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Auto-determination of nations - a principle that must be followed

Gustavo Machala

One of the basic principles that guides the United Nations charter is that of auto-determination.
According to this principle, countries may take any course of action they choose regard its
internal affairs as long as it does not violate any international law, in which case those countries
that feel harmed in any way may seek judicial solution to the problem. From this viewpoint, what
has been called the 21st century socialism, that is, a surge of left-wing governments in Latin
America following Chavez turbulent arrival into power, is up-to-now just a matter of internal
affairs, accompanied by some change in the foreign policy of these countries regarding
international investors and international corporations with interests in their states. Thus it should
be met with full cooperation from the part of international blocs that may help these coutries not to
deviate from the democratic path also pointed out by the UN charter.

Chavez marched into office in 1999 and since than is recognized by its acerbic attacks on the
United States, including the occasion in which he called the former American president, George
W. Bush, "the evil". His Venezuela had been boosted by the increase in the commodities prices,
particularly petrol, what aided him in his plans of creating a new socialism. Fact is that once more
the price of petrol is plummeting and inflation is a serious problem in the country. Chavez, that
once was considered indomitable, has been under direct attack by the opposition, and the
referendum that would give him the right to stay in office indefinetly has been rejected.

Bolivia's Evo Morales has taken office as the true representative of the national indigenous
population. His deep desire of transforming Bolivia into a socialist country - ridden of the old
structures of colonialism that insist to prevail - has been upset by a strong opposition that comes
from provinces that demand greater autonomy from La Paz. These regions are interested in
collecting their own taxes instead of depending on La Paz' redistribution of revenue. However,
despite the fact that the opposition in Bolivia is somewhat stronger (and eager to take to guns)
than in the other countries, Morales managed to approve a new constitution that may change the
political milieu in Bolivia, for better or for worse.

In Ecuador, Rafael Correa has been strugling to stanch the rivalries between the capital and the
provinces that claim more autonomy. Although he was the first to approve a new constitution, that
is intended to redistribute the wealth, centralize the exucitive power, and better control the
economy, he is facing a series of protests organized by a still fragmented opposition, but one that
is in the process of cohering.

Despite some rather rough relations - regarding nationalization of companies, default on loans
etc. - with Brazil, United States and some other countries that have economic interests in these
states, what has been implemented until now is just the reflection of the different internal forces
that comprise these countries. Therefore, the role that international blocs should play in the
region, including the UN, is that of helping to tackle the problems, of facilitating the diplomatic
talks, of pushing for a peaceful solution of problems, of sharing know-how for the implementation
of projects, and of leading the region to the path of sustainable growth. These are the only actions
that could follow from the full acceptance of the auto-determination principle and from the wise
use of cooperation as was stated by the UN charter.