Foreign Policy for Wales – 25 Years of Nicaragua Solidarity
Leading activists from the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign had two clear messages at the recent 25th anniversary of the campaign’s support for the Sandinistas.
Writes Luke Nicholas.
The first was from the Welsh-Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano Hughes- “I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical. Solidarity is horizontal”. The second quotation that rang loud and clear at the event in Cardiff has been doing the rounds in Scotland amidst the positive political changes that have been taking place there; Alasdair Gray’s “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”.
Surely it is time now for Wales to have a foreign policy. Wales has developed extensive international links since devolution began, to the credit of First Ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. But although we are an internationalist country, Wales’ outward links under devolution have generally been based on charity, not solidarity. The charity aid projects that the Welsh Government has supported in Africa need to continue. But what we now need, in this changing world and to reflect Wales’ national development, is for the Government to put Wales in the international context. The politicised tone of the Nicaraguan event reminded us of the potential we have to engage with other nations, and it is surely time to do so on a political basis, rather than just a humanitarian level.
At the meeting, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Leanne Wood called for Wales to seek Observer status in the ALBA bloc of Latin American nations. There has been talk in the past of non-American nations having this status. The Palestinians and Syria have been mooted, because of their large diasporic communities in Latin America. Why not Wales? Our shared history of indigenous struggles and imperial exploitation would justify it. Our Welsh Ministers (from Labour and Plaid Cymru) have already incorporated aspects of Cuban literacy and agricultural policy into their own plans. It does not mean agreeing with every policy promoted by the ALBA bloc, but would give Wales a new avenue in which to contribute ideas on how we can create a better world.
Nicaragua’s Charge D’Affairs in the UK, Guisell Morales-Echaverry, reported the achievements of President Daniel Ortega’s Christian Socialist Solidarity project, which is the democratic socialist programme that is relevant to Nicaragua’s current conditions. Julie Morgan noted Nicaragua’s strong economic growth, and Leanne Wood reported the progress on reducing unemployment among women in rural Nicaragua, 60,000 of whom have been organised by the Sandinista government into independent co-operatives which are now producing wealth and goods. She also crucially expressed hope that the issue of women’s’ reproductive rights can be improved in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America, reminding us that our solidarity allows us to also suggest where our friends are going wrong.
The goodwill from First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Julie Morgan AM (a longstanding friend of Nicaragua) was welcome, and Vaughan Gething AM’s chairing of the event was engaging and enjoyable. The challenge for the Welsh left, of all parties and none, is to build on this goodwill and develop a Welsh foreign policy of our own. It would require a leap of faith for Welsh Labour, but would not be going against their history of solidarity with a whole range of causes, particularly in promoting Somaliland, whose representatives were invited by Rhodri Morgan to the National Assembly in 2006. It would also fulfil Plaid Cymru’s international outlook, with potential for expanding relationships with stateless nations such as the Saharawis or the Mapuche people in Chile, both of whom have had delegations to Plaid Conferences in recent years.
The history of the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign points the way to a better and fairer world. The video clips of representatives from Nicaragua’s diverse range of communities thanking the people of Wales, and making direct reference to Wales’ linguistic and social traditions, showed that the campaign has created a space for Wales in the psyche of the Nicaraguan people. If we believe that another world is possible, we owe it to the rest of the world to not hide behind British foreign policy but to forge our own path.