruling Workers' Party (PT) has rescued the country from neoliberal stagnation and turned it into the world's sixth economy. The national oil company Petrobras is the world's second largest, it is larger than Microsoft and Walmart. Brazil's government development bank, BNDES, is by far the largest public sector development funder in the world- yes, larger than the World Bank. Sao Paulo's stock exchange is the world's second largest."]

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA acronym in Spanish) blends common economic policies, like a common currency (Sucre), a Reserve Fund, Petrocaribe and, recently, its presidents decided to create an ALBA economic zone. This is a milestone in the integrative endeavour made by Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

The efforts displayed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR acronym in Spanish) are both surprising and encouraging. A set of integrative initiatives has been introduced, including the drawing up of a common defence policy that will correlate defence with the development and preservation of Latin America as a peace zone, nuclear-weapons free. At the same time, advances have been evidenced in the construction of an economic architecture supported on the pillars of complementarity, cooperation, respect for sovereignty and solidarity.

In view of the failure of ALCA [Spanish acronym: Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas; in English FTAA, Free Trade Area of the Americas]and the limited accomplishments of bilateral free trade agreements, imperialism seeks to weaken Latin and South American integration mechanisms by bolstering the Pacific Alliance. [Comment by Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator: "The governments of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela teamed up with civil society activists in trashing then US president George Bush's proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas and replaced it with the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA). And in the last couple of years, under the initiative of Hugo Chávez, the region's countries are grouping together as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which explicitly excludes the US and Canada."]

Integration rests on a political basis; it is a reaction to a changing reality and has material basis on its side, featuring production forces and myriads of plentiful natural resources: forests, oil, all kinds of minerals, rare earths, vast extensions of grazing and arable lands. Above all, what integration has on its side is cultural and human diversity represented by more than 500 million people. The integration process must ensure that common policies be agreed upon, related to sovereign management and use of natural resources, including the defence of water and its acknowledgement as a human right.

Due to the sheer magnitude of renewable and non-renewable natural resources available in our region, we have to reinforce the defence of the environment and set out on the road to large-scale industrial, technological and scientific development while ensuring observance of native peoples' rights, among them, their right to consultation.

[Criticism by Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator: "The failure of the Forum [FSP] and leftist governments to address environmental issues in any meaningful way is nothing short of alarming. As much as Bolivian president Evo Morales and the new Ecuadorian constitution may talk about the environment, mother earth (pacha mama) and right livelihood (sumak kawsay), the fact is that Latin America's leftist revolution runs on oil and natural gas. Fossil fuels are an indispensable source of foreign exchange for Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, and dependence on their export is increasing. The agribusiness model of farm production, incompatible with ecology or food sovereignty, is running amok in South America- and among the pesticide-drenched monocultures, Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready soy is king. The construction of mega hydro dams in the Amazon jungle (like the controversial Belo Monte project) and of super highways linking Brazil to the continent's Pacific coast continue apace."]

In the next few months several elections will be held, like Nicaragua's in November 2012 for municipal authorities. In February 2013 there will be general elections in Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa is running for a second term; the Forum of São Paulo has committed to offer its solidarity and complete support.

The Forum of São Paulo will have to tackle overwhelming tactical and strategic challenges. To meet those challenges, we count on the strength represented in the attendance to this XVIII Meeting, with 800 delegates, from 100 parties and organizations from 50 countries from the five continents.

The left-wing, progressive and anti-imperialist parties that are members of the Forum of São Paulo acknowledge that: the presence and participation of women in different areas in society -including parties- is essential to the strengthening, growth and development of that society. It is simply not possible to build socialism (or a socialist, fair and egalitarian society) if those traditional roles and patterns historically assigned to and adopted by men and women are not modified; it is equally important to create the necessary conditions to uproot the bases of discrimination against women and to promote equal opportunities for men as well as women to participate in both private and public sectors. An appropriate gender approach and feminist agenda as developed by left-wing and revolutionary women are still pending inclusion into the policies, programmes and actions designed in the struggle against the Right and against predatory, patriarchal capitalism and into the construction of socialism.

From its very inception, the Forum has clearly and categorically acknowledged Argentine sovereignty over Malvinas. The XVIII Meeting endorses the request to open up diplomatic negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom besides upholding the Latin American protest for the actions undertaken by the British government in a zone declared free of nuclear weapons. Similarly, the FSP condemns the colonial situation several Latin American and Caribbean nations immersed in. We equally repudiate re-colonization attempts.

The Forum of São Paulo expresses its support for the peace process in Colombia, where the endeavour continues to reach a political solution to the armed conflict, to attain peace coexisting with social justice, and a new social and economic model that guarantees that human rights and nature be protected. It is hereby decided to establish a commission representative of the movements and political parties members of the Forum of São Paulo that -by prior mutual agreement with Colombian parties and movements- will visit the country and put forth an agenda including assessment, contacts and support for unity projects.

The XVIII Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo concludes with a bid to all peoples to join in the struggle against neoliberalism and wars, to build a world of peace, democracy and social justice. A different world is possible and we are building it: a socialist world.