Summit of the Americas Civil Socity Forum Kicks Off Amid Controversy

News from Cuba | Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Hundreds of civil society leaders from across the region are gathering in Panama City, April 8-10, for the Hemispheric Civil Society and Social Actors forum, to address themes such as democratic governance, security and citizen participation.

However, the meeting, which takes place just before the start of the Summit of the Americas, has come under sharp criticism following the recent decision by its organizers to exclude the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) from participating in the event, despite it having submitted its request on time.

“We would have liked to have been part of the Civil Society Forum, but they were not interested in a showing of an authentic gesture of democracy, which our union represents ? Nonetheless, we will participate, together with the rest of the trade unions and social movements in the region, in the People's Summit,” CTC representative Duarte Vazquez stated in an interview with Trabajadores published Monday.

On Wednesday, just an hour before the start of the forum, the Cuban delegration also denounced that 20 of their representatives had still not been accredited to participate in the forum. ​

The Civil Society Forum also coincides with the second OAS Summit of the Americas, at which hundreds of leading business figures and heads of state from throughout the Western hemisphere will gather to discuss regional economic issues.

The invited guests include keynote speakers such as Thomas J. Donohue, Co-President of Barrick gold, the world's largest gold mining company, which was listed as the 12th least ethical company in the world by Swiss Research firm Covalace. The CEO Summit will also include an appearance by Chief Financial Officer of Cargill Marcel Smits. Cargill is the world's largest agricultural commodities trader and one of 10 transnational corporations that controls more than 80 percent of the world’s seed supply, monopolizing world trade in grains and seeds and criminalizing the ancestral practice of exchanging seeds.

Another notable invitee is Andres Gluski CEO of the controversial AES Corporation, a Virginia-based global energy developer, which in 2011 launched the Panamanian Changuinola dam, resulting in widespread protests over the complete relocation of more than 1,000 Ngöbe subsistence farmers whom were affected by the dam.

The invited guests and the corporations they represent pose a grave threat to Latin American sovereignty by undermining the interests of popular social movements. Over the years, various Latin American social movements have launched massive resistance movements against the unethical practices of transnational corporations.

As an alternative to the Summit of the Americas-sponsored summits, the parallel People’s Summit represents radically different political objectives and ideological visions. The basis of these differences must be understood in terms of the region’s base-level support for progressive Latin American governments and respect for national sovereignty.

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