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Puebla Group Calls for Ibero-American Debt Forgiveness, Debates Need for Alternative Development Model

April 11, 2020 (EIRNS)—In an almost three-hour videoconference yesterday, 40 members of the Puebla Group, founded in July of 2019 by progressive former Ibero-American Presidents, former and current legislators, former and current government officials, and political party leaders, called on multilateral lending agencies to forgive the debt of Ibero-American nations, so as to free up resources urgently needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Every country in the region is reeling from the dislocation caused by the economic impact of the virus and attending to emergency social needs of their populations. Under these circumstances, debt payment is not an option.

The related subject of the need for an entirely new development model, based on solidarity and a strong state dedicated to the protection of human life, was also on the agenda. The group’s final declaration warns that “the priorities of the [existing] global model led to the abandonment of social policies, especially those related to healthcare systems.” The current crisis shows, it added, that “health, research, and public policy cannot be subordinated to the interests of the market.”

Among the Puebla Group’s founders is Argentine President Alberto Fernández, the only sitting Ibero-American President belonging to the group, who coordinated its founding and foreign policy orientation with Mexican President López Obrador and with several former Ibero-American Presidents, including Brazil’s Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, and Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo. Current Mexican Undersecretary for Latin American Affairs, Maximiliano Reyes, is also a founding member.

In his opening remarks to yesterday’s meeting, Fernández decried the “lack of solidarity” inherent in the current global system, saying that “if there’s anything good to come out of [this crisis], it’s the need to understand that this is not every man for himself.” He explained that in his case, “between the economy and people’s health, I chose health. An economy that declines by 11% can be restored, but a man or woman who dies, can’t be. We have to prevent this tragedy from worsening.”

He was seconded by former Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who charged that it wasn’t the health emergency “that caused the economic debacle, but rather the non-resolution of the 2008 crisis and the exhaustion of a model of financialization,” that wrecked economies, increased inequality, “and destroyed social welfare systems.” He pointed out that despite researchers’ warnings that a bacteriological pandemic were possible,

“there was disinvestment in public health systems, leaving them without resources and abandoning vulnerable populations.” He and former Bolivian President Evo Morales reiterated the need for debt forgiveness, with Morales emphasizing that “life can’t [be considered] merchandise; heath care can’t be a business.”

The group also demanded lifting punishing sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, and called for strengthening the World Health Organization, under attack by Western China bashers for allegedly abetting China’s “misinformation” on the coronavirus.

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