Saturday, December 27, 2014


Eduardo Garcia Moure (centre) and Julio Robert Gomez (left on the photo) were two of the protagonists of the merger of CLAT with ORIT into the CSA. 

In May 2000 it was announced that CLAT General Secretary Emilio Maspero was deceased as a result of cancer (see my previous blog). Unfortunately, the outside world was never informed. I have no idea why this has not happened. Perhaps dying by cancer is still a taboo in Latin America. Maybe Maspero himself and the CLAT Board Members, which I assume they were aware, were afraid of political consequences and conflicts over his succession.

Maspero was succeeded as General Secretary of CLAT by the Cuban exile Eduardo Garcia, for decades a member of the Executive Committee of CLAT. It was no secret that Enrique Marius, Deputy General Secretary of CLAT for international relations, was disappointed at this turn of events. He would have loved to be the successor to Maspero. But Eduardo Garcia was much better known and more popular in Latin America than Marius. As director of ILACDE, the Institute of CLAT for international cooperation, his position was not easy. Incidentally he had to criticize member organizations of CLAT because of shortcomings in the presentation and implementation of projects.

Enrique Marius, Eduardo Garcia and Rodolfo Romero (Paraguay) were the only ones of the newly elected board CLAT who lived and worked in Caracas. The other Deputy General Secretaries of CLAT - Felicito Avila (Honduras), Julio Roberto Gomez (Colombia), Mario Morant (Argentina) and Anselmo Pontilius (Aruba) - continued to work and live in their own country. The new CLAT Board continued the policy of Maspero. Unfortunately was lost on this occasion the opportunity to make some innovations in the Board and the CLAT policy. It would have been good for CLAT, if a woman had become member of the board, as well as a representative of the trade union action. It might have led to a shift of less (party) politics unto more practical trade union work.

This photograph gives a rare view of Secretary General Willy Thys with his whole WCL secretariat with in the center the ILO Director General Somavia and WCL President Fernand Kikongi. On the left of the center: Eduardo Estevez (Argentina), Fred Pools  (Belgium) and Toolsiray Benedin (Mauritius).On the right: Necie Lucero (Philippines) and Piet Nelissen (Netherlands)

In the autumn of 2000, the WCL Confederal Board met in Washington. WCL had managed to invite two keynote speakers for this meeting: the Managing Director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus (France) and ILO Director General Juan Somavia (Chile). It proved that the WCL as a minority organization, was able to conduct a social dialogue at the highest level about social and economic policies for the benefit of workers worldwide.

Especially the Belgium trade union confederation ACV/CSC did important work in this area because of their good relations with the governor of the Belgian National Bank and the presidency of the Human Rights Workers Group at the ILO. With financial support from the Belgian government several international meetings were held in Wahington during which WCL leaders from different continents had meetings with IMF experts and World Bank staff. At these meetings, the trade unions could express their criticisms and demands on the role of the World Bank and IMF in the international debt crisis, its reform policy and its consequences for developing countries.

For this Confederal Board I had planned to raise the question about the organization of the secretariat, by not presenting the usual report on European activities. Of course, it is not customary to do so but there was no other way left. The secretary General did not want to take measures to strengthen the European secretariat. It was a personal form of protest against the state of affairs at the secretariat. Due to lack of resources and vision, all the work in de past in Central and Eastern Europe threatened to have been for nothing. That in itself was reason enough to pull the bell but there was more. By neglecting the European base of the WCL, the survival of the WCL became itself at risk.

IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus speaking at the WCL Conferral Board meeting in Washington (2000)

My protest was not successful. That the continents stayed silent, I could understand from their point of view that Europe is for the Europeans. On the other hand, I expected that high level WCL leaders would have the insight that a weak European base eventually had to have an impact on the survival of the WCL. The European unions were, after all, by far the largest financiers of the WCL, on the first place the Belgian trade union confederation ACV/CSC followed by the Dutch trade union confederation CNV.

That the ACV/CSC trade union confederation did not react and thus supported their General Secretary was logical and understandable. But that no European organization reacted, not even “my own CNV”, I found very disappointing. I had hoped that my action would have resulted in at least a debate, a debate that had come to a dead end at the secretariat. Also I did not succeed to develop a common WCL policy vision on European affairs, while on the European agenda there were new ambitious European projects like the introduction of a common currency, that is to say the Euro, that in one or another way would affect all European Union workers. Apparently such policy was the exclusive domain of the ETUC (and I believe, in consultation with the ICFTU).

My position was already not easy. It had started earlier with an overt accusation of the General Secretary on a European coordination meeting that I had organized without budgetary coverage, projects and missions in Central and Eastern Europe. I was shocked that this was not discussed beforehand because then he would have been aware of the falsity of his claim. However, during this meeting ACV / CSC policy officer Paul Buekenhout openly recognized that spendings were indeed justified in view of the financial commitments of the ACV / CSC trade union confederation itself. Later, the Secretary General attempted to dismiss me. Thanks to the CNV trade union confederation those actions had no results. Obviously the situation between General Secretary Willy Thys and myself had become increasingly difficult.

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