Interview with Mónica Valente, executive secretary of the Sao Paulo Forum
"Integration will only happen if the peoples are the protagonists".
Lunes, Febrero 6, 2023

Parallel to the VII Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the creation of the Celac Social was formalized, a space integrated by more than 300 political, social and trade union organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean, in which the São Paulo Forum and its Executive Secretary, the Brazilian Monica Valente, actively participated.Valente granted this collaborative interview to the Forum on Communication for the Integration of Our America (FCINA). For an hour, she referred to the importance of regional integration and the need to preserve this part of the planet as a zone of peace despite NATO pressures; the value of a Caribbean island country such as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines holding the pro tempore presidency of CELAC; the geostrategic role of Brazil; the need to make visible the struggles of massacred peoples such as the case of Peru and Haiti; and the worrying advance of the ultra-right.

Jimena Montoya (Centro Latinoamericano de Análisis Estratégico), Mariano Vázquez (Colectivo Sangrre), Felipe Bianchi (Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itararé), Paula Giménez (NODAL) and Javier Tolcachier (Pressenza) participated in the interview.


What concrete mechanisms, what close experiences of other integration processes between peoples and between States can we retrieve for our political projects that are being threatened? 

We had a first period of progressive and popular governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which we sought to build multilateral bodies, spaces for consultation, for building unity in diversity to strengthen Mercosur, Unasur and then CELAC. With the change in the correlation of forces in the governments, due to coups, threats, lawfare and, in some cases, elections, it was difficult for integration to have continuity. It is essential that the people’s, social, political and trade union movements can influence these institutional processes, bring their proposals, dialogue with the pro tempore presidency, with the working groups to put our demands, our visions, on the table. Integration will only happen if the peoples are the protagonists. That is why it was very important for the Social CELAC to give the new president pro tempore, Ralph Gonsalves (prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) our document of the Social CELAC. It has been a very powerful idea to create this forum to influence the construction of CELAC.

You were in Buenos Aires at the launching of the Social CELAC, which already gethers more than 300 organizations and was able to bring visibility to the dramatic situation of Peru and Haiti.Do you see this space as an opportunity for these countries to be seen and heard?

Multilateral bodies have their own institutions and it is up to us to bring up the problems that people are experiencing and suggest solutions. Look at the massacre in Peru, almost 60 people killed in democratic demonstrations and a crisis that seems endless. We must be concerned and take action to help the Peruvian people to overcome this difficult moment they are going through, as well as in Haiti. For example, also what is happening with Vice President Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, who is suffering horrendous persecution, and we are going through the same scenario with President Lula. For this reason, we need to press for the institutional CELACto create spaces for concertation and dialogue to overcome these problems.

The pandemic contributed to accelerating a process of deep transformation, digitalization and increased inequality. What tasks should organizations, governments and integration blocs assume in relation to this moment we are living through as humanity?

The final declaration of CELAC has a chapter on the digital world, the democratization of internet access for the people in a public way. Regulation is needed because the so-called fake news has a lot of political impact on the people. They are lies that are spread through social networks, with a lot of money, with funding that we do not know where it comes from. For example, the terrorist attack we experienced on January 8 in Brasilia was organized by fake news. We have to think about how these new technologies impact our peoples from the point of view of sociability, of the construction of collective instruments of participation and political incidence, because the digital world is a solitary world and we know that collective action is what is capable of changing things.

The pandemic demonstrated that it is essential for Latin American and Caribbean integration that we be able to coordinate regional production chains so that all our countries are involved in a development project with benefits for our peoples.

This is the first time that an English-speaking Caribbean island nation will preside over CELAC, how important is this? 

It is a great joy that we are going to have a president pro tempore from the Caribbean and from an island nation, because it highlights things that go unnoticed, such as the effects of climate change on island nations, because it is not only the Amazon and the destruction that (Jair) Bolsonaro has made or the humanitarian tragedy of the Yanomami, which is very embarrassing for us. The other issue is language, as the Sao Paulo Forum, we endeavor to hold meetings with interpretation; language is a way to exchange ideas, to socialize. Our America, because of our history and struggle, is a Latin American and Caribbean homeland. We look at the historical example of Haiti, which was one of the first countries to put an end to slavery and which had an impact on other countries. The struggles of the Caribbean peoples are part of our struggle.

What are the expectations in relation to Brazil in the region, in this new stage that is beginning?

There was a very great expectation before the election of Lula, in the countries and peoples of the region, to be able to defeat Bolsonaro. Brazil has a strategic geoeconomic and geopolitical importance, and because of its size, with 213 million inhabitants. For any idea of integration, Brazil must be involved, and not in an imperialistic way, but in the form of cooperation, which was always the policy of Lula and the PT (Workers’ Party). 

With the arrival of Lula to power, an interesting framework of progressive governments emerges.How do we guarantee that these successes at the ballot box are transformed into popular conquests?

The situation is not simple for our governments, we continue under the economic crisis of world capitalism since 2008 that has not been resolved, followed by the pandemic, which accentuated inequality, and now with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, all of which have a big impact on the economy. The possibility of advancing in the strategy of regional integration with equality, democracy and social justice will be achieved if the peoples are participating as protagonists. We must also consider the growth of the extreme right that seeks to legitimize itself as a mass movement. My conviction is that the resistance struggle of our peoples always makes us continue to have high hopes and the peoples always reemerge.

Today we can say that fascism is at the door of our homes and we see VOX articulating with extreme right movements in the region.How can we oppose this neo-fascism,which is also naturalized in the media?

There is an attempt to normalize fascism as if it were just another political opinion. It scares me a lot, but some facts show that people learn: before the January coup in Brazil there were more people who identified with the coup ideas of Bolsonaro who had 49% of the votes, now his approval has dropped to 30%, because he scared society. That is why the judicial process is important, to know who financed, who organized the attack, so that it becomes a learning experience for Brazilian society and can never happen again. Fidel Castro mentions the battle of ideas and we have to deal with this issue again: culture, values.

Under what conditions as a region do we have to sign an agreement with the European Union to guarantee the welfare of our peoples?

Lula was very clear on this point: yes we have to make the agreement, but we have to update it and discuss some points that are essential for the Latin American and Caribbean peoples. The Europeans are desperate. But we should not negotiate individually, as Uruguay is trying to do. For example, we cannot accept an agreement that prevents our reindustrialization. There are very simple aspects of integration that were not coordinated in the pandemic. Cuba was an example of everything that can be done: it made five vaccines.

What is your opinion about the attempt of NATO countries to extend the war in Eastern Europe to our region and what should be the role of CELAC in defense of peace?

It is a great risk if we allow NATO, with its war perspective, to militarize our region, which is a region of peace by tradition. That is why we are building consensus-building processes among our countries. CELAC is very important, in that sense, by having in its conception and structure, ways to shield the region from this attempt to bring about a worldwide conflict. Our three presidents (Lula, Alberto Fernandez and Gustavo Petro) were clear in saying that we are not going to participate in this war outsourced by the United States.