The background to this week’s Seventh Americas Summit in Panama is well known, but there are two particular aspects that must be mentioned.
The third summit, in 2001 in Quebec, was the occasion when the hemisphere’s governments spoke in unison about democracy, but not just any democracy. They meant liberal representative democracy, understood as an indispensable condition for the region´s economic and social development as part of neoliberalism, which was entering a crisis in those early years of the 21st century.
It was there that the voice of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was heard. His was the voice of Latin American social and popular movements, which had no formal voice in those spaces. His government was questioning that notion of democracy, unquestionable until then, and introduced into the debate the idea of participatory and protaganistic democracy, as expressed in the then-new constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Inter-American Democratic Charter does not incorporate these notions presented by Venezuela. Rather, it has served to consolidate a liberal democracy, which ultimately seeks to exclude any form of political organization that does not correspond with the dominant Western paradigm.
But with Chavez came talk of "popular sovereignty," of "national self-determination," of "social participation," and of "social justice," as criterion of the distribution of the economy’s products.
Four years later in 2005, the Fourth Americas Summit took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and that one really was historical.
Suddenly Venezuela’s voice was not alone, but surrounded by many voices. Argentina and Brazil spoke out and we can still remember Bush’s face, who believed he had misheard when his free trade proposal was thrown out.
But it was not only governments. The voice of the people was also heard thanks to one of the most important gatherings of the region’s social and popular movements. Participatory democracy was not only spoken of: it was being put in practice. Anti-imperialism was not just talk, the FTAA was defeated: the Empire was defeated.
The main background issue to this Seventh Summit of the Americas is the recent Obama executive order that declares Venezuela an "extraordinary threat" to U.S. national security. Apart from being simply ridiculous, it represents not only a threat of direct aggression toward Venezuela, but has had repercussions throughout the whole region.
What what we will see at this summit, in an institutional space, is the force of the region’s response. So far there have been various expressions of solidarity with Venezuela and of rejection of the nefarious executive order.
Within the social movements the expectations are broad. The organizers expect the participation of 1,800 people from all over the region.
The Venezuelan social movements will participate in the Peoples’ Summit: youth, women, workers, peasant and indigenous peoples’ movements on different fronts of the struggle are seeking:
1) To deepen the web of networks of popular organizing, which in national spaces have the responsibility to take apart and unmask the local bourgeoisies.
Ecuador’s President Correa has denounced an ongoing attempt at conservative restoration in Latin America. Mass demonstrations organized by the right in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador in recent days, all have common elements, indicating that they are part of a regional plan: they are not isolated initiatives. Undoubtedly these have shown their most violent face in Venezuela with violent street protests and killings, and the detained criminals, wrongly called "political prisoners," to create media scandals and even justify sanctions from the U.S.
2) Give visibility to the forces of Latin American revolutionary organizations and be a counterweight to the right-wing, organized as "civil society," which traditionally occupies the OAS’s institutional spaces and is well covered by the media, especially the so-called human rights defenders that are so well placed in that environment. Here the alternative media and social networks play a key role in communicating and socializing the actions and declarations of the Peoples’ Summit.
3) Occupy a space in the Americas Summit and incorporate an alternative space, where excluded subjects can be discussed and demands can be made that governments pay attention to these social demands.
4) Demonstrate through action the solidarity of the social bases with Venezuela, which is solidarity with all of Our Americas, against imperial attempts; solidarity that is also a way of confronting the empire, and the path to obtain a historical anti-imperialist triumph of the peoples.
Karla Díaz Martínez a Venezuelan lawyer and spokesperson of the Guaicaupuro Resistance Front. She is also a Professor and Researcher of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela.