By Javier Tolcachier – Aug 13, 2021
“Let us live as brothers and congregated in a single body. Let us take care of the protection and preservation of the Spaniards, Creoles, mestizos, Zambos and Indians for being all compatriots, as born in these lands and of the same origin.”
– Tupac Amaru
“There is nothing in the world more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo
The idea of Latin American unity was repeatedly raised in the course of the first American independences.
Denominations such as the South American Nation of Artigas, the Sanmartinian Union of the three independent states, the Great Confederation of South America of O’Higgins, the nuestroamericanismo of Martí, the Confederation from Tierra del Fuego to the Mississippi dreamed by Miranda, the sovereign Diet of South America of the Chilean Juan Egaña, Monteagudo’s General Federation among Spanish-American States, the Colombian Confederation of the Puerto Rican Eugenio María de Hostos or the Bolivarian amphictyonic project of a confederate league of sovereign nations, nourished the ideology of the patriots from the dawn of the emancipation struggle and subsequent post-colonial construction.
However, the subjugated sectors, slaves, Indians or mulattos, were never considered on equal terms as part of those projects, with the exception of the Haitian revolution, precursor of the liberation of the colony and its connatural slavery.
“The self-satisfied American oligarchy, bookish and proud, idle and fickle, desired a revolution in the Girondine style, like Miranda, and while reading the men of the Encyclopedia and declaiming the Rights of Man, their slaves worked in the rich plantations because “the slave’s sweat was enough for everything”, describes Joaquín Posada Gutiérrez in his Historical-political Memoirs with precision that foundational contradiction of Our America .
Jorge Abelardo Ramos relates in his History of the Latin American Nation that Bolívar himself, during the Second Republic of Venezuela, would suffer defeat at the hands of the forces of the plains favorable to the royalist regime, which were mostly made up of the dispossessed, while the troops of the Independence were made up of criollos and white mantuanos.
Only in 1816, the Liberator would swell the Patriot Army with blacks, browns and Indians by means of a Decree of Abolition of Slavery, a promise made to the Haitian general Alexander Petion by virtue of the support given by him to the independence cause. Even so, slavery and the different forms of servitude would still trace the destinies of thousands of men and women in the nascent American nations for several more decades, cementing the condition of inequality and the non-existence of fraternity in the nascent republics.
There was very little change for the majorities during the plutocracies that later established their continental dominance, a situation that would improve only with the triumph of revolutionary or nationalist governments. However, the capitalist counterrevolutions managed by the new imperial power, the United States, would strive again and again to overthrow the incipient shoots of social ascent and ties of sovereignty woven south of the Rio Bravo.
In order to discipline the foreign policy of the region and direct any attempt at integration to the eaves of its interests, the Organization of American States was created in 1948 as a diplomatic arm under the tutelage and financed by the US Eagle, which since 1963 has also patrolled and militarily watched over the region with its Southern Command, in a policy completely at odds with the rhetoric of freedom and self-determination.
This imperialism, for some decades at the height of its power, would manage to stop the liberation impulse of the popular sectors and its effective influence on events through multiple operations of social, political, economic, media and judicial intrusion.
Not even in the new millennium, in the most recent constructions of sovereign integration such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), undoubtedly animated by a progressive, emancipatory, cooperative and solidary character, would the social base find a space of decisive protagonism.
Imbued with the statocentric scheme of international relations still in force, the integrating organizations continued to attribute the central space to the established powers of the State, emphasizing presidential summits, councils of ministers or inter-state parliaments. The militant impulse of the Patria Grande—somewhat less “patrician” and a little more plebeian—remained alive in the social organizations, making itself felt in parallel summits or in some forums of citizen participation, although disconnected in practice from the feelings and daily experience of broad layers of the population.
Although the popular quality of the representatives grew, with the emergence of hitherto excluded leaderships of indigenous, working class and female origin, the issue of the real social and political inclusion of the subaltern sectors made its way very slowly and the Latin American unity as a horizon of a new and definitive independence did not permeate the social group in a superficial way.
Now, as an expression of the sign of the times, the time seems to have come for a refoundational and revolutionary project: that of a Plurinational America, of the inclusive and convergent unity of multiple identities, with social justice, without discrimination, and above all, with the protagonist participation of the social sectors, the only possible foundation for a transcendent integration. Its name is RUNASUR.
RUNASUR, conjugation of the Quechua word runa, human being / people with UNASUR or UNASUR of the Peoples, has been defined as a mechanism of plurinational integration between indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, social, territorial and union movements, to resolve the historical debt with the peoples of the region.
The nascent conglomerate constitutes an eminently political construction of emancipation to repair the ignominy of exploitation, discrimination and exclusion of centuries with the objective of building a Plurinational America with equality in diversity.
Although RUNASUR is essentially a self-convened project, it gained momentum from the determined initiative of Evo Morales Ayma and the organizations of indigenous-peasant-originating peoples of Bolivia, trade union centers such as the CTA Autónoma and other popular organizations of Argentina, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and territorial movements of Venezuela.
The first milestone was the “Meeting of the Peoples and Organizations of Abya Yala towards the construction of a Plurinational America,” which took place on December 18 and 19, 2020 in San Benito, Cochabamba, in the venue then planned to house the UNASUR parliament.
From then on, a Technical Commission was mandated whose mission was to elaborate a first proposal of organic guidelines through successive virtual meetings and a first face-to-face meeting in April of this year.
Subsequently, on Monday, August 2, Evo himself unveiled the RUNASUR Decalogue, a document containing the guiding principles of the articulation.
The RUNASUR Decalogue
Among the main points of the new Decalogue is the struggle against all forms of domination, against interference and racism to defend the self-determination of peoples, with the bow set towards decolonization and depatriarchalization.
The strengthening of democracy in its various forms, the respect for individual but also collective human rights and the constituent re-foundation of the republican States, placing the Human Being and Nature as primary, are definitions of a profound depth contained in the document.
Integration for liberation and a freedom of expression that expresses the emancipating will of the peoples constitute other principles of the disseminated text, which strongly reaffirms plurinationality, pluriculturality and plurilingualism as bases of unity in diversity and of the reunion of millenarian and contemporary originators. “We are diverse peoples; the knowledge, ancestral wisdom and identity of our peoples are our wealth,” he says.
Guaranteeing Peace, rejecting interventionism and capitalism as a consumerist model and predator of Mother Earth, developing a new Social and Plural Economic model from the paradigm of Good Living, are clear references of the profound transforming and revolutionary character of the proposal.
In the face of disunity and fragmentation, unity and cohesion in diversity
In an environment of accelerated change, instability and uncertainty have increased. The social ties that were rooted in a mode of production and organization have become volatile, a trend accentuated by the growing displacement from rural to urban areas with the correlate of family fragmentation added to the merciless scourge of individualistic ideology, which has torn apart the social fabric.
In this context of fragmentation and growing factionalism, the evident need for unity of the progressive forces to leave capitalist barbarism behind was preached, but had enormous difficulties to be practiced.
In the face of the failure of the future, old identities resurfaced with force as a sign of community, a sort of bonding wood to cling to in the shipwreck of loneliness and atomization. Habits and worldviews that were the object of oppression by violent colonizers and inquisitors of the spirit, who plundered and tried to prolong the Middle Ages and absolutist tyranny in these lands, in the face of their evident decadence in their native Europe, surfaced with all their potency.
However, the reaffirmation of identity brought in many places also the staunch differentiation, distance, rupture, secessionism, discrimination and hatred of the different.
Thus, in a totally connected planet, where all the cultures of the earth are already in contact, but where the currents of disintegration prevail, where centrifugal forces and separatism divide, RUNASUR appears as a clear effort to articulate and link diversity, as a project for a new pluricultural and intercultural community.
In the face of the absurd neocolonialist pretensions to install a single imperial culture proclaiming, once again, its supposed supremacy, the oppressed cultures rise up with RUNASUR to claim their rightful place in history.
On the way towards a Plurinational America and a Plurinational world, with equal rights and opportunities for all, towards a Universal Human Nation, RUNASUR represents a clear and novel proposal of cohesion of diversity, of real participation, a leap into the future, an opportunity to leave behind inequality, the destruction of the common home and to build a humanist horizon.
 Joaquin Posada Gutiérrez, Memorias historico-politicas, T. I, Imprenta Nacional, Bogota, 1929, p. 196. Quoted by Jorge Abelardo Ramos in Historia de la Nación Latinoamericana, p. 151.
Javier Tolcachier is a researcher at the World Center for Humanist Studies and a communicator at the international news agency Pressenza.
Featured image: Members of Bolivian social organizations marching with the RUNASUR flag in Villa Tunari, Cochabamba. Photo courtesy of Ahora El Pueblo.