MEXICO.— During discussion at the 21st meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum (FSP) held here July 29-August 1, Cuban leader José Ramón Balaguer commented that if the regional organization had not been created, the paths taken by many Latin America countries would have been different.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, Balaguer, head of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee’s international relations department, added that reflecting on the impact of the FSP, 25 years after its founding, leads naturally to the question: “What would the situation be if it did not exist?”

Balaguer recalled that the hopes of the left had practically disappeared at one point, yet seeing how things are developing now, “allows us to see the great importance of the Sao Paulo Forum.”

Balaguer, who led the Cuban delegation to the event, emphasized that the emergence of the Forum gave the left the opportunity to see that negative thinking and frustration had no basis.

Discussion and analysis from a left point of view took place, focused on action with the people, the poor and needy, challenging the domination of capital, he said. He recalled the struggle undertaken by the Forum against U.S. sponsored free trade agreements and neoliberal policies, which showed that capitalism offered no solutions to the problems or needs of the population.

The proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) represented the absolute dominion of large corporations and international finance capital over humanity, and it was stopped, he noted.

This was decisive to the fate of Latin America, which resisted this attempt to permanently subjugate the region, he emphasized, adding that we would never again be the back yard of the United States, because Latin America had changed.

Progressive parties which today hold government power are creating the real possibility of achieving a future based on Latin American integration.

The emergence of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) created a new situation for imperialism, he said, since the organization represents the region’s struggle for its second, definitive independence, based on the strength of almost 600 million inhabitants and vast energy resources.

Balaguer commented that integration could be based on collaboration among governments with different political conceptions, noting that this has been possible.

He mentioned scientific exchanges taking place, especially within the Caribbean, which, he insisted, must not be forgotten as part of Latin America.

He noted that the right wing is now labeling as ‘populist’ progressive governments which are making changes to benefit the people, a term they consider pejorative.

What these progressive, revolutionary, transformative governments are doing is beneficial, but, with this label, opponents attempt to hide their real fear - that wealth is being invested in meeting the people’s social and spiritual needs

While at one time it was thought that imperialism would appropriate the world, the situation is now different. That is why they attack Argentina, Venezuela and Ecuador, governments which for the first time are working in favor of the people, the workers, Balaguer said.

During several Forum sessions, appreciation for Cuba and opposition to the U.S. blockade were reiterated.

Balaguer concluded saying that Cuba will always stand with Latin America, defend its interests and future.