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Speakers from across the Latin America met in a lecture theatre in the basement of the huge Parque Central building. They talked about the future of continental unification. From Honduras, Rafael Alegria of Via Campesina, an international land reform movement spoke first.

Alegria said integration must not only be between governments. The peasant activist said they struggle, “for a fundamental change to the internal structure of these countries. National governments must be integrated with the people.” The economic structure of these countries would have to change for this to happen, said Alegria.

The peasant activist said, “we need economic structures against neo-liberalism and transnational corporations.” Alegria also argued that cultural integration was also needed for Latin American unification to succeed. Network in Defense of Humanity activist and Mexican academic, Alejandro de Morano talked about the historical context of Latin American integration. De Morano argued the 20th century saw a series of nationalist struggles for independence.

According to de Morano, countries tried to create self-reliance and true sovereignty economically as well as politically. The Mexican academic said that in the current period of powerful transnational economic forces the only way to achieve this true sovereignty is to unite the continent on a transnational basis.

A common theme at the event was how the defeat of the US-led the FTAA, or Free Trade of the Americas Agreement, at the recent summit of the Americas in Argentina was positive for Latin American integration. The President of the Economics Commission for the Cuban National Assembly, Oswaldo Martinez, said if it had passed it would have meant, “The economic annexation of the continent by the US.”

Martinez argued ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America, promoted by Venezuela was the solution for integration. The Cuban said, “integration is not an end in itself but the means to the end of eliminating poverty. ALBA can make this happen.”

Around 200 people attended the talk. Some comments from the audience were critical. A Chilean man said that the current plans to integrate energy, communications and transport were not that different from Capitalist development. The Chilean also said that through bilateral trade agreements the spirit of the FTAA lived on.

Others were more supportive with a young Argentinian saying the optimism he saw about integration made this, “a wonderful time to be alive.” A Colombian peasant artist also said the Forum is, “a refuge in a cultural desert.”