Alfredo Jiménez Barros | The contribution of effective and efficient public policies aimed at promoting the development, welfare, happiness and peace of human beings and of Mother Earth.
Good Morning. Deputy Quirós just got me in trouble with the presentation he gave of me; that is always one with the problem of living up to the expectations that those presentations generate. Well, let's do what we can.
I renew the greeting of the president of the Latin American Parliament, Deputy Elías Castillo, who —as deputy Quirós explained— for insurmountable personal reasons could not be here.
I enter the topic quickly because it is not easy to speak in a few minutes about what the organization has been doing for more than 50 years.
The Latin American Parliament was created in 1964 in Lima, Peru; in December of that year the Constituent Assembly was signed by 14 countries.
The Parlatino was acting for many years as a high level political forum. You remember ... well, many of you I believe were not yet born, but those decades of the 60s, 70s, were very hard decades for Latin America, from the political point of view, because of the existence of military dictatorships in almost all countries.
One of the actions that the Latin American Parliament did, apart from promoting —of course— its founding objectives (democracy, integration, strengthening of governance, etc.), was to give a space of action and expression to politicians in exile; because, I repeat, there were many countries in Latin America that suffered from these serious problems of dictatorships.
So in the year ‘87, the member countries (14 founded it in ‘87), 18 countries, resolved to institutionalize the Latin American Parliament. This is a very interesting fact. Why? Because there was a very complicated decade for Latin America (60s, 70s, 80s) from the economic point of view, and many countries —many international organizations were disappearing because their countries did not send quotas.
So in the case of the Latin American Parliament, the opposite was true: the countries resolved to institutionalize it, came the plenipotentiary ministers of the 18 countries of Latin America, signed the institutionalization treaty, ratified the national parliaments; and from then on, the Parliament became an entity of public international law, with its own assets, a subject of International Law.
Since then, due to its new legal status, the Latin American Parliament came to have a permanent headquarters, which was first in São Paulo, Brazil, at the request of several Brazilian personalities (such as Darcy Ribeiro, Franco Montoro, Ulysses Guimarães, Nelson Carneiro , etc.); and then, in 2008, the Parliament moved its permanent headquarters here to the city of Panama, where we already had a sub-regional headquarters (precisely near these facilities). And since then we have been dispatching here in Panama, perhaps honoring the famous words of Bolívar who wanted Panama to be the center of American integration.
Parliament… to be brief, I tell you quickly how it is composed: its General Assembly, which meets in that facility, we have a General Assembly on November 24; each country has up to 12 votes in the General Assembly, but according to the statute, a parliamentarian can be accredited by representing 4 votes; it means that theoretically, in the General Assembly, a country with 3 parliamentarians accredited to vote would be with its full delegation. But what happens is the opposite: more than 12 come, 12 are accredited to vote, but normally more than 12 parliamentarians come, because the Statute of Parliament also establishes that all delegations have to be pluralistic.
So here in the Assembly we have representatives of the different parties and political forces that are represented in the national parliaments. In addition, on the occasion of the Assembly, we always have the presence of observers or parliaments or parliamentary associations that have asked to be observers of the Parlatino, such as China, Russia, the Association of the Arab Countries, the association of the Soviet Union, etc.., are all our observers and they accompany us in the Assembly.
Then comes the Board of Directors, which is made up of the board of directors, which are the secretaries, all elected by the Assembly. We had elections recently, so we are with a new board composed of the presidency, alternate presidency, and the secretaries of Interparliamentary Relations Commissions, of Interinstitutional Relations (I mentioned it already), secretary general, there is the executive secretary; and that secretary plus one representative for each of the 23 member countries are the Board of Directors.
As you can see, the Parliament was created with 14 countries, it was institutionalized with 18, at the moment there are 23 member countries. All the countries of Latin America and several of the Caribbean are represented.
What we call the operative arm of the Latin American Parliament are its permanent interparliamentary committees (13 in number). At the beginning there were 23, but it turns out that the commissions meet on average twice a year, and between meetings, a whole team works on the development of commission projects; but 23 commissions meeting twice a year, gave 46 meetings a year, which was excessive for national parliaments, not only for costs; because the Latin American Parliament does not pay a penny of tickets or per diem (or else, there would be no reachable budget): we, throughout the year, between these meetings of Commissions and the Assembly mobilized more than 800 parliamentarians from all Latin America.
But for national parliaments it was also difficult to go without their parliamentarians 46 times a year. They then asked that the commissions be reduced, now they are 13; they were reduced, but subjects were not sacrificed; commissions were fused with others, they were reduced to 13, but the issues are the same.
And on the whole, the commissions cover practically all the topics of human activity; that come to mind: Energy and Mines; Children and Youth; Gender equality; Fight against Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime; Defense of the Consumer and the User; Education, Culture, Science, Technology, and Communication (whose president was here, Deputy Quirós); in short, they are innumerable issues.
So on that I want to make a clarification that is very important: In the Latin American Parliament, what do we do so that all these committees and all those issues have technical support without being bureaucratized here, without having a plant of expert technical experts (whose number, for all those issues, would be huge)?
The Parlatino, historically (and thus we have been working for many years) has made agreements with the international organisms that work the issues of the commissions. Example: the Commission for Education, Culture, Science, Technology and Communication is supported by UNESCO, Virtual Educa, the OEI, the Latin American Network for the Right to Education, etc .; the Labor and Professional Affairs Commission is supported by the ILO; the Health Commission is supported by WHO, PAHO, and so on.
This has allowed, on the one hand, that our commissions have the best technical support that exists —without exaggeration— in the world; because those organizations have experts, they have information, they have a budget, and they have the institutional mandate to work on those issues.
And for the international organizations the scheme has been very good because they have traditionally been working with the executives of the countries, with the ministries of the sector, the national directorates, etc., and practically all were feeling the need to access the legislative environment (where laws, decrees, conventions, treaties, etc. are made, are ratified); and with us, of course, they have automatic, direct, and fast access to all parliaments in Latin America and several in the Caribbean.
This has determined that many of these international organizations, motu proprio, on their own initiative, many of them are going beyond just giving us technical support for the commissions —which is already a lot—, but they are then financing or giving technical support to plans, programs, projects, drafting model laws, etc.
And now that I talk about model laws, I want to refer to our main products. Our main products are —as I said— plans, programs, projects, parliamentary support initiatives, and the production of model laws (which until recently were called framework laws). Parliament has now produced more than 47 model laws in many fields.
On this I am also very interested in making a clarification. When we talk about our model laws, first we must clarify that if it is a model law, the idea is not that each country adopts it as a national law. These are legislative contributions so that countries, when they legislate on the matter, have useful references from a conceptual, methodological, and political point of view.
The second is that they usually ask us: "Well, are their laws binding, are they mandatory for countries?" The answer is “no." But what happens is that in Latin America there is no supranationality, there is no body whose decisions are mandatory for all countries over its Constitution and its laws, that does not exist.
Once someone started an investigation to see, for example, which constitutions contemplate this possibility, and what is known is that to accept a law or a supranational body, normally what countries have to do are referendums or plebiscites, ask the population: "Yes or no? Do we submit to a law that is mandatory for the State that is mandatory for all its citizens and for all its institutions above its Constitution and its laws?" That has not happened in Latin America.
The advantage of the Latin American Parliament is that all our member parliamentarians (for example, when we have an Assembly we sometimes have 200 or more parliamentarians), are national parliamentarians, have a voice, vote, and a seat in national parliaments; then they constitute a direct link between the proposals of the Latin American Parliament and the national parliaments.
That is why many of our products have been adopted as national laws, have contributed to national initiatives in all fields, there have even been constitutional reforms that respond to proposals from the Latin American Parliament, because here are collective decisions, and who make those decisions they take them to their national parliaments.
So ... I'm running out of time, I already told you that talking about more than 50 years of institutional work in a few minutes is difficult; but in any case, I wanted to quickly tell you how we function. We are in these new headquarters; these headquarters were inaugurated in October, 2013 as an official act of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government.
I conclude with a couple of announcements: One, that on November 23 of this year, on the eve of our Assembly (which will be on the 24th) we have a Forum on Transparency and the Fight against Corruption. I do not have to say the importance that this topic has. And of course, authorized by the presidency of the General Secretariat, etc., I can tell you that you are all cordially invited to this forum on November 23 in the afternoon.
And speaking of corruption, —and with this I conclude— when we were about to inaugurate the headquarters, I think that one of the first events we had here was that of the Board of Scrutinies of Panama, the Board that scrutinized the votes of the general elections of that year; and some person who came here and saw the headquarters, you have seen that the headquarters has a huge natural lighting, etc., commented: "What better place to scrutinize the votes of the general elections than a building that symbolizes light and transparency." That is what we want to project, that is what we are working for; it is what we have been working on in this important Congress that is being held and what we will continue to work tirelessly for the good of our Latin America.
Make yourselves at home. Be all welcome, and thank you very much.
I have been asked in this part to also make some comments regarding the two interventions on the regional Parliament; and a bit as the devil's advocate, we wanted to point out that in the case of the Latin American Parliament, for Latin Americans we feel like little supporters, poorly represented. There really is no direct relationship between the Latin American Parliament and the peoples that represent us.
In our case, 12 representatives are elected and we do not know who they are, how they propose things, how those rules reach national legislation. Sometimes, in the critical sense, we say that we wish we copied the European model.
The European Parliament is 150 parliamentarians in Europe, but they are not an equal amount for each country. It is not the same to have the same numbers of parliamentarians from Brazil as Nicaragua or from Uruguay as Argentina.
In the case of the European Parliament the largest countries, such as Germany, reach 70 deputies, Spain at 45 due to the size of the population and Malta has only 6; that is, the minimum is 6, which are Malta and Cyprus.
And there is a more direct representation. It also works permanently in Brussels and has law initiatives. And the observation made by Representative Alfredo Jiménez is that we have not reached the issue of supranationality, then decisions are made and governments do not feel obliged to follow them.
On the other hand, in the European Parliament when something is decided by majorities, it becomes obligatory to those countries and they become laws, then it works as a true European integration system; and the tendency now is to go to supranationality.
In fact, the Venezuelan Constitution does recognize the supranationality of the Constitution when it comes to human rights issues, it is given supranational status. That is, the tendency is to give more powers to supranational organizations to be much more effective.
I hope that these beautiful facilities and this place, in the future, will allow us to have a more functional, more representative Parliament, where political force is also freely expressed; because the European Parliament has everything from conservatives or liberals to grouped socialists and communists, they even vote for common lists, so there is a sense of integration.
The Italian Communist can vote for the French Communist, or the Belgian Christian Democrat for the Italian Christian Democrat, and there is a supranational ideological representation; but of course, it is a very interesting attempt by the Latin American Parliament, perhaps improved in the regional parliaments; because both the Andean Parliament where five deputies are also elected by each country, but in the Mercosur Parliament there is proportionality depending on the population.
So I think it is a path that must be progressed little by little; that is, in the Latin American parliamentary part there is still much to be done. There is good national parliamentarism, but there is really no effective parliamentary diplomacy; and I think that the European model serves as an aid to this new parliamentarism, which hopefully could be in the future.
After these observations maybe you can intervene at the end, but we will also listen to the representative of Mexico, who also will not only talk about the case of Parliament, especially the alliance between the parliaments of Latin America and the continent, but also from the Mexican own experience.