ASUNCION – Representatives of political parties from 34 regional countries have gathered in Paraguay to articulate a shared vision against the “resurgence of neoliberalism and authoritarianism” in Latin America.
Paraguay’s former president, Fernando Lugo, made those remarks Thursday at the start of the 34th Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean, or Copppal, which concludes on Friday.
He said neoliberalism, a term used by leftists in Latin America to describe free-market, laissez-faire economic policies; authoritarianism; and “neo-coup mongering” posed a threat to all efforts to promote integration and inclusionary democracy.
Lugo, who was ousted from the presidency in 2012 in a rapid and controversial trial in the Paraguayan legislature, referred to the recent impeachment trial and removal of office of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and said her “legitimate government” had been the “latest victim of a coup.”
The former president said the region’s democratic institutions were being trampled upon and that emerging forces were seeking a “return to a past that led to social catastrophes, with a purely fictional democracy.”
He insisted on the “need to reconfigure democracy, to refound the state” and advance toward construction of a “Latin American political model with social justice,” a central theme at this year’s edition of the conference.
That model implies a “fair distribution of income” in a region in which great wealth exists but does not benefit the vast majority of people, Copppal’s president, Manuel Pichardo, told EFE.
Pichardo also said that budget cuts being carried out in several of the region’s recession-hit countries were hitting poor people the hardest.
Conservative governments are forcing sacrifices on those who are least able to sacrifice, while there are people who have accumulated great wealth yet are not contributing to resolve the crisis, according to Copppal’s president.
“We believe the crisis needs to be addressed in a different way and that it’s those who have the most who must sacrifice,” he added.
Pichardo acknowledged that some of the setbacks for progressive governments in the region occurred at the ballot box, referring to the defeat of the Justicialist (Peronist) Party in Argentina in particular.
But some of these “reverses” went hand-in-hand with “the violation of the democratic system, as occurred in Brazil, where there was a parliamentary coup,” he said.
He also criticized the attempts by the Organization of American States to invoke its Democratic Charter against socialist-led Venezuela on the grounds that President Nicolas Maduro has violated basic democratic principles and altered that crisis-hit country’s constitutional order, a move that could eventually lead to the nation’s removal from the hemispheric body.
The OAS is doing the bidding of the United States, Pichardo said, adding that the Democratic Charter had not been invoked in more dire situations.
“Why don’t they apply the Charter to (Brazilian President Michel) Temer, who carried out a coup?” he asked rhetorically.
Copppal is the largest forum of political parties in the region, bringing together 58 progressive and left-wing political groupings from 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries.