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The Sao Paulo Forum: fall and rise of communism

14 abril 2006

Alejandro Peña Esclusa (April 2006)

In general, empires, as well as ideologies, experience at first a rise and then a fall, but in the case of communism a different and interesting phenomenon has happened. After the tearing down of the Berlin wall, there has been an unexpected recovery, which has a lot to do with two organizations: the Sao Paulo Forum and the World Social Forum.

The communists who survived the 1989 disaster, carefully examined the mistakes committed by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, specially those related to economy, while deciding to correct them, in order to remain in power and even expand, by disguising their ideology under other denominations.

The Chinese regime carried out the Tiananmen Plaza massacre and thus reaffirmed its totalitarian character but, simultaneously, opened the economy to a free market and established in this manner a mixed model: politically communist yet with a liberal economy. This permitted them maintain their government, while considerably increase their economic power.

On his part, Fidel Castro decided to grant foreigners preferential conditions so that they would invest their capitals in Cuba. This was a way of gaining time while reorganizing his forces. Furthermore, in July 1990, he created an organization called the Sao Paulo Forum, with the help of the Brazilian Workers Party, so as to regroup all the regional left forces that were startled by the collapse of socialism.

With this maneuver Castro managed to put together all the regional socialist sectors, from the democratic parties such as the Mexican P.R.D. and the Uruguayan Frente Amplio (Wide Front) to guerrilla movements such as the Colombian FARC and ELN.

At the start, according to its founders’ testimony, the Sao Paulo Forum “did not pretend to be a new international, nor an organized structure which imposes conditions to its participants, nor transmitter of unanimity”. Nevertheless, through time, it has shown to be a political platform with a very well organized structure. It established a permanent means of communication, a centralized and coordinated activity system, a magazine called America Libre and what is most important, a clearly defined objective: taking power over Latin America.

Shortly after its foundation, I received some information from the Sao Paulo Forum. I was impressed by the conjunction of Democratic groups with other groups linked to drug traffic and terrorism so I decided to carry out a follow up. I would read their declarations and documents periodically. Every time they held an international meeting I would take note of the attendants and the ideas discussed, and analyze their conclusions. It could be said that this was a mere academic interest or curiosity.

In December 1994, after his release from jail for his attempts to overthrow the government in 1992, Hugo Chavez traveled to Cuba, where he was received with state honors to seal publicly his alliance with Fidel Castro. Later, in May 1995, Chavez traveled to Montevideo to subscribe to the Sao Paulo Forum (SPF), which was holding its 5th meeting, therefore, my concern increased substantially. Even at that early point, I feared Chavez might reach the presidency of Venezuela with the help of the SPF and that he would return the favor financing it with abundant petrodollars and allowing it to take power in other nations, as it has actually happened.

But to my astonishment, hardly anybody was aware of the Forum’s existence and the few that were acquainted with it did not consider it a threat. After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, almost everyone considered its recovery to be practically impossible. It was at that moment when I took the decision to start a political crusade in order to warn Venezuelans and the rest of the world of the dangers in the ideas presented by the Sao Paulo Forum. I wrote reports, published articles, participated in opinion programs, traveled through Venezuela, went to Brazil, Colombia, The United States, El Salvador, Spain, among other countries.

In 1998 I published hundred of thousand copies of a newsletter which was handed out all over Venezuela and the first lines were as follows: “A terrorist transnational, calling itself the Sao Paulo Forum, led by Fidel Castro and conformed by criminals, drug dealers, and murderers has in mind overtake  Venezuela by assault very soon, and then use our territory to export the Cuban revolution to all of Latin America. The instrument to this macabre plan is Hugo Chavez”.

In 2000 I published a report entitled “What is the Sao Paulo Forum?” and then a second one, “X-ray of the Sao Paulo Forum” which where widely published internationally. There I described the new form of struggle adopted by communism, among them: first, the supposed defense of the rights of natives, as a way to cover the formation of guerrilla groups; second, the promotion of secessionism, arguing that the territories occupied by native tribes belong to them and not to the nation; third, a radical _expression of ecology, which claims that the protection of the environment justifies terrorism against state activities in jungle zones; and, fourth,  an extreme version of the so called liberation theology, with the purpose of dividing the Catholic Church and justifying violence with seemingly Christian arguments.

Since Chavez assumed the presidency in 1998, the Forum expanded considerably and its members or allies have taken over power in Brazil (2002), Argentina (2003), Uruguay (2004), Bolivia (2005), and Chile (2006).

In this very year 2006 elections will be held in Peru (April), Mexico (July), Ecuador (October), and Nicaragua (November) where the Sao Paulo Forum candidates lead the polls while Lula and Chavez intend a reelection in October and December respectively. In Colombia, presidential elections will be held, but Alvaro Uribe, who has no connection to SPF, is expected to win.

According to the Sao Paulo Forum leaders, there is within the leftist organization, “forces of the most diverse origins: some with eight decades of history and others of recent creation, Marxists and non Marxists, of social Christian inspiration -some identified with the Liberation Theory-, nationalistic groups or of anarchist roots, groups with or without socialistic definition with advanced and progressive democratic attitudes, sectors that have sprung from old historical parties, liberals, Social Democrats or Christian Democrats, organizations with a long history within the legal political system of their respective countries, others forced to an intensive underground path, among them some that have already gone through the armed approach”.

In their last encounter, held in 2005, 364 representatives of 150 political parties and social organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Porto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela attended. In addition, there were entities and parties invited from Germany, Belgium, Canada, Catalonia, China, Spain, France, Galicia, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and Vietnam

The Forum’s Double Standard

After sixteen years of existence, there are sufficient elements to judge the actions of the SPF. It can no longer claim that this is a discussion and theoretical disquisition forum since many of its members hold important government positions. Since its foundation, the Sao Paulo Forum has been characterized by a series of contradictions, which have only deepened with the time.

The Sao Paulo Forum makes democracy its banner but, at the same time defends the Cuban revolution, which is rejected throughout the whole world for being a relentless dictatorship that has murdered and imprisoned thousands of its opponents, and with no afterthought cut-off liberty and the free _expression of its citizens. Chavez has followed the Cuban example persecuting and imprisoning his opponents and, controlling all the branches of powers, in order to guarantee his permanency in government, with the Forum not only ignoring this but quite on the contrary, applauding his actions.

The SPF verbally opposes terrorism and violence, yet within its ranks there are guerrilla groups such as FARC and ELN, which exercise terrorism and violence daily. It also condemns drug traffic, yet there are undeniable proofs of the connections of some of its members with the production and commercialization of narcotics, the most conspicuous being the Colombian guerrilla movements. As a matter of fact, during the seven year government of Chavez, the relationship with FARC has become closer and of mutual collaboration.

Not all the members of the SPF identify with the armed fight and the illegal procedures used by the most radical members of the Forum. Nevertheless, instead of separating from them and publicly denouncing them, they sit at the same table and share the same action strategies. This attitude is based in pure pragmatism and shows a lack of solid principles, and its identical to that of the traditional political groups they claim to oppose.

The Forum rejects corruption, but when its members reach power, they don’t fight it, but rather foster it, as seen in Brazil and Venezuela, where personal enrichment of public workers and illegal financing for their continental expansion plans is evident.

Many leaders of the Sao Paulo Forum present themselves as anti imperialists, but then they subordinate their country’s interests to those of Castro-communism. To achieve this they first destroy the state institutions. In seven years of government, Chavez has kidnapped the institutions and turned them into political action machines at the service of another form of imperialism: the Cuban.

The first banner raised by the Sao Paulo Forum is the fight against neo-liberalism, claiming that with this model “elites can accumulate wealth at the expense of further growth of poverty” and assures that the organization is the “popular and democratic alternative to neo-liberalism”. But, after forty-seven years in government, Fidel Castro has created his own elite surrounded with privileges, while the rest of the Cubans live in the most absolute misery. On his part, after seven years in government and with the highest petroleum revenues in the history of Venezuela, Chavez regime has increased the levels of poverty, unemployment and malnutrition; instead, a new economic elite –millionaire  and neo-liberal– has appeared, and has become wealthy at the expense of the state.

So many contradictions show that the only intention of the members of the Sao Paulo Forum is to take power, and not to solve the problems of the destitute, whose exclusive representation they claim, but only to profit from them. Ironically, those who suffer the most harm are the poor who, besides from suffering a new disappointment, keep on experiencing the dearth of under-development to an even higher degree.