The strong antimilitarist links: RAMALC and WRI in Latin America and the Caribbean

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RAMALC's meeting in Asunción
RAMALC's meeting in Asunción. Source: ramalc.org
Author(s)
Pelao Carvallo

 

The Antimilitarist Network of Latinamerica and the Caribbean (RAMALC by its acronym in Spanish) is closely linked to War Resisters' International (WRI). This link is mutual and sustained: The history of both organizations shows this.

RAMALC is a current, living, existing organization, with the difficulties historically faced by antimilitarist organizations of nonviolent direct action that claim to be autonomous and self-managed. That is why its history is under construction and could be a good subject for historians. This history, year by year, shows how the link between RAMALC and WRI is maintained and sustained.

RAMALC was created in 2014 at a Latinamerican Antimilitarist gathering in Quito (Ecuador) organised with WRI's support, summarising the coordination, cooperation and mutual regional work that had existed since the 1990s. 

The first regional group was the ROLC - Network of Conscientious Objection (CO) in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on the exercise and recognition of the right to CO and its tension with antimilitarism. This network, in broad coordination with WRI, was dominated by institutionalised organisations (NGOs) that aimed more at lobbying and legislative and media pressure, in contrast to the interest of conscientious objectors who aspired more to strategies of insubmission and/or nonviolent direct action.

This tension, together with the withdrawal of international cooperation from a large part of South America in the mid and late 1990s, made the continuity of the ROLC unviable, which managed to organise five Latin American meetings (ELOCs[1]), being the last one in Medellín, Colombia in 1999[2].

In the early 2000s, although the ROLC no longer existed, there were still sub-regional or bilateral meetings of antimilitarist and CO groups. The desire to meet and work together led to the creation of the Coordinadora Latinoamericana Antimilitarista y de Objeción de Conciencia (CLAOC) in the mid-2000s, marking a change of focus. The CLAOC emerged and developed around events on 15 May, International Day of Conscientious Objection: one in 2004 in Santiago (Chile)[3] organised by WRI and the antimilitarist group Ni Casco Ni Uniforme, and another in 2010 in Asunción (Paraguay) organised together with the organisation La Comuna de Emma, Chana and others[4].

In addition to these events, the Latin American and Caribbean coordination continues existing in the meetings that the people had in the regional working groups within WRI's Conferences and Assemblies, such as in Padeborn, Germany in 2006 and in Ahmenabad, India in 2010. It was in these physical meetings and in email exchanges, and with the great support of Andreas, Javier, Howard and Dominique (who from the WRI office in those years, showed great interest in supporting Latin American initiatives) that the idea of having an autonomous meeting began to take shape and become a reality. Andreas, for example, maintained an excellent relationship with antimilitarist groups in Colombia, with visits on the ground from time to time.

Thus, since 2012, the idea of relaunching The Antimilitarist Coordination in the region was possible thanks to the fact that local activity had never disappeared (although it had diminished in some places) and to WRI's support. In 2014, in Quito, there was a meeting that combined training in Nonviolent Direct Action, strategy and political coordination, creating the network that was named RAMALC. This meeting was marked by government repression of social movements opposed to extractivism, so much so that for security reasons the Nonviolent Direct Action resulting from the training had to be suspended.

RAMALC's support and relationship with WRI were maintained and strengthened in the following meetings, as well as in the activity between physical events. In 2015 RAMALC held a meeting in Mexico City. The main activity of this event focused on the anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, as the date of the event coincided with that first anniversary. For this reason, the training focused on fear in social activism and how to confront it, and the action resulting from the training was immersed in the march to the city's Zócalo, which demanded the return of the 43 students alive, justice and truth, as well as denouncing the responsibility of the State in this event ("It was the State"[5]).

One activity that is part of the work between meetings is the preparation of the next physical event, which is undertaken by a local team, together with the rest of RAMALC, always trying to have a direct or indirect representation from WRI. The positioning in the face of militarisation[6] and the construction of local networks, local training, Nonviolent Direct Actions, and demilitarisation activism are part of RAMALC's daily activities.

The Caracolito Group took on the creation of a local organising team for the RAMALC meeting/training in Asunción in November 2017, which concluded with a Direct Action against extractivism disguised as urban development[7] that mainly affects the urban and semi-urban popular sectors of Latin America and the Caribbean.

At each RAMALC meeting, strategic planning and set of objectives for the following period is carried out, which act more as a commitment and stimulus for joint work than a strict guide to be followed.

Since 2017, following the Venezuelan uprising, social activism has been on the rise in the region, generating the "Andean Spring"[8] with social uprisings in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Peru and briefly in Bolivia. In all this social conflict, the people and groups that are members of RAMALC have actively participated in Direct Actions, trainings and activism of all kinds, always from antimilitarism and Nonviolent Direct Action focus. Likewise, the main part of the actions of this network is the concern for the care of those who, being part of RAMALC and/or WRI in the region, are affected in their freedom and rights[9] by governments of any sign that repress social protest without contemplation. To this end, coordinated action with WRI is always attempted, as has been the case in Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, among others.[10].

In the midst of this "Andean Spring", the RAMALC meeting/training was held in Bogotá (Colombia) in July and August 2019, in coordination with WRI, which at the same time held the Antimilitarism in Movement Conference, as well as its regular Assembly. RAMALC's training, designed in the context of the militarisation of borders in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the migration crisis, was held with difficulties in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, on the border with Venezuela.

The pandemic has slowed down the physical meetings, but it has not stopped RAMALC's anti-militarist action, which from the outset has monitored the use of the pandemic as an excuse for governments to continue militarising the region[11]; militarisation with an extractivist undertone that they barely conceal. In this, there has been an affinity with WRI.

RAMALC develops an anti-militarist activity based on the local action of each participating group and individual, emphasising joint action with WRI, from network to network. This is why these 100 years of WRI are important for this Network, and the fact that there are four RAMALC members on the WRI's board is a sign of this close link based on autonomy and affinity of goals and methods.


[1] http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/press/ecu2.html https://wri-irg.org/es/story/1997/oc-en-america-latina#Heading11

[2] https://www.antimilitaristasmadrid.org/moc-carabanchel/cain/cain_14.htm

[3] https://wri-irg.org/en/news/2004/icod04-en.htm

[4] https://wri-irg.org/es/story/2010/asuncion-transantimili

[5] http://ramalc.org/declaracion-de-la-ramalc-en-solidaridad-con-ayotzinapa-y-todos-las-y-los-desaparecidos-de-mexico/

[6] As an example of this: http://ramalc.org/no-queremos-mas-armas-para-latinoamerica/

[7] http://ramalc.org/accion-directa-contra-la-militarizacion-de-los-cuerpos-y-territorios-en-asuncion/

[8] https://www.clacso.org/la-primavera-andina-florece-en-pandemia/

[9] http://ramalc.org/agresion-a-festivales-solidarios-guatemala/

[10] An example of a coordinated action between RAMALC and WRI http://ramalc.org/declaracion-de-la-internacional-de-resistentes-a-la-guerra-irg-y-la-red-antimilitarista-de-america-latina-y-el-caribe-ramalc-sobre-la-iniciativa-de-restablecer-el-servicio-militar-obligatorio-en-h/

[11] http://ramalc.org/boletin-no2-covid19-y-militarizacion-de-las-sociedades-en-america-latina-y-el-caribe/

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This article was written in August 2021

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This article was written in August 2021

This article was written in August 2021