Quito: Integration, yes, but with dignity

In July 2003 a group comprising Jesuits, other religious, and lay women and men met to discuss the theme ?Another development is possible, another integration is possible?, at a seminar organized by the Jesuit Social Apostolate in Latin America. The subject of critical scrutiny was a project for a free trade market area within the Americas, covering 34 countries with a total population of 800 million people. The plan, which excludes Cuba, was promoted by the United States. Following the lead of an earlier Quito meeting in 2002 that had addressed the perceived threat to the poor of the American continent, this group rejected outright the negotiation that is in progress. It pointed to the disproportion among the countries about to enter into the agreement in which 79% of the total gross product belongs to the Unites States , 6% to Canada; while the economic ?weight? of the Latin American countries is only 15%. The imbalance in terms of technology, capital, and know-how between the North and the South, the lack of transparency in the negotiations, the total neglect of fundamental developmental aspects such as ecological impact, labour conditions, social plans and migration, and the fact that a façade of commercial liberalization masks intents of protectionism, all make it unacceptable to the poor. Plans to privatise basic public services and goods have drastic implications for local economies. The Quito meeting did not rule out the possibility of integration within the Americas but called for a new type of integration based on dignity, for a ?globalizing of solidarity?, for more humane economies, and respect at the negotiating table for the dignity of nations. The task for Jesuits and their collaborators is now to help build a new, more united Latin America and to keep in sight a new ethical horizon. [HL30902] Coordinators: J. Julio Mejia, coordinator for Latin America Fr. Rafael E. Moreno Villa S.J, Assistant Coordinator for Latin America