Virtual meeting brings together representatives from more than 10 Latin American countries
South America

Virtual meeting brings together representatives from more than 10 Latin American countries

Meeting raised discussions on conjuncture, economic crisis and the need for international organisation and solidarity

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On 19 July, representatives from twelve Latin American countries came together in a virtual meeting to discuss crucial issues impacting the region. With voices coming from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay, the meeting brought together leaders from different sectors, including workers, trade unionists and indigenous rights defenders.

Challenges of the global economic crisis
Fábio Bosco, leader of the International Sector of CSP-Conlutas, opened the meeting by highlighting the global economic crisis, which has taken a significant leap forward with the pandemic.  He emphasised the contradictions between imperialisms, mentioning wars in countries like Sudan and Ukraine. "The scenario of unemployment, withdrawal of workers' rights and cuts in basic investments have led the working class in several countries to mobilise against this situation". 

David Blanco, from the International Relations Secretariat of the Spanish CGT, emphasised that the struggles and problems of the working class are increasingly problematic, under increasingly oppressive, fascist and far right governments. At the same time, he stressed that "10 years ago what seemed like a utopia, to find an element of unity of the working class and create an organism to organise in defence of the workers, today is a reality", referring to the Network.

Building international labour solidarity
In the midst of these struggles, Fabio Bosco highlighted the importance of building international workers' solidarity, since the capitalists already have institutions organised in their interests. "They have the IMF, NATO, they are very well organised. We have to organise the working class against that".

He emphasised the need to create an independent and combative network that practices workers' democracy and opposes governments and bosses. "Our Network will allow us to publicise struggles and promote international solidarity actions between the countries represented. That is why I invite everyone to join the Network, with the aim of strengthening solidarity and international struggles." 

Demonstrations and struggles for sovereignty and rights
Throughout the meeting, several cases of protests and mobilisations in different Latin American countries were mentioned. David Campos, representative of Sintrande, from Paraguay, reported on the struggle against a reactionary government that serves the interests of imperialism and seeks energy control of the country. He also spoke about how Paraguay is disadvantaged to the detriment of Brazil's interests in the Itaipu Treaty.
Venezuela and Peru shared their battles against oppressive governments that disrespect the constitution and persecute workers who mobilise. Mexico and Uruguay face attempts to privatise the water distribution network and threaten labour rights.

Defending the right to union organisation
Trade union representatives from several countries shared their experiences of confronting governments that do not respect freedom of trade union organisation. Adriana Urrea, a Mexican trade unionist from Sutnotimex, denounced the repression of freedom of expression and journalists in Mexico, while Luis Cortés, president of the Sintrasar union in Chile, highlighted the persecution and dismantling of labour rights.
On the other hand, comrades from Generando Movimiento, the organisation that created the Independent Trade Union of General Motors in Silao, Mexico, served as an example of overcoming and independent and combative trade union organisation. Israel Cervantes, sacked from GM, thanked the international support he received during the union elections, and said "we can say that today we have a real union that works for rights. And we are following demonstrations from different companies by workers who want to leave the corrupt unions and want to join Sintia". 
Leaders from Venezuela, from the Comite Nacional de Conflicto de Trabajadores en Lucha (National Committee of Workers in Struggle), shared the serious situation of persecution and criminalisation of mobilised trade unionists in the country, and called for international support to put pressure on the government and authorities. Six workers have been sentenced to 16 years for alleged conspiracy.

Indigenous peoples' struggles and territorial movements
Other important themes that emerged were the struggles of indigenous peoples and territorial movements. Xavier Solis, a lawyer for indigenous peoples, reported on the challenges faced in Ecuador with increasing violence, mineral exploitation and lack of respect for the rights of these communities. "We have faced a lot of violence in Ecuador, with drug trafficking dominance, and increasingly corrupted institutions. The armed forces are very involved with crime, for every 10 offences committed by the narco, in only one the police do not participate".
According to the lawyer, the indigenous movement has been the most prominent force in the country, against governments, oil and mining interests. He explains that capitalist exploitation has caused intense "environmental contamination, in the rivers and tributaries of the Amazon, Napo, etc", with the participation of Chinese and other multinational companies.
Still on the same theme, Argentine lawyer Mario Villarreal brought to the discussion the struggle in Jujuy, a province of Argentina that became the site of intense popular mobilisations against the advance of lithium exploitation and the provincial constitutional reform that removed rights from rural and indigenous peoples. The lawyer reported that "five lawyers are in detention, 160 workers have been arrested, and universities have been raided by the armed forces". In his assessment, the repression has led different sectors to unite, such as teachers, civil service workers, students, oil workers, rural workers and indigenous peoples, in a "popular unity that has rarely been seen in Argentina".
From Brazil, Vanessa Mendonça, from the Popular Struggle Movement, affiliated to CSP-Conlutas, shared the organisation for basic and land rights, "I live in São Paulo, where there are about 600,000 spaces, including abandoned land and housing, and about 300,000 people without homes. Since the pandemic we have been working together with other movements in a campaign called Zero Eviction, but we know, according to a survey, that we have more than a million families at risk of being evicted", he denounced.

International unity and resistance
The discussions were intense, emphasising the importance of unity between trade unions and the working class in their struggles. Representatives emphasised the crucial role of social movements in resisting setbacks, neoliberal reforms and capital offensives.

Eduardo Aguayo, a Paraguayan trade unionist from ANAIPS, emphasised the similarities of attacks on pension funds, citing Argentina, Chile and France as examples. "This initiative is an important exchange between comrades and the struggles that take place. It enriches us and makes us aware of the processes of struggle in the countries and gives us experiences to organise ourselves in a better way. They continue to throw the crisis of capital on the people. That is why we have a challenge to connect with other sectors and the Network is very important to strengthen ties and continue organising", she concludes.

And from this exchange of experiences, the participants agreed to strengthen international labour solidarity and defend their rights in the midst of such a critical and challenging situation.

A meeting has been scheduled for 16 August, and one of the central themes will be solidarity with the mobilisations in Jujuy, Argentina.

These virtual meetings are part of the construction of the 5th Meeting of the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles, which will take place from 10 to 12 September in Brazil, in the city of São José dos Campos. 

Long live the international labour struggle!

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