How Colombia’s Gustavo Petro Sees New Regional Integration

Colombian President Gustavo Petro addressing the UN

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Although the recent session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York did not show a unified discourse on Latin America and the Caribbean by the different presidents of the region, the speech by Gustavo Petro gives me certain hopes in this regard.

I raise it because the speech by the Colombian president was able to raise two of the most important issues for the region in an intertwined manner. The failure of the war on drugs and the fight against the climate crisis, two failed efforts with heightened negative consequences.

Hence, Petro very intelligently used the expression war against the Amazon jungle to illustrate the damage that prohibitionist and ecocide policies have generated in the region, promoted by a global system of production and accumulation of wealth, based on the exploitation of coal, oil and unlimited consumption, which has brought thousands of deaths and irreparable destruction of biodiversity.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the most deaths from homicides in the world and where more environmental defenders are murdered. This, within a context in which drug trafficking and extractivism seem to be the big winners, while communities have had to deal with the militarization of their territories, which only ends up reproducing violence.

Faced with this, the need to resume a new path of regional integration, which puts people’s safety at the center and the construction of economic models sustainable with nature. Such becomes essential in these times, where the minimum conditions of reproduction of life are in danger and addiction to drugs, money, and power only destroy us as a society.

There will be those who will say that regional integration failed and did not generate a real alternative for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. They can cite the creation of organizations such as UNASUR, CELAC and ALBA, promoted mainly by the so-called progressive governments since the 2000s, generating a weak regional institutionalism in the face of the great world powers.

It is true that regional integration did not seriously challenge prohibitionism through an idea of ​​drug regulation focused on prevention and public health. Likewise, it did not promote a path to slow extractivist policies. Therefore, the climatic urgency and need for peace in the region will continue to demand alternatives.

Faced with this, it is hopeful that Petro summons all of Latin America and the Caribbean to unite to save the Amazon jungle and allocate resources for the defense of life, instead of allocating money to weapons and wars that only benefit big concentrated capital, which does not want peace, much less social, economic and environmental justice.

In order to promote a new regional integration and that Petro’s speech does not just remain in words, it is important that the different States of the region understand that the competition between our countries only benefits the large world corporations and military and economic powers such as China, Russia and the United States, who do not want to see us together, but rather separate, to continue promoting wars against life.

For this reason, the role of Brazil is key for the region, as it is the strongest country economically and with the largest population. If Lula Da Silva is elected again as president, which seems to be the most likely, he should not commit the same errors of that past progressive integration, begun in the 2000s, which ended up subordinated to the Commodities Consensus*, as a consequence of the boom in international prices of raw materials.

On the contrary, the time has come for the region to seriously think of itself as a bloc, and to protect its enormous cultural and natural diversity, through common economic, industrial, environmental, migratory, scientific, security, health, and safety policies, and education. Thus facing the great challenges we have as humanity, which open the opportunity for us to walk the path of peace and good living.

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