Have you been an activist in the solidarity movement for Chile in the 70´s? If so, you have a reasonable chance of becoming a prime minister in a European country in the near future. Both Gordon Brown and Jens Stoltenberg revealed yesterday, at the leaders session, that they had been members of the Chilean solidarity commitee in their home towns of Oslo and Edinburgh.
Today they are both participating in a round table debate with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, President Fernandez of Argentina and President Vazquez of Uruguay to discuss a progressive response to the global crisis.
The great irony of history maybe that in the nineties a number of Latin American countries were struck by a financial crisis, each victums of a harsh neo-liberal deregulation and privatisation programme. Yet, in recent years, under the leadership of progressive presidents Bachelet, Lula, Vazquez, and Fernandez, they have embarked on a path of economic growth, social equality, and democracy.
Now as the neo-liberal model has imploded the economies of the rich countries, Latin America again suffers both directly and indirectly from the effects.
As President Lula said; when I was in the Brazilian labour movement I knew who to blame for a crisis. When I was in opposition, it was so easy to place the blame on the government. But, now in office, I can only blame the US and Europe……yet this does not solve the problem, we will have to find a common solution.
What is needed for recovery, is to start with, that the rich countries restore their financial engines and stimulate consumer demand at home, but also, importantly, to provide credit for international trade.
This is the key challenge emerging from the conference and summit in Chile: will a shared progressive agenda between north and south lead the way out of the crisis?
Frans Becker and René Cuperus, Wiardi Beckman Foundation, Amsterdam