[COLACOT is the Confederacion Latinoamericana de Cooperativas y Mutuales de Trabajdores, Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations. Translated by Justin Podur, ZNet]
At the start of another year of life and work, 43 million Colombians are suffering a growing and accelerating deterioration of the quality of life. This is suffered by the 33 million Colombians who live in poverty and 19 million-- 78% of the population-- who could be considered excluded from the society's development. This poverty is caused by unemployment, underemployment, the informal economy, and the most unjust and inequitable distribution of wealth.
Worsening this dramatic situation is the generalized war caused by insurgent armed groups, paramilitaries, the Armed Forces, the military intervention of the United States through Plan Colombia and its threats of invading the national territory under the pretext of fighting narco-trafficking and terrorism.
Another element darkening the horizon is political persecution, imprisonment, kidnapping and assassinations of social leaders, unionists, campesinos, indigenous, intellectuals, journalists, religious leaders, human rights defenders, mayors, congresspeople, the defenseless civilian population and businesspeople. These terrors are maintained and fed by a political, economic, and cultural system that has ruled the country for the past 50 years.
Still another aspect of systemic violence is government and elite repression to impede development and the exercise of democratic rights to organize in unions, campesino organizations, indigenous organizations, and people's oranizations. This repression amounts to the most perverse aggression against the workers who produce the wealth, against the rule of law, against the right to organize, against democracy itself, and against Colombians who love and struggle for peace, justice, and human development.
Theft as an Ethic
Not satisfied with the above, the economic and political elites have made an alliance with transnational elites to apply policies to undermine the labor, social, economic, cultural and political rights that Colombians have won over centuries of struggle and organization. To apply these policies, elites have used successive governments, committed to neoliberalism, who have passed laws that have destroyed the safety net of social security, public health, education, social housing, food security, minimum wages and pay equity and thrown over 4 million out of work.
Another form of open theft against the Colombian people is the internal and external public debt, whose service costs more than 40% of national revenues each year, transferring wealth from the public purse to economic consortia by privatization, subsidizing banks, entrenching corruption as an ethical norm.
This prevents the Colombian government from performing its function as guardian of the welfare, guarantor of justice and equity and minimal standards of human development in health, education, housing, employment, agrarian reform, nutrition, economic activity, scientific and technological progress, and stimulator of the Solidarity Economy. The monetarist, materialist model is radically against human development and is leading to ever greater deterioration of the quality of life in Colombia and throughout Latin America.
The Neoliberal Model
The decline of the totalitarian, soviet, inappropriately named 'socialist' model has left the world to a savage capitalism that has undermined the possibilities for even the minimal levels of human development won in the years leading up to the 1980s. This capitalism has worked through the imposition of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism claims to be a new idea that transcends the economic sphere and guides political, social, and ethical behavior on a scientific basis. In fact, it is nothing but a fundamentalist return to philosophical and economic views of the 17th and 18th centuries-- the years of the most savage capitalism.
It is not simple rhetoric when F. Fukuyama, one of the principal neoliberal ideologues affirms that "the meaning of the end of history â€¦ is that there is no systematic, institutional alternative to liberal democracy and capitalism based on the market for the countries of the world."
Of the various ideologists of neoliberalism, the most important are von Mises and Hayek from the Austrian school; Galbraith of the institutionalist school; Friedman of the monetarist school; Samuelson, Friedman and Buchanan, the radical capitalists; and of course, Fukuyama. Their central tenets are the following:
a) Free individual competition as an essential factor for the optimal functioning of the economy and the optimal distribution of the fruits of economic growth. This is a revival of the 'invisible hand' of Adam Smith applied to markets, which by their magical nature lead to the fullest human development.
b) Economic success as the fundamental ethical norm of economic activity. In von Mises's words: 'It is very important that social ideals do not interfer in economic life. Truly ethical conduct is doing good business, rational and modern business, and no one should demand of the businessman that he worry about social problems."
c) The market as the only regulator and arbiter of the economic process, the ultimate law being that of supply and demand that transcend any kind of regulatory action, even in the social sphere. Again in von Mises's words: "The market's function is to regulate economic phenomenon and should not be interfered or slowed even on account of the most noble social ideals."
d) Suppression of the intervention of 'non economic' agents in economic processes and activities. Non-economic agents include the state, social organizations, unions, political organizations, all of whom could disturb and prevent the proper reception of 'market signals'.
e) Reduction of the role of the state in the economy and of protectionism of uncompetitive national industries against the international market. The state has as its sole function to guarantee the proper functioning of the market, as Buchanan explains: "The required state is a minimal state, restricted almost if not completely to protection of property and individual rights and guaranteeing private, voluntary contracts."
f) Elimination of the regulations that prevent the 'free action' of economic agents, in favor of a more efficient utilization of the different inputs to economic activity. These inputs include labor, which is to be deregulated and flexibilized, with prices freed, the removal of protectionist programs in the national interest, and privatization of public industries.
g) The management of monetary flows as the only form of economic regulation by the state and stimulation of economic growth. Within the framework established by the international market, control of the money supply and the fluctuations of the money market are considered the determining factor of economic activity according to Milton Friedman.
In the neoliberal model, the social has no importance. Indeed, in Hayek's words: "in the new development model it will be an embarrassment to talk of social justice."
On the base of this entire ideological and political arsenal, the International Monetary Fund negotiates deals with the poor countries in which "credit and investment of the World Bank will be provided only where their application will ensure the implementation of the laws of the free market."
The Solidarity Economy
We understand the Solidarity Economy to be the socioeconomic system made up of the multiple associative forms of production and service, of solidaritous enterprises whose goal is not profit, based on universal principles and values of mutualism, cooperation, the worker's movement. Some of these principles are:
1) Solidarity, cooperation, and democracy as norms that all people and organizations have to follow if they are to be a part of the Solidarity Economy.
2) The supremacy of labor over capital. Labor is the core of economic life and human development. It is to be rescued from the slavery of capital and returned to its proper dignity.
3) Worker's association as the fundamental basis of the organization of enterprises, production, and the economy in general. This is to be substituted for the waged work of capitalism that is the principal cause of social disparities, the unjust distribution of wealth, poverty, and social exclusion.
4) Social ownership of the means of production by the workers who, as direct producers, are owners and managers of the enterprise as a community of workers and beneficiaries of the work. This eliminates the exploitation of people by other people, of people by the state, and the cause of the class struggle itself.
5) Self-management as the best form of participation of workers in the management of enterprises, of the economy, and of society and the state. This eliminates marginalization and constructs and consolidates real democracy.
6) The supremacy of service, social welfare, and equity over individual accumulation, profit, and 'added-value'
7) The integration of the solidarity economy and the conformation of the macro-economy with the solidarity economy.
The principles and values described form the conceptual, doctrinal, and ideological guide that will keep us from returning to savage capitalism and preventing our cooperatives and associative solidaritous enterprises from losing their basic nature and becoming simple instruments of neoliberalism.
The Solidarity Economic Sector (SES)
According to government statistics there are more than 55,000 socioeconomic organizations based on the principles and values of Solidarity Economics in Colombia. These include cooperatives, associations, community enterprises, public health enterprises, rural production associations, indigenous communities. This does not include family enterprises, micro-enterprises, and the large informal sector, which are involved in all branches of the economy with 20 million participants and a capitalization that is more than 10% of the GDP.
The Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations (COLACOT) has been working for twenty years to structure a social, cultural, and political model of economic development. The model was first published in 1989 under the title 'La Economia del Trabajo' and again in 1998 under the title 'The Solidarity Economy, an Alternative to Neoliberalism'.
The model is a concrete formulation designed to contribute to the democratic reconstruction of the economy, with equal distribution of wealth, the democratization of knowledge and power. And the construction of a social state, which encourages a mixed economic structure in which the solidarity economic sector, the state sector, and the market sector all fulfill their functions according to the demands of human development. This is a basic requirement for genuine development, social justice, and peace in Colombia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The project is the fruit of a process of participatory research and workshops, seminars, forums and congresses at the local, national, and continental level, in which rural and urban workers have shared their knowledge and experience. There was research into scientific and macro-economic potentials as well as into legal and ideological aspects, to respond to the socioeconomic and political realities of the region.
The project has been brought before Congress; before the managers of the economy; to the union centrals; to the Catholic church; to the universities, and to various public and private institutions. The intention is to present these ideas to all of the sectors working for the economic, cultural, and social development of the country. The efforts of all of these sectors will be necessary for the re-construction of Colombia for the 21st century, in which the aberrations committed by savage capitalism can be erased. This is a task that every person who loves Colombia must help in.
The project has also been brought before the National Government and before the FARC-EP at the negotiating table in Los Pozos, San Vicente del Caguan, as a plan for peace and reconstruction of Colombia. It was incorporated, as the 5th point of the 12 that comprised the agreed-upon agenda for negotiations as necessary conditions for social construction, for building a culture of solidarity, for building coexistence, and for the structuring of an economic system that includes equitable distribution of wealth, knowledge, and power, without which a real and lasting peace is impossible.
The Solidarity Economic Sector (SES) is always growing and responding to the fundamental needs of the Colombian and Latin American populations from the micro- to the macro levels. The agenda is to build an alternative model for the transition to a society based on solidarity and self-management. Although there are multiple experiences of the Solidarity Economy that have contributed to economic and social transformation in the region, what is required is horizontal and vertical integration, articulation, and consolidation as a sector. The capacity of the SES is a will be decisive in the creation of a humanist, solidaritous, and democratic society.
The Ideological and Strategic Dimensions of SES
Solidarity Economics now faces the need to flesh out its philosophical, ideological, and strategic identity, its goals and objectives, its micro and macroeconomic program, its social and economic structure, and its horizontal and vertical integration in order to build the capacity to become a true alternative to neoliberal capitalism. The alternative is becoming a simple instrument in the service of capitalism.
The neoliberal offensive has hit the SES hard. The antisocial politics of governments following the directives of the IMF/WB have passed laws expropriating the patrimony of millions of workers. These workers have spent the past seventy years building Colombian cooperativism. Much of what they have built has now passed on to enrich private banks and corporations who have taken over many of the largest social enterprises who have used them for their personal gain and then liquidated them.
In the face of this offensive, cooperatives, unions, and solidarity economic enterprises as well as the worker's movement, must re-align themselves with one another, with their constituency among workers and popular sectors, and with their basic principles of solidarity, equity, justice and peace. Here are some measures.
1) A process of formation and capacity-building to train leaders, organizers, administrators in the humanist values and strategies of solidarity economics. This will ensure that members of the SES share a common identity and solidarity.
2) Affirm democratic worker control, efficient and transparent management, the service of the workers and identification with them, as values of solidarity economics.
3) Strengthen cooperative credit unions at the municipal and local levels, building up to regional networks that do 'solidarity banking', controlled and administered efficiently by the workers. The same type of local-to-regional networks should be built for agricultural cooperatives, worker's associations, and other institutions.
4) Avoid the 'top-heavy' model of the savings & loan cooperatives, which have sacrificed democratic control in favour of control by technocrats who proceed to enrich themselves and try to compete with the mainstream banking sector. This model has led to an abandonment of solidarity economics in these cases, with the institutions absorbed by capitalist banks, and the workers who sacrificed so much to build them up have been dispossessed of their social and economic rights with the silence and complicity of their leaders.
5) Establish an ethical code of solidarity economics and the instruments for the exercise of self-management within the enterprises that comprise the SES. With such a code, leaders and administrators who have done damage to the image of the Solidarity Economy can be expelled.
6) Strengthen the processes of horizontal and vertical integration of the SES as an alternative development model.
7) Create a National Council for the Solidarity Economy (CONES) based on Law 454 of 1998, as the highest organ of integration and direction of the sector and as a power instrument, interlocutor with the state and with national and international society.
8) Formulate a National Plan for Alternative Development based on solidarity economics, the worker's movement, and the rule of law.
9) Coordinate actions with the worker's movement as represented by the unions, campesino organizations, indigenous organizations, and popular sectors who have historically defended labor rights, employment, social security, health, education, and democracy.
10) Hold the first Colombian Congress of the Solidarity Economy in order to advance the process. Here the Alternative Development Plan would be formulated, the organizational structure would be built, as a program for building the globalization of solidarity, peace as the fruit of justice, against neoliberal terrorism and war.
The solidarity economic sector is obliged, as an active part of the working class of Colombia and as a force in society, to put forth proposals that will allow its expansion and consolidation as a sector of the national economy and as a real solution to the severe problems that affect Colombians. Some of these proposals are:
a) That the National Government immediately change from its neoliberal economic and political policies adopted over the past 12 years. These have led the country into the worst economic, political, and social crisis of the past 70 years. The crisis is manifested in unemployment, displacement, poverty, social exclusion, corruption, drug traffic, and the generalization of the war.
b) That the Congress pass a law on solidarity economics removing all of the legal norms that prevent the operation of coops, credit unions, employment funds, worker's associations, and other such organizations.
c) That the National Government establish a fund designed to create jobs, with just salaries, at 25 times the current minimum wage. The jobs would be created in the SES and the fund would be administered by the National Fund for the Solidarity Economy (FONES), a new financial entity.
d) That the Government convert the DANSOCIAL into the Ministry of the Solidarity Economy. This new ministry would have sufficient resources to press for social and economy programs in the SES. It would prioritize the rural sector, the creation of new jobs at just salaries, and the production of goods and services corresponding to the fundamental necessities of the people. The minister would be suggested by the National Congress for the Solidarity Economy and chosen by the president.
e) That the Congress eliminate from Law 454 any obstacles to the functioning of credit unions. The financial coops should be returned to the supervision of the Superintendent of the Solidarity Economy and strengthened technically and economically. The Superintendent would become the state entity for the supervision of the SES.
f) That the Government regulate the National Fund for the Solidarity Economy (FONES) as established in Law 454 of 1998 as a 'second level' bank, capitalized with: 0.3% of the national budget, the national peace fund, the war tax, international cooperation, and the resources assigned for crop substitution and the multiple programs of productive investment that the peace process requires.
g) That the Government enact a Social Agrarian Reform on the basis of: cooperativization of use or property rights to land and other means of production; self management in the industrial and commercial sectors; vital public services supplied by the state. This would begin with the transfer of 5 million hectares of the most productive land being transferred to the organized campesinos from the holdings of the narcotraffickers. This would create at least 500,000 new jobs at dignified wages and produce several million tones of food, enhancing the national food security and producing enough for export and foreign exchange earnings for further development.
h) That the government suspend imports of foods, 8 million tones at present, that could be produced in the country, creating jobs, saving foreign exchange, and contributing to the trade balance.
i) That the government include solidarity economics training in the national education system to undermine the individualist, violent culture of domination imposed by the current system.
j) That the armed actors suspend all human rights violations. The insurgents, the paramilitaries, the armed forces, the repressive apparatus of the state, and the US military intervention are all violating human rights daily. The peace process must be taken seriously and the reconstruction of the country based on solidarity economics and the rule of law must be undertaken immediately.
k) That the government implement crop substitution and rural development programs that involve real resources and investments, public services, and the fomenting of cooperatives and other solidarity enterprises constituted and controlled by campesinos without the interference of external agents.
l) That the government address the root causes of drug traffick: mass consumption in the US and other industrialized countries; the production of chemical precursors; the laundering of 250 million dollars per day in international banks; the production and trade of arms; the installation of arsenals of war by the US; the transnational companies profiting from the production of glyphosate and thereby the destruction of the ecosystem that contains the largest freshwater reserves in the world.
m) That the government re-negotiate the external and internal debts. The actual cost of servicing these debts is 35 billion pesos per year-- 40% of the national budget. These resources, administered without corruption or subsidy to national or international capital, would be enough to rebuild the country in every way, closing the door on insurgency, party violence, paramilitarism, neoliberalism, and corruption.
n) Participate in the 'Jubilee' Campaign for the abolition of the external debt of all the poor countries, headed by John Paul II, the Confederacion Mundial del Trabajo (CMT), the Latin American Worker's Central (CLAT) and the other worker's centrals inspired by social humanism. The debt is illicit, illegitimate, fraudulent and unpayable. It is a cause of poverty, social exclusion, the death by hunger of millions of people, and the total lack of a social safety net for 80% of the world's population.
It is important to note that the external debt of Latin America in 1980 was $222.5 billion dollars. By 2000 it was $775 billion. In the twenty years between, the people have payed the principal amount in 1980 ten times over, that is to say they paid $2.378 trillion dollars in debt service alone, not counting the interest that the banks earned on that money after it was transferred.
o) That cooperatives, associations, and the workers movement develop a Latin American Community of Nations. This is an indispensable instrument to win independence and the sovereignty of our region, the development of our countries and the creation of a bloc that would have influence at the international level, re-ordering global geopolitics.
p) That the Colombian and Latin American governments DO NOT ADOPT THE FTAA. The FTAA is a plan of the US to make the region a dollarized hypermarket of 34 countries and 800 million consumers of goods produced in maquilas, of drugs, of money-laundering banks, of terrorism and war, eliminating national sovereignty, cultural rights, labour rights, political rights. This would mean the destruction of the national economy. Not a free trade agreement at all, it is an agreement to extend US protectionism into the national economies of our countries.
Solidarity Economics and Governability
Colombian society has been governed by a single party for the last fifty years, the liberal-conservative party unified in the National Front of 1957. Power is rotated every four years and the bureaucracy is also alternated, every 16 years, a period that has lengthened over time.
These governments have kept the armed forces in power. They have stimulated war, favoured the wealthy, favoured the entrenched parties and politicians. They have used the 'Security Statutes' to commit the worst atrocities, torture, forced disappearance and assassinations of campesinos and defenseless workers. They have violated the fundamental rights of the population and thus left the field open to insurgents, paramilitaries, and common crime.
Three generations of Colombians have now been raised under this ethic of materialism, corruption, intolerance and violence fomented by a terrorist state that kills even its own leaders when they make mild proposals for reform or statements against corruption and injustice when these affect capital's interests.
Obvious examples include the murders of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento and Alvaro Gomez Hurtado, Carlos Pizarro, Bernardo Jaramillo, Jose Antequera and Jaime Pardo Leal. These were popular leaders. Thousands of other leaders-- religious leaders, politicians, intellectuals, human rights defenders, journalists, businesspeople-- have been killed.
Despite all the adversity described here and the incredible adversity that isn't described, the Colombian people have worked intensively to for the economic, cultural, technological and scientific development that has made the country one of the most advanced in the continent. This was made possible by the talent and hard work of Colombians, and the resources of the country.
Narcotrafficking and Neoliberalism
Since the sixties, narcotrafficking has slowly infiltrated the electoral machines, the instruments of state, and many aspects of society, stimulating corruption. The Colombian people have chosen governments to rule according to the popular mandate and in accordance with the law. The governments, however, have put themselves in service of the powerful. The powerful have never accepted, nor will they accept, human dignity, equity, justice, or democracy, all of which threaten their interests. For this reason there is recurring violence against social, labor, and political organizations who struggle for these basic rights.
This is the fundamental reason for the weakness of Colombia's democracy, which has become a shameful electoral business on the free market model, depending besides on guns, US bombs, international capital, and drug trafficking. All of these elements combine to make it impossible to have legitimate, 'clean' politics in which the vote of the people is respected.
These observations are harsh, but the balance of evidence is for them. The dignity of Colombians is not protected in the social, economic, cultural, ethical, or moral spheres. The dignity of the people is democracy's raison d'etre. Its absence is a stark demonstration of the weakness of Colombian democracy.
Who has been served by the irrational exploitation of natural resources? The multiplication of wealth, scientific and technological advances, the work of children, women and men in a workforce of 25 million? Who has benefited from all this, and at whose expense? Where is the economic democracy? The cultural democracy? The democratization of knowledge, and power?
National development as the elevation of the material and spiritual situation of people does not depend on the voting of 5, 10, or 15 million people nor on switching between liberal and conservative administrators. This is just 'economic liberalism', 'neoliberalism', or simply 'savage capitalism' to use pope John Paul II's phrase. It is radically opposed to human development. Candidates can talk of their desire to create peace with justice, but they lack the power to bring it about when the real power is exercised by monopoly national and international capital with its monetarist policy pushed by the IMF and other such organizations.
It is for this reason that the SES and the worker's movement must create our own political project for the nation, to bring Colombia into the 21st century. This project is based on humanism, solidarity, cooperation, work, democracy, self-management, coexistence, justice, peace, and pluralism. It requires a restructuring of the economy and resources to create the organized power of the SES.
It is with its own project and its own leaders, selected by the citizenry, that the SES can reach into legislative bodies from the municipal level to the senate of the republic to pass laws in the public interest and pass the reforms to make the Solidarity Economy and the rule of law possible.
The project must also establish the kind of profile that will make it possible to put candidates into the legislative bodies, municipal and state governments. We should not stop with merely lamenting the suffering of our people, criticizing the system and dreaming of a society based on solidarity while those who have usurped power continue their orgy of money, drugs, war and blood. We have the obligation to face them with the democratic instruments that are guaranteed by the constitution for use by unarmed citizens who are 99% of Colombians.
Strategies for the implementation of the SES
The implementation of the SES is the responsibility of the worker's movement through its organizations-- unions, associations, cooperatives and other rural and urban organizations that must assume leadership to win the structuring of the SES in Latin America. The phases of this process are as follows:
- National-Level Research
Economic research at the national level, towards establishing the possibilities for a national development plan for the solidarity economy, is fundamental. This research will include the following activities:
1.1 The situation, characteristics, and perspectives of the solidarity-economic organizations. A census of the organizations will make the creation of a national database possible.
1.2 The structural characteristics of the national economy, especially the input-output tables. Another database, this time on the national economy, would make macro-economic planning possible.
1.3 The characteristics of the relevant legislation and constitutional provisions of each country that will facilitate or constrain the expansion and consolidation of the SES.
- Education, diffusion, and technical skill-building
This program forms the central nucleus of the strategy. Building national, technical teams specializing in solidarity economics who can act as resources for the organizations in each country will give countries the technical capacity to implement the solidarity economy.
There are three aspects to the program, to be carried out simultaneously with the research program.
2.1 Education and organization at the grassroots towards mobilizing and incorporating them in the solidarity economy by workshops, conferences, seminars, and working groups.
2.2 Specific capacity-building in: macro-economic planning and evaluation; self-management of finances; legal, judicial, and constitutional aspects; leadership building.
2.3 Building connections with the government sector of each country to promote a legal and constitutional framework favourable to implementation of SES.
An outcome of these activities will be a national commission or council of the SES that will be the highest organism for coordination, planning, execution, and evaluation of the same, supported by the national, technical, interdisciplinary team created by the above program.
- Design of a National Plan for the Solidarity Economy in each country
The third phase of the strategy consists of the following:
3.1 The development of a macro-economic, medium-term plan for the development of the SES, including the selection of areas, sectors, and preferential activities for SES; global and sectoral macroeconomic objectives of the SES plan; and the political and economic prerequisites for implementation.
3.2 Sectoral-level plans in agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries at all geographic scales.
3.3 A program of organization of solidarity enterprises, again involving the selection of priority areas and sectors; the building of technological capacity; the integration of enterprises with one another, horizontally and vertically; strengthening base organizations
3.4 Constitutional and legislative reforms to facilitate the SES, including the elevation of the SES to a full sector of the economy; the freeing of the state to intervene in the economy; and the implementation of laws to facilitate the organization of worker's cooperatives and other solidarity-economic enterprises.
- Implementation of the SES
The fourth phase of the process depends on the success of the previous phases. Its success will depend on the following:
4.1 The commitment of leaders and organizations in the worker's movement to the solidarity economy at all levels.
4.2 The presence of strategic alliances between economic, political, academic, and religious sectors beneath the banner offered by the SES as a development alternative that is democratic and pluralist and tries to solve the problems the country faces.
4.3 The strength of the national development plan and of the specific projects at the municipal, regional, and national levels.
4.4 The strength of the technical, multidisciplinary teams trained in solidarity economics.
The Responsibility of COLACOT
The Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Worker's Associations (COLACOT) was formed in 1975 in Caracas, Venezuela. The Colombia chapter was opened in 1980 and is a sister organization of the Democratic Worker's Confederation (CGTD) and is an active member of the Latin American Worker's Central (CLAT) based in Caracas, Venezuela and in the International Labor Organization (Confederacion Mundial del Trabajo) based in Brussels, Belgium.
COLACOT is a social organization, a nonoprofit organization based on cooperativism, free association and other forms of solidaritous association. It works in 23 countries in the region to further the solidarity economic model, to build capacity, and to advise its associates. It holds conventions and education programs in universities and private and public institutions to further solidarity economics in Latin America.
COLACOT is also a co-founder of the Latin American Network for Solidarity Socio-Economics, and an active part of the Global Network on the Globalization of Solidarity for a Responsible, Plural, and Solidaritous world. This network had its second International Congress from October 9-12 in Quebec, Canada. At this congress 355 leaders and experts from 50 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe, met.
From February 1-2, COLACOT joined World Social Forum II and the World Encounter on Social and Solidarity Economics in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Here the proposal was to strengthen solidarity and cooperation against the totalitarian regime of the neoliberal market and for human dignity.
From its inception 26 years ago, COLACOT has worked to overcome the obstacles to the personal and collective development of workers and popular sectors in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its core values are: human dignity, equity, justice, democracy, and peace. COLACOT is for the further integration of the Latin American Community of Nations and for other regional processes of integration including the Andean Community, the Mercosur, the Central American Common Market and the Caribbean Common Market.
With the technological and scientific help of an international, multidisciplinary team, COLACOT has conducted research and is now in a position to develop the following:
1) The Model of Analysis and Macro-Economic Planning (MOPLAN). Using this model the sector can build national, macro-economic solidarity-economic plans using the most advanced instruments and methods used by the United Nations.
2) A legal study on the situation of workers in the laws of Latin America and the Caribbean and the formulation of a baseline for pressing for reforms to the laws and constitutions to implement the Solidarity Economy.
3) Elaboration of a cultural and pedagogic model of solidarity economics, an instrument for developing ideological, political, and technical curricula for inclusion in the national education systems of each country and in the process of capacity-building for each sector.
4) A study of the health crisis and the role of solidarity economics as well as a strategy for the implementation of micro-scale solidarity-economic based health clinics.
5) A methodological guide for administrative decentralization and municipal development, for aiding in the structuring of autonomous, communitarian, and self-managed municipalities. These municipalities are the basic unit of the a just social state.
6) A manual for organizing solidarity-economic health services, with the intent of improving the quality and coverage of the sectors whose health is unprotected.
7) The Latin American School of Solidarity Economics (ELES) oriented to the continuing education of solidarity-economic activists and leaders.
8) The Latin American Center for Studies in the Economics of Work (CELATEC), a multidisciplinary organization responsible for the research into solidarity economics conducted by COLACOT.
These are the instruments COLACOT seeks to put at the service of the solidarity economic sector and the worker's movement of Colombia and of Latin America. They are indispensable for the development of the SES.
Today like 26 years ago we ratify our commitment before the SES, the worker's movement, the Colombian people, and the Latin American peoples to continue to help in the design of policies, strategies, plans and programs for development, peace, and social justice. We believe that solidarity economics is a real alternative and will address the causes of inequity and injustice.
COLACOT invites cooperatives, worker's associations, campesino and indigenous organizations to join in the development of the solidarity economy with us. We hope they join in our national and international activities, in our programs of research, so that we can unite the forces of the worker's struggle against neoliberalism.
The Worker's movement in all its forms today can count on the national worker's organizations, the CGTD, the CUT, the CTC and the Pensioner's Confederation. These have unified their forces with their counterparts elsewhere in the world, to fight against the neoliberalism of the previous three governments that have brought the disaster we've described. We invite other organizations to join in this important effort. It is the way forward for unarmed civil society to show its protest against the attacks against the life and work of Colombians.
It is also the way forward for the construction and defense of real democracy against the authoritarian aggression of neoliberal terrorism, against the threat of a US invasion, against the orgy of blood of the armed actors, and for the power of solidarity in social transformation.
Originally published in Spanish in January 2002