The shift to the left that opened up new paths for the Andean region in the 2000s raised the hopes of left-wing movements across the globe. The constitutions adopted in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia opened new possibilities for participation and democracy and contained utopian elements that, for example, accorded rights to nature and enshrined ideas drawn from indigenous cosmovisions, such as the concept of buen vivir (good life).
Progressive governments initially made moves to reduce poverty and social inequality, but since commodity prices collapsed in 2014, governments have struggled to continue funding their welfare programmes. Venezuela, for instance, is mired in crisis. Some governments have begun opposing the very movements that helped make the new constitutions possible. Moreover, conservative and right-wing forces have been rebuilding their influence in the region.
In Colombia, the right-wing government signed a peace agreement with the continent’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC, in late 2016. Earlier that year, however, the government had lost a referendum on the agreement, due mainly to opposition from the far-right movement led by former president Uribe and conservative circles headed by large landowners and churches.
The referendum defeat also symbolized the far right’s growing influence across society, which has gone hand in hand with an increase in repression and in the number of threats to and murders of human rights activists, unionists, farmers and indigenous people, primarily by paramilitary forces. This development has made political engagement in Colombia even more dangerous.
The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation works with organizations that defend social and democratic rights in the region, and supports actors pushing for a sustainable and just transformation of society aimed at overcoming the dominant capitalist model of development. In addition, it promotes dialogue across a plural Left in order to think beyond short-term responses to crisis-laden developments and provide comprehensive analyses and more forward-looking perspectives.
- Defending Social and Democratic Rights
The resurgence of right-wing forces and the crises faced by progressive governments restrict civil society actors and organizations. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation tracks these right-wing trends and promotes debate among supporters of the Left. It encourages the participation of disadvantaged groups, especially indigenous people, women, and young people, and strengthens grassroots and regional structures in places such as districts that have adopted indigenous governance principles.
The foundation also produces educational materials such as brochures, presentations, and audio books on historically relevant struggles over rights to land and education or for women’s rights. To this end, the office collaborates with indigenous groups, women’s organizations, participatory radio stations, communities, and other organizations pushing for social and political rights. Some of these actors base their work on their countries’ constitutions, which were primarily promoted by anti-neoliberal movements, and aim to defend the rights enshrined within them.
- Alternatives to the Dominant Development Model
The economy in the Andean region is highly dependent on the export of natural resources. This extractivist logic of development promotes large-scale mining, oil exploitation and infrastructure projects, and an agricultural sector focused on monocultural mass production. That, in turn, ntensifies conflicts over land, destroys the livelihoods of the local populations, and makes states dependent on international commodity markets.
The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation promotes debates on alternative development models and approaches towards socially just and sustainable forms of production. To this end, it works together with scholarly, civil society, and political actors. It also cooperates with organizations that are examining the potential of solidarity-based models of production and subsistence at local or regional levels, such as urban farming networks or networks that supply marginalized districts with produce from agricultural cooperatives.
- Climate Justice
Colombia is a large-scale exporter of hard coal, most of which is shipped to Europe where it is burned to generate energy, which in turn exacerbates climate change. Local Colombian populations are displaced, water is polluted, and trade unionists pushing for better working conditions are persecuted. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation works together with trade unions, communities, and environmental organizations fighting the negative impacts of coal mining.