Historian and professor Guillaume Long easily attracts attention at big events where he represents his country, Ecuador. I met him during my last trip to Venezuela, at the height of the international campaign against tax havens, which received the support of the U.N. and Pope Francis.
On Feb. 19, Ecuador will elect a new president and National Assembly, and there will also be a referendum on tax havens. Why this initiative?
Tax havens are the ultimate expression of capitalism without a face, without responsibility, without transparency, without humanity. We need to develop global actions against this form of unbridled capitalism that concerns everyone, but affects especially the poorest countries, which large resources needed for development are fraudulently stolen. The referendum’s intent is to forbid any person pursuing public office to have any goods or capital in tax havens. If approved, within one year counted from the announcement of the final results, the National Assembly will reform the Ley Orgánica de Servicio Público [Organic Law of Public Service], the Código de la Democracia [Democracy Code] and other related laws to adapt them to the will of the citizens. Whoever does not respect the law, will be removed from office.
From the summit of the Non-aligned Country to the CELAC and the G77 meetings, Ecuador supports the proposals of the socialist countries. What is the South’s issue?
Together with other progressive countries that made an alliance in the 21st century, Ecuador puts its commitment to transform the large international structures that make a double injustice: at the individual country level, because they limit the ability to reallocate resources in favor the weakest, and at the level of the general power structures, because they perpetuate the asymmetries.
The Non-Aligned Movement, now headed by Venezuela, indicates that the global South must be respected, it must be included in the governance mechanisms. The peripheral countries that today are defined as developing nations, but according to Fidel — and I prefer his definition — are Third World countries, must be included in the decisions that affect humanity.
There are several summits in which to present this great global demand, but one of the main ones is the Non-Aligned Movement, in which significant and important common objectives have arisen: from universal citizenship, to the refusal of the mega global agreements which undermine multilateralism, and the reform of the United Nations.
From the NAM summit emerged a unanimous condemnation of the illegitimate and illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel, as well as one against the economic blockade of Cuba and the one against some unacceptable practices such as tax evasion and tax havens.
We demand the establishment of an international tribunal for crimes of multinational corporations. Finding consensus around some great causes is important, because the great causes motivate human action and push us into utopias.
The fact that Venezuela is presiding some important international organization such as the Non-Aligned Movement has great significance for the whole of Latin America at a time when there is a powerful counter-attack of the strong powers against the progressive governments of the continent. We have to defend Venezuela, its right to self-determination and its institutions. Ecuador is doing it in every international space. We support the dialogue under the auspices of Unasur. The external actors that oppose it do not help. Venezuela does not need a further polarization induced from abroad.
The political landscape of the South, however, is very heterogeneous. How do you put into practice the proclamations of the summit?
In addition to the constant commitment and hope, it takes patience when, as in the case of the Non-Aligned Movement, there are 120 countries. Many great causes of the South triumphed after years. Thanks to Ecuador, which made the request in 1952, today national sea territories extend 200 miles instead of 300, so today we have a border with Costa Rica whereas before we had to go either through Colombia or Panama.
The matter ended with the 1982 Convemar. All the Nordic countries, like the United States and many European nations, opposed it in the name of freedom of the sea. But there are unjust freedoms, based on asymmetry, the fact that one has more power than another: If there are no equal opportunities, there is no freedom. Since then, however, we have 200 miles of sea where only we can fish. Other countries can do so only if they have permission.
The nature of multilateralism is to put the differences at the service of great causes, like the democratization of the United Nations system.
What is your proposal?
The priority today is to give power to the General Assembly and remove it from that council of big shots that is the Security Council. There are several proposals. One is to increase the number of members. This would make the body just a little more democratic, but it would not solve a structural problem like that of the veto power of the countries with a permanent seat, to which we are firmly opposed. The General Assembly must hold the decision-making power. To each country, one equal vote.
What is the meaning of the word development for the South in the pluripolar world?
If the notion is defined in a Eurocentric way, it contains traps from which our countries are trying to break free by filling it with other content. We give preference to other indicators, like that of happiness and nature. That’s why we talk about good living and relational goods.
Of course, the GDP is important, because without a material basis there can be no happiness for the people, but also if you earn a lot of money and then you are forced to spend hours in traffic to reach your work, you are not happy and do not enjoy anything. Happiness is neither consuming more and more, nor having more and more things.