Faced with old and new forms of debt domination, a luta continua!
Jubilee South / Americas will mark Global Debt Week, October 8 to 15, in a special way this year. Delegates from the four subregions – the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, Andean, and the Southern Cone – will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the network´s IV Regional Assembly, under the banner “Towards Debt Reparations”. At the heart of analysis and deliberations to set our course for the coming period will be the changing forms and present character of debt and domination, in the region and globally, together with the strategies of resistance and alternatives being developed.
Over recent years global attention has shifted to the debt dramas of countries considered “developed” and of people in the North entrapped in the tangles of consumerism or struggling to overcome the consequences of prolonged recessions, unemployment, and falling wages. Many even seem to believe that the “debt crisis” of the South is over.
Indeed, after a decade of soaring commodity prices, and with global capital once again flowing into the region in search of easy profits, there is reason for such thinking in regard to Latin America and the Caribbean. Current account balances have returned, growth rates and national reserves are higher than ever, and external debt to GNP ratios are touted as more than manageable in much of the region. Important, too, in generating a sense of “problem over”, have been the HIPC-related cancellations in a number of the most severely impoverished countries, Ecuador´s official Debt Audit, Argentina´s historic 2001 default and later restructuring, and the monumental pay-offs made to the IMF – together with lots of tough talk - by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others.
So is there anything left to fight for? Yes, indeed! responds JS/Americas: the truth is that the people of Latin America and the Caribbean are facing debts that are growing as never before and the consequences of historical forms of debt domination remain largely intact. Country realities are of course diverse, but patterns clearly exist. To mention just a few:
Ø Coup d’états as in Honduras, Haiti, and Paraguay, unalterably usher in periods of greater militarization, repression, and diverse human rights violations, including burgeoning financial debts and an even more systematic exploitation, plundering, and control of territories, cultures, human labor and the natural commons. To cite just one example, combining the worst of both tendencies, the Honduran Beverage Industry Trade Union, STIBYS, a long-time Jubilee South activist, is fighting a bill that would enable the government to directly concession entire portions of national territory – forestry, mineral, and water rights included - in order to “alleviate” national indebtedness before the November 24 elections.
Ø Vulture fund attacks against Argentina, debt-related demands in the World Bank-dependent International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and renewed pushes for “investment” protection clauses and free-trade treaties, spiraling interest rates in Brazil, and expanded concerns over country-risk ratings are symptomatic of the widespread conversions from project-financing to market-based indebtedness, from public to private financing, and the transgendering of external into internal debt throughout large parts of the region. Despite the many changes in the region, the policies of our governments continue to be shaped by the pressure to service debts, rather than human and nature rights.
Ø Robbing Mary to pay Paul is another pervasive reality, as public pension funds and national health care agencies, in particular, are drained of resources in order to restock national treasuries depleted by debt servicing. On paper, many national accounts appear splendid but they are a mere façade of reality.
As Jubilee South/Americas gathers now to review its priorities and plan of action, we will indeed have plenty of debt problems to address. As we have denounced since the first moments of our network, one of the most permanent characteristics of this continuing financial indebtedness is its illegitimacy: “Not Our Debt” we will reaffirm in unison even as we explore the changing actors and mechanisms that guarantee its reproduction, its criminality, and its impunity, and shape our strategies for building alternatives in the face of the domination it exercises.
Our framing of the “debt problem” and the resistance we will continue to strengthen, however, will encompass as well the vast array of debts legitimately claimed by the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as other peoples of the global South: colonial and historic debts, social and ecological debts, climate debts, cultural and spiritual debts, gender debts, and democracy debts. In claiming our rights and projecting our strategies as Creditor Peoples, the network will seek to articulate more forcefully the ongoing struggle against debt domination and for financial sovereignty, with struggles throughout the region for food and energy sovereignty, self-determination, human and nature rights, and indeed, a new paradigm not of development but of well-being, Bien Vivir.
In the face of the deepening crisis of capitalist civilization, with its rapidly accelerating global climate catastrophe, its neocolonial expansion of extractive frontiers into the remotest of hinterlands and the very core of urban existences, the mercantilization and degradation of life in all its dimensions, the permanent threat – and reality – of militarization and war to maintain profits and control, Jubilee South/Americas will gather to remember and honor our comrades and martyrs, and renew our solidarity with all those who are suffering and in struggle. We will reaffirm our core principles and vision, review and further develop our strategies, plans of action, alliances and organization, and stand together in public acts and mobilization as a vibrant part of the global movement for Freedom from Debt and all forms of Domination. As Creditor Peoples, we will continue to denounce that we will not pay what we do not owe, and that our priority is to advance alternatives of true justice and reparations. Join us!
-Beverly Keene, Buenos Aires, 22 September 2013
Dialogue 2000 – Jubilee South / Argentina