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Is the Sao Paulo Forum related to recent protests in South America?

by Ace Damon
Is the Sao Paulo Forum related to recent protests in South America?

Where you look in South America, you can see instability. In recent weeks, there has been debate about the possible role of the São Paulo Forum in destabilizing countries in the region for a resumption of power by the parties that make up the group. For some, the São Paulo Forum is a threat to Latin American democracy; for others, an innocuous and unimportant organization.

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The São Paulo Forum was created in 1990 and brings together leftist parties from various Latin American countries. The organization is tasked with planning the left's strategy of action in the region and meets periodically to discuss political and economic issues.

Rodrigo Gallo, professor of International Relations at the Mauá Institute of Technology, does not believe that it is possible to make a direct association between the events that took place in several Latin American countries and the São Paulo Forum. "Perhaps we can say that a part of the protesters may be linked to parties that are members of the Forum. But it would be an exaggeration to credit such large acts, involving several states, to a single group, even if it is a representative group," he said.

"It is a fact that some parties linked to the São Paulo Forum support the demonstrations. However, if we look at the protests, we will see that they include various sectors of civil society in their respective countries – which speak out against various decisions of governments. So, I believe that a myth was created about this organization, which does not correspond with its real scope, "said Gallo.

Writer Leonardo Coutinho, a researcher at the Center for the Secure Free Society in Washington, believes the Forum is decapitalized due to the financial crises of most of the organization's countries, but has not lost its capacity to mobilize bases. For Coutinho, the Forum's member parties maintain a strong capacity for articulation and social mobilization.

The turbulences

Chile is experiencing a social upheaval in recent days following the intensification of demonstrations in the capital, Santiago. The most violent protests since the redemocratization of the country have left 18 dead by Wednesday and were motivated by the increase of the subway passage in Santiago. Demands have increased and now protests are also against living costs and income inequality. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced on Tuesday a package of measures to calm the demonstrations.

Speaking about the protests in Chile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that the conflicts taking place in South America are motivated by the "left" to achieve power.

In Ecuador, a drastic cut in fuel subsidies – requiring a deal with the IMF – sparked protests against Lenin Moreno's government. There were clashes with the police and seven people died. Moreno and indigenous leaders reached an agreement that ended the protests on October 14.

Following the escalating protests in Ecuador, Brazil and six other countries accused Maduro of making "destabilizing" attempts by the region's democratic countries. Moreno also accused Maduro and other Ecuadorian politicians of orchestrating the demonstrations.

In Colombia, former leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced in late August the resumption of armed conflict. There is also tension on the border with Venezuela; Colombian President Iván Duque accuses the regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro of supporting Colombian guerrillas in the territory of Venezuela.

In Peru, a power struggle between the executive and legislative powers led President Martin Vizcarra to dissolve the congress and call for new elections. In Bolivia, protesters protest Sunday's partial election results and accuse leftist President Evo Morales of manipulation.

SP Forum Members as proxies for external interests

For Coutinho, the protests that take place today in Chile, which took place in Ecuador, which began in Peru and had a short rehearsal in Colombia could be happening in Argentina, which is experiencing greater problems than those of its neighbors. "Argentina's economy is collapsing. But this is not happening in Argentina, because there will be an election there, and they will win," he said, referring to polls indicating that Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner's plaque should win the elections. next Sunday in the first round. "So they don't have to do anything about it," he said.

Ecuador is governed by a president of a member party of the Foro de Sao Paulo. Lenin Moreno of the Alianza Country party, however, is regarded as a traitor by sectors of the left for breaking with former president Rafael Correa, his predecessor. "It may sound contradictory, the Forum acting against itself, but in fact they are doing it against a traitor," commented Coutinho.

Coutinho believes that members of the São Paulo Forum may be proxies, or allies in the region, from other countries. "I think there is an external backer of the protests in Latin America," said the writer, citing Russia and China's sponsorship of Venezuela, with help for the country to violate sanctions and for Maduro to remain in power, and Turkey and Iran, on a smaller scale.

Russia and China are "in a very big battle with the United States to reduce American influence in the region and conquer spaces," said Coutinho. The two countries could not do this on their own.

While the protests were taking place in Chile, Diosdado Cabello, Chavismo's number two and president of the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly, paid a visit to China and Russia. In September, Maduro was greeted by President Vladimir Putin in Russia, while Cabello visited North Korea and Vietnam.

"I tend to believe that the members of the Forum of Sao Paulo are acting as a militant arm of these interests on the continent," said the researcher. For him, the São Paulo Forum has not ceased to function, but may have entered a new phase, acting as a proxy for much larger interests of international geopolitics, of regaining influence in the region.

During the protests in Chile, Nicolás Maduro stated that the goals of the Forum of São Paulo are being met and that the organization "is doing well throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the world."

And on Tuesday, Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's acting president, accused Maduro's regime of financing "vandalism" and protests to destabilize Latin American countries, even amidst the country's deep crisis. He said that while "each country has its own momentum," "it has been the practice of the Maduro regime and formerly of Chavez to send funding through the Sao Paulo Forum to its so-called allies," adding that it would show evidence of such actions.

Guaidó would be seeking to convince the international community to act on the Venezuelan issue. "At this point, the main narrative is this: Venezuela is no longer an internal problem, it is becoming a center for regional destabilization," said Coutinho.


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