SENZA CENSURA N.16
march - june 2005
SOUTH AMERICA: PERIPHERY HAS GOT A CENTER
The Mercosur "floatation" in the international sea
On the 19 of may 2004, EU and Mercosur realized an informal offers exchange about the rates of the products, in order to come to a commercial agreement before the end of October 2004, the last term to sign the definitive agreement between the parties. (1)
In the 20 of october, a Roiters' article (2) carried: "An agil agreement between EU and the south-american block of Mercosur, leading by Brazil, will help the negotiations for the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas that will take place the First of January, the fixed date". The Brazil -and his enterprising foreign minister Celso Amorin- made clear in this way that the negotiation for the FTAA (Alca) can be easier if a bigger international importance will be assign to Mercosur. This event shows an aspect about Mercosur that joins other aspects dealed in the last issues. The fast increase of Mercosur represents many things: the creation of a regional "parachute" for the southern cone's countries towards the american FTAA initiative; the brazilian projection into the sub-continent; the opportunity to gain spaces and play with many different actors on the international field.
Reading the "Comunicado conjunto de los presidentes de los estados partes del Mercosur" (Joint Communique of the presidents of the Mercosur Countries) -edited on the 8 of july 2004 (3) at the meeting of the membre states, of the regional and international associates and observers- we can understand the state of the work of the construction of the Mercosur pole. The speeches come only from the presidents of the promoting countries that sum up the meeting with the other partners of the project.
The partecipation to this periodical event is recently enlarging. The meeting of this document includes not only the promoting countries like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, but also the representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Guyana, Mexico.
This document -like the other one that we'll analize later- shows us the kind of composition and the different importance of the countries of the block and can give us an idea about the regional and international strategies and about the growth progression of the countries joined to it as associated members. From a formal point of view, into 2004 the relationships between Can (Per¨, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela) and Mercosur were settled; during the last years Mercosur is initialing free trade agreements with the andean countries, one by one, and every time on the official documents it's write down that all is happened under the cover of the ALADI (Latin American Integration Association). This constitutes only on the paper a guarantee about the creation of a subregional pole really alternative to the north-american colonization of the FTAA: it's presented like a result or a summary of the progressive politics of the Mercosur countries, that will give development, sovereignty and prosperity to the people; but, at the contrary, it's getting ready to consolidate the actual social relations (in every single states) and differents degrees of development (at the regional level) to increase its small capitals, always depending on the american and european economies. Mercosur is becoming the absorpting/attracting pole of the southern cone's countries at the lower level of development. It's really a success of the capitalism and of the FTAA; also amongst the "little fishes", this classic mechanism is reproduced: the bigger financial capital (Brazil-Argentina) eats the smaller one (Per¨, Ecuador, Bolivia) and hold the political initiative record.
In the quoted document the presidents of the Mercosur promoting countries "Confirm the political and economic importance of the Acuerdo de Complementaci˛n Econ˛mica between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, that represents an essential step towards the consolidation of the regional integration's initiative" (4). Particularly, about Venezuela they want to specify that "Considered that the negotiations on a free trade agreement between Venezuela and Mercosur ended as for the practical questions and considered that the country pressed for its annexation to the block as Associated State, Venezuela is welcomed as newer member of Mercosur. This association will be realized when the agreement on the Aladi will be defined by protocol"(5).
And we can see the consequence in the following passage realized on December 2004: "Just when Colombia and Ecuador will express the same interest, the present decision will be extended"(6). Another important success about the Mercosur political capability to become the subregional attracting pole, is represented in the following passage: "In the same way, we accept the incorporation of Mexico to Mercosur as Associated State, that will become effective when the respective free trade agreement will end. From now on, Mexico is invited to partecipate to the meetings on it" (7). The importance and the relapses of this annexation must be overseen as time go by, but it's now remarkable that Mexico is already annexed to Nafta -the FTAA basic idea- and that its industrial machinery is quite advanced (in competition with Brazil), compared with the other south-american states. As for the economic relations on the Mercosur international level, the most important document is the same -the one of the four presidents of the promoting countries- and now we work on the Mercosur/EU meetings. The presidents of the member states of Mercosur say that they "Apologize the commitment to realize an Acuerdo de Asociacion Interregional con la Unione Europea (an inter-regional association agreement with EU) and support the necessity that this agreement must be signed on October 2004. They showed that an effort from the both sides will produce as result an inclusing, balanced and satisfactory agreement for the both parties. In this way, we apologize again our conviction that Mercosur made efforts to achieve this objective" (8). Still in the same document, the presidents of the member states "Confirmed their commitment with the multilateral trade system and in particular with all estabilished in the series of meetings for the development of the Doha OMC Ministerial Conference. They urged all the member states to give a new impulse to the negotiations, with a constructive spirit and giving importance to the situation of the developing countries. They want underline that, to make that this meeting will produce results, it's essential to respect the original level of ambition about agriculture of the Doha commission and also its three pillars: the improvement of the admittance to the trades; the reduction of all the forms of subsidizing of the exports, in view of a complete elimination; a substantial reduction of the internal aids that cause distortions in the agricultural free trade" (9).
The failure of the Mercosur/EU negotiations came few days later, on the 21 of July 2004, when the brazilian transactor of Mercosur considered the agroindustrial UE proposal inadequate and unacceptable and still after October the situation was unchanged. On December, the agenda of the Mercosur bilateral meetings became full of appointments with Egypt, Morocco, Canada, China, South Korea and Israel.
It's no accident that in this document the agricultural products of Mercosur are so important that a specific passage is dedicated to them. The agricultural products of countries like Brazil (but also Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela) are now the result of a semintensive cultivation, in which farms are factories and labour is salaried. In a wide and quite low populated territory like the southern cone, there are still big uncultivated plots of land, and some of them are mono-cultivated in a semi-feudal system. But the quality of the agricultural product of the South-America is envolved (so much that EU and USA now fear its competition) and the farms are now automated like the "western" intensive cultivations, so there are many internal situations of uneven development in the agroindustry. The thirteenth number of Senza Censura we wrote about the bolivian situation, about its historical context, about its transformations and its regional conditioning mechanisms, owed to the nearness with Brazil and Argentina. In the issue we mentioned the bolivian ex-miners that become farmers in a short time, forced to cultivate the coca leaf, because it gave little but steady profits and because with others products they would face up to the competition with the advanced capitalist countries and overall with the nearest developing countries.
In the Cancun summit on September 2003, Brazil, the other eastern developing countries (G20) and the 70 poor countries seemed to be resolute against USA and EU about the agricultural products' matter. But as appeared many times "Brazil and India consider the negotiations a way to become worldwide powers and leaders of G20 -and it was their only interest. At the end, they were influenced by the so-called 'un-group' that agreed on a final compromise (USA, EU, Brazil, India an Australia)" (10), ditching the 70 poor countries that were utilized by G20 (but overall by Brazil and India) only to re-define the business relations, "nibbling" the profit margins and re-negotiating their position in the agroindustrial business.
Up to this point, we analyzed the document of the presidents of the Mercosur countries about the meeting of July 2004. Besides the state of the enlargement of the block, the future of the comparison between the block and the FTAA, the negotiations with EU and the initiatives in the fields of the capitalistic brokerage like WTO, the document also includes the congratulations for the agreements with: Japan, Egypt, Morocco, China and India, as token of international enterprise of the block, but overall of Brazil.
In the alterations of the internal composition of Mercosur, the distinctions between the member countries of the block (the 4 promoters controlled by Brazil and Argentina) and the associated countries remains steady. This means that the four countries have the political control of Mercosur (and it's showed in the two mains documents), that is independent from the composition results of the aggregating process of others countries, even if an important country by the political/economic point of view, like Mexico, become part of it; this control is independent also from countries like Chile and Colombia (that signed the FTAA bilateral agreements) that have also an 'outpost role' in the gringos' campaigns. The result is the beginning of 2005, year in which FTAA come into force, but failing in its original form.
Up to this point, the document of the presidents of the member states of Mercosur; now we work on the document of the presidents of the member states with the associated countries (11), Bolivia, Chile and Per¨ (July 2004). After the dutiful and expected preambles about the necessity of a mutual commitment of the member and associated states of the block in the fight against the impunity, the poverty, the hunger and the social injustice, they get into the heart of the question with the IIRSA (see the number 14 of Senza Censura). At the point 10 of the document, the member and associated presidents of the block "Apologize the importance of the infrastructural development of the connexions between Mercosur and the Associated Members, to improve the connectivity between the countries, contributing to the international competitiveness, to create projects of effective social impact. In this way, they confirm the validity of the promotion of the logistic integration of the South America and ratify their determination to promote the IIRSA and the Hidrovýa Parguay-ParanÓ". On this point they make clear to all the associated to Mercosur (like the andean countries and Chile, and the future ones, like Venezuela and Mexico) that the development of the strategic IIRSA integration project (Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America) stays on the top of the priorities, as initiative directed to bridge the gap between the advanced countries into the logistic field (bridges, roads, railways), into the facilities of the transportations and the distribuition of the energy resources, for the expansion and the connection of the communication network on a regional scale.
In the same time, developing this kind of colossal projects means to know in advance that it's necessary face up to many problems.
One of this problems concerns the necessary mechanisms to escape from USA and EU, incrementing exchanges and relations with the east or increasing the rates of the exporting products, concentrating the quantity of the local financial capital, deferring or paying only a part of the debt of the western financial speculations, responsibles of economic crashes like the argentinian one.
There is also a main problem of a social nature; while the progressive lefts of the latin american countries claim to be the real promoters of the so much requested "third way"- the myth of a solution for everything-, the social relations, the working conditions, the wages and the precariousness will still remain the same.
The message of the next passage of the same document joins the context of the necessity to govern enormous contraddictions; the presidents "Confirm their iron rejection of terrorism and the necessity to root out it in all its forms and displays, and they condemn everyone give help or a shelter, everyone committs, promotes, pertecipates or is an accessory in acts of terrorism and related crimes" (12). This kind of declarations are accompaning every Mercosur initiatives or efforts to enlarge and have a political and economic stability, and they reflect the enforcement of the same ideas borned in the Bush government and absorbed by Brazil of Lula, sided with the texan president in the war on terrorism. The message is clear and it is not only a formula to give security guarantees to the foreign investments, but also to the national and continental ones; from time to time, the security/repression item is better defined besides being simply repeated. Of course, it will necessary improve, as the configuration of the circulation of capitals and goods in the southern cone will progress, because to a different contribution of financial capital amongst the South American countries, will correspond an unequal industrial development and consequently struggles and contraddictions.
The brazilian governement (like the argentinian one) cares about the stability, safety and peace question, on the internal as on the regional front. The brazilian aim to keep on the increase of its capital in South America, is settled in a context of regional quiet in which the needs of the social movements are interpreted and inserted in a reform process, without any changes in social production relations, without any "fear" for the foreign and regional investments. The existance of a revolutionary option in countries like Argentina and Brazil or in the andean zone or in Colombia, is a matter first for these States that for the not-latin american governments.
The member and associated presidents of Mercosur: "Express their strong support to the actual growth process of the democratic institutionalization of the sister Republic of Bolivia and our hope is that the process of politic consult will really help this aim" (13). In this last point of the final document of the presidents of the member and associated states of Mercosur (the meeting on 8 of july 2004) we can see the worry, about the staying in charge of the ex-vicepresident Mesa - that tried to flirt with the bolivian social movement and cleverly chased away his criminal ex-boss Sanchez de Lozada. The president, after days of struggle, deads and casualties was obliged to escape to USA. The instruments and the margins of the change about the hydrocarbons referendum were expressed clearly to the bolivian people. This initiative of the Mesa government want the day of the vote on the 18 of July 2004, few days later the draft of this document. Its institution provoked a division in right and left on the bolivian movement. The Mas of Evo Morales was for the legitimacy of this referendum and its movement ask to partecipate voting only some of the questions. Other popular organizations, the miners, the indios, the El Alto young people -that fight in the struggle against Sanchez de Losada- and the COB (union trade of the bolivian miners) declared that the bolivian people already expressed its opinion about the question chasing away a president that wanted sell of abroad a new resource, confirming that the gas (like the other resources) must be nationalized without any compensations for the foreign companies and that the parliament is a corrupt place that will be closed forever. All the worried presidents, confirmed again their support to the brother Mesa, to the institutional and negotiating way, showing that the final solution will be moderate. At the end, in spite of a big campaign to boycott the referndum and the intimidations, the referendum passed by, also thank the Mas passage to the right, but the social movements in Bolivia still want the dimission of Mesa, the complete re-nationalization of their resources and a genuine govern of the workers.
The South American governments are mostly "pink" coloured and are living a phase of nationalist/progressive revival, promising development, soveregnity and attention to the social matter and exploiting the international conditions to consolidate their international action's space.
We think that Brazil and Argentina as member states promoting the Mercosur block, are also the countries that -for a series of economic, political and military reasons- are forming the "imperialistic suburbs", considering USA, UE and the others as countries of centre.
However, we saw that these two states, in the sub-continent, are the promoters of an initiative based on the regional capitalistic system, on its development and on the internal and regional process of modernization, in a big authonomy from the countries of the centre. These countries invest its financial capital, negotiate with the "big ones" without any fear to create some breaks. The ministers of these governments talk about social promotion and compatible development in the Mercosur but they don't face up the state of social poorness and precariousness. Brazilian and agrtinian rural and metropolitan working class are in a interesting state of growth and organization, are in a continous mobilization and are experimenting brutality of the police and the repression of the pink governments -collocated in the neo-liberalist project- on which the Mercosur is based.
In the next issue, in the section about Latin America, we'll working on the political struggle in the sub-continent.
We think that all previous considerations are important because thay let us to know how the Latin America have some countries as "centre of the suburbs" that are the member or associated states of Mercosur. These are countries in which the formal democracy has still some relevant credibility, there is partecipation to the vote and to the bourgeois parties and so are countries in which a possible increase of Mercosur project can "buy" the social demands of the masses.
Then, there are the countries of the "extreme suburb", like the andean ones, that are on the bottom rung of the stairs of the poverty conditions and they benefit late of the possible times of economic recovery, crushed between the world giants and the local powers. These countries are at the borders of any possible (little) divisions of a Mercosur recovery and in general they will pay the higher price. They are also countries of recent democratic "testing", like Bolivia, with little trust of the institutional politic: short time passed between the expulsion of Lozada, the american puppet, and the beginning of the workers assemblies on the organization of a general strike for the expulsion of Carlos Mesa, traitor of the bolivian people.
(1)source: "Diario Observador", Montevideo, 07Maggio 2004.
(4) point 34 of the document
(5) point 35 of the document
(6) point 36 of the document
(7) point 37 of the document
(8) point 39 of the document
(9) point 48 of the document
(10) source:"Il Manifesto";3 Agosto 2004 .
(11) source: http://www.mercosur.org.uy/espanol/snor/varios/Comunicado%20Conjunto%20MCS_ASOC-INVITADOS_iguazu_07_2004.htm
(12) point 11 of the document
(13) point 17, last point of the document