Latin Americans look to Venezuela
Published Feb 13, 2005 9:49 PM
Social Forum just held here was filled with debates, including ones about its
Jan. 26 march of 200,000 in Porto Alegre.
Despite the criticism of many world progressives that the WSF does
not meet a revolu tionary standard, the fact remains that it is still an
international forum where worldwide progressive forces converge and can debate
and put forward coordinated plans of action, even if not within the scheduled
forum events. Where else could progressives from Africa and Asia share plans
with their counterparts from the Middle East and the Americas--North, Central
and South? Even those intellectuals who say that the WSF has no relevance attend
The initiation of the WSF in 2001 was an attempt to bring together
worldwide organizations to plan the construction of alternatives to
neoliberalism and globalization. Since its beginning it has been dominated by
social democratic forces, and even funded by many corporations. It is timed to
coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an elite gathering
that became the focus of militant protests.
Originally, political parties
and government personalities were excluded from participating formally in the
WSF. However, left parties and revolutionaries have always attended and held
their own alternate meetings and demonstrations, even within the grounds where
the "official" meetings are held. This year, political parties and more
revolutionary forces were part of the formal events.
Ivette GonzÃ¡lez, daughter
of Rene GonzÃ¡lez, one of
the Cuban 5, opened the
WSF on Jan. 27
The last time the
WSF met in Porto Alegre, in 2003, prominent speakers, mostly social democrats,
held huge meetings of several thousands. This year, the format was changed to
accommodate more events, a total of 2,500, where the largest could seat no more
than 1,000 people.
Spread along the banks of the Guaiba River were huge
tents in what was called the World Social Territory, where 11 different
encampments corresponded to 11 themes.
From 20,000 participants in 2001,
the WSF this year grew to 155,000 people representing 135 countries. The Youth
Camp had 35,000 participants.
Lula and Chávez speak at
Unlike previous years, two heads of state were part of this
year's official forum events: President Jose Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva of Brazil
and President Hugo Chávez Frías of the Bolivarian Republic of Vene
zuela, both speaking at the Gigantinho Stadium.
Lula spoke at the
beginning of the WSF, calling for a worldwide campaign to eradicate poverty. The
Global War Against Poverty, initiated in 2004 in South Africa, will be Lula's
goal for discussion with world leaders in the coming period. Unlike in 2003,
when Lula was newly elected and thousands poured into an open space to listen
and cheer him, this time there was a divided public. Some cheered but others
loudly showed their opposition, reflecting divisions in his Workers Party of
Since his ascent to office, Lula has not met the expectations of
the poor majority, including the well-known movement of the landless, MST. A
wealthy and vast country, with a powerful oligarchy allied to U.S. and other
imperialist transnational corporations, Brazil is an illustration of who really
holds the power.
There were some attempts to pit Chávez against
Lula. The Venezuelan president later called for patience, reminding everyone,
particularly Lula's critics, that Brazil is in a different situation than
When Chávez spoke, at the end of the WSF, 15,000 people
cheered and thousands more who could not get in listened through speakers posted
outside the stadium. He spoke at length about several topics he had raised in a
press conference earlier that day. Entitled "The South Is Our North," his speech
was a stirring exposition of his vision of the future and the steps that the
Bolivarian Revolution is taking to make that a reality.
Some of the
subjects he touched on during both events reveal the dynamism of the revolution,
which he said is centered in five axes or concepts. First, the political, which
he described as the construction of a participatory--not representative--and
revolutionary democracy. Second, the social, or creating a society of equals.
And thirdly, the economic.
This point was especially important, since it
was the first time he addressed it publicly outside Venezuela. He said that it
is "necessary to transcend capitalism. There is no solution [to globalization,
poverty, etc.] within capitalism, we have to revindicate socialism as a project
and as the road to follow."
Later, Samuel Moncada, the new
zuelan secretary of higher education, stated that Chávez's speech
clarified his option for socialism in Venezuela. The focus of discussion there
over the next several weeks will be to define the Venezuelan way, he said, since
socialism has to grow from the real conditions of every country, which in
Venezuela's case is called Bolivarianism.
The fourth base of the
revolution is territorial, which Chávez described as a model of
endogenous development, growing from within. Venezuela has signed important
economic agreements with the international community recently, especially with
China. The 19 accords signed with China include one in which China will build
100,000 housing units for poor people. However, the Venezuelan president
cautioned that the revolution needs to be self-sufficient and not depend only on
The fifth and last concept had to do with international
relations. He stated that Venezuela is dedicated to the construction of a
pluripolar world and the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean.
He mentioned the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas), which
counters Washington's Free Trade Agreement of the Americas with a proposal for
integration and cooperation among the countries of the region. A concrete first
step, an accord recently signed with Cuba, took place in December.
ALBA project is already in the works: the television network Telesur. Orig
inally known as an "anti-CNN," Chávez described it instead as a network
of stations throughout the region and beyond that will bring to vast audiences
the reality and the struggles taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is expected to air next month on an experimental basis.
also raised the kidnapping of Rodrigo Granda last December in Caracas. Granda is
an international representative of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC-EP). Chávez described the kidnapping carried out in his country by
Colombian agents as a provocation set up by the United States to destabilize the
Bolivarian Revolution and find justification to invade Venezuela. He also stated
that, so far, the situation has been handled within the region.
Chávez was forced to recall Venezuela's ambassador to Colombia
after that government publicly admitted it had bribed Venezuelan officers, in an
act against the Bolivarian Republic's sovereignty, in order to kidnap Granda.
However, Colom bia and Venezuela not only share a border, but important trade
relations, and Venezuela threatened to shut down an important pipe line to its
neighbor. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe then called Cuban President
Fidel Castro asking for help to mediate in an attempt to normalize relations.
Cuba sent representatives to help negotiations--a move that is sure to displease
Chávez also sent greetings to the people of Haiti,
stating that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the legitimate president, kidnapped by
the U.S. in the same way he was during the April 2002 coup in Venezuela. He
mentioned that in the last meeting of the regionpresidents, he stated that any
solution to the crisis in Haiti will have to incorporate Aristide, that the
solution could not be in the hands of the United Nations or any group of
presidents--who should not interfere in other nations' problems--but in the
hands of the Haitian people. He proposed a National Consti tuent Assembly, as
was done in Venezuela, where the Haitian people could be consulted freely,
without pressures or manipulation, to decide their destiny.
Revolution needs solidarity from progressives worldwide, particularly here in
the United States. The WSF next year will be decentralized, with five different
forums in five different countries. The Americas Forum will be held in Venezuela
and promises to be very action-oriented.
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