Boric: We Strongly Believe in Democracy, Not Exclusion

Chilean president Gabriel Boric’s speech during the Summit of the Americas. Photo: EFE | Confidencial

Boric mentions the urgent need to release political prisoners in Nicaragua and to put an end to the US blockade on Cuba.

By Gabriel Boric (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – I come from Chile, the Patagonia to be precise, from the southern tip of our continent where it begins. In Chile, as some of you know, we are currently in the midst of a process of profound change, transformation, which has had its fair share of problems, of course.

It is a process of change that was born with social protests, in the hearts of our people and amidst perhaps the most important crisis we’ve had in recent decades. But we’ve chosen to solve this situation with more democracy, not less. This is what our Constitutional Process is, which is currently underway in our country. A process that is democratic, with parity of representation, the participation of our indigenous peoples, and which will end with a Referendum on September 4th.

I say this because we strongly believe in democracy, in the free exchange of ideas where – as the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley puts it – it’s not only a space where we talk to others, but really with them, meeting each other, discussing, convincing each other.

This is why we are here in Los Angeles, and I want to thank President Biden for the invitation he extended to us. We are here to converse, to listen to each other and therefore we hold the strongest belief that there should not be anyone excluded from this space for it to really work, like many presidents that have stood here before me have said. We all need to be here, and we aren’t.

I don’t like the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have been excluded, and do you want to know why? Because it would be very different to hold a meeting like this one, with every country present, including those who decided not to attend because of this exclusion, the pressing need to release political prisoners in Nicaragua or the moral and practical importance of putting an end to the unjust and unacceptable US blockade on the Cuban people.

It’s important that when we disagree on these issues, we can tell each other to our faces, like you have so rightly said. Exclusion only encourages isolation and doesn’t bear any fruits, as we have learned in the past.

For our country, and I want to be explicit here, human rights, unconditional respect for human rights is a basic of civilization that we will always defend, regardless of the Government’s political persuasion that violates them. By the way, we must start in our own backyard first, we are also including ourselves.

This is why we also see ourselves as a feminist Government that defends women’s, young girls’ and breakaway groups’ human rights, wherever they are. I believe that our agreements in this regard fall short, unfortunately, and we need to speed ahead to make progress, much faster. Ladies and gentlemen, we shouldn’t tolerate any space on our continent where gender diversity and history is denied.

As a result, I’d like to make the most of this meeting, this platform, to invite the few countries that still haven’t joined the Belem do Para Convention to do so, to prevent, eradicate, and punish violence against women, so that women in our continent are able to live in a violent-free space.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s all take concrete actions that are pressing. We have to steam ahead and include women in every circle of politics, that is to say, parity of representation, control over their bodies and, as I’ve previously said, a life free of violence.

It is with this belief, this sense of urgency, that Chile has joined initiatives within this space, alongside other countries, to protect the oceans, an American Coalition for Ocean Protection, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned, which emerges from this summit with Canada, Panama, the US, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile as members.

Protecting our oceans is an act of survival and, as a result, we need to take it extremely seriously. Developing countries, like our own, should not wait for developed countries – China, India, the US, Europe – to get firmly aboard the carbon-neutral bandwagon and respect and protect the environment worldwide.

We have to set an example, and this is what we are doing, namely with this Coalition for Ocean Protection, because we are well aware that if we don’t change our course of action, like the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda has pointed out, our existence as humankind is at risk.

We have to do this together; we can’t do it on our own. This is something that many of you have surely repeated here: or we save each other collaborating and cooperating together, or we all sink on our own.

We have to learn lessons from our recent past. During the most terrible pandemic we’ve had in recent history, COVID-19, we shouldn’t have been competing to make a vaccine, to see who gets there first. We must collaborate in these efforts, because if there is a low vaccination rate in another country, it obviously affects us too.

For whom does the bell toll? The bell tolls for you.

By the way, working together also requires that the wealthiest nations, like Canada has so rightly said and we are grateful for their stance at global meetings such as the G7 or G20, commit themselves more, play the role that corresponds to them within their own borders as well as in international cooperation efforts, which is crucial to tackling this challenge.

Such is why, from Chile, we humbly ask developed countries to meet the target they themselves set in the 1970s at the Development Assistance Committee, allocating 0.7% of their wealth to cooperation. There are still many developed countries that are far from meeting this target they themselves set. We urge them from the South, from the Americas, to make swift progress in this regard.

We also believe it’s necessary for a global tax agreement to be reached, like the one that President Biden has implemented in the US or President Fernandez in Argentina, which puts an end to tax havens once and for all, which cause so much harm across the world, especially in our hemisphere.

My dear colleagues, we need to attract foreign investment from companies because of our respect for the Law, our respect for international treaties, for our human capital, the education of our people, our innovations in green energy, not because of precarious work, or low environmental protection measures, or for suicide competition in tax breaks. Let’s work together to do this.

In terms of migration, we need to approach the great responsibility we share, like those before me so rightly said, to address the humanitarian crisis and take in those traveling so many kilometers towards the North or South for better living opportunities, while protecting our borders of course.

We know that Russia’s illegitimate invasion and war in Ukraine, which we have condemned from the onset, has affected the everyday lives of our own people. Consequences can be seen every day in broken production chains, growing living costs and food security in jeopardy. We talked about this recently with Panama.

So, I’m taking President Biden by his word, in the productive meeting we had yesterday, to call a working group together, starting now, to establish solutions and concrete actions that will help the people of the Americas deal with growing living costs which, as we know, also destabilizes our own democracies.

The country I hail from, and I’ll end on this note, Chile, has lithium, copper, sun, a long coastline, wind, renewable energy. I believe that the world needs Chile and Chile needs the world. I say this – and maybe this is something that has been somewhat lacking in recent decades – I say this as a member of the Latin American community. Chile is Latin American to the core because we know we share common challenges that prevent us from making greater headway with integration.

While almost 80% of Europe’s trade is between its own member states, this figure only stands at 15% in the Americas. We are very far behind; we have to integrate further.

This is why initiatives such as the Bioceanic Corridor between Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, are projects worth projecting to the rest of the continent.

My dear colleagues, we must not settle for exclusive clubs of like-minded countries or something similar. The time has come to leave the fragmentation and polarization of our continent in the past, and to take action; so America can bring one voice to the world.

Thus, I invite you to work together on our bilateral agreements, at meetings, looking each other in the eye to create a new continental treaty where we are all equal, free, and sovereign to work towards sustainable, equal progress that changes the lives of the millions of people we represent here, today.

We can and should change the world from the Americas.

Thank you

*Chilean president Gabriel Boric’s speech during the Plenary Session of Leaders at the IX Summit of the Americas. Los Angeles, June 10th 2022.

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