Representatives of the Organizing Committee of the World Social Forum (WSF) met yesterday, November 10, with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
According to the Forum’s press office, the meeting with Lula was to confirm that the event will be held in Porto Alegre, in the South of Brazil, in January, 2005, and show the President the WSF’s new organization, designed to orient the debates and political articulation towards more concrete proposals.
The WSF, which met for the first time in 2001, constitutes a space for debate and the formulation of alternatives to neo-liberal policies.
The event is non-governmental and nonpartisan in nature. After three editions in Porto Alegre, the 2004 Forum was held in Mombai, India. Next year it will return to its place of origin.
The Forum’s Organizing Committee is made up of eight entities: The Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (Abong), the Pro-Citizens Movement for the Taxation of Financial Transactions (Attac), the Brazilian Justice and Peace Commission (CBJP), the Brazilian Association of Entrepreneurs for Citizenship (Cives), the Workers’ Central Union (CUT), the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (Ibase), the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), and the Social Network of Justice and Human Rights
US, the Evil Empire
At the last World Social Forum the United States was the main target for criticism. The meeting was marked by harsh criticism to what was called the US imperialist project and the neoliberal policies it has imposed to the world.
Aimed at by nine speakers, US foreign policy was held accountable both for the loss of thousands of lives in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine and for the increase in poverty, inequality and human rights violations in developing countries.
The issue was vehemently pointed out by Iranian lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shireen Ebadi.
At the same time, the WSF was considered as the main opposition force facing the “neoliberal empire”, for it has become popular all over the world and gathered an increasing number of social actors able to strengthen each other and challenge the “empire’s interests”.
In most speeches, the main points were the situation in Palestine and Iraq. To Mustafa Barghouti, one of Palestine’s main social leaders, the military might of countries like the US and Israel is superseding democratic institutions and controlling even the media and world public opinion.
“The “wall of shame” (aimed at separating Palestinian and Israeli territories) envisaged by the Israeli government means a sure death to the Palestinian people. Seventy percent of Palestinians already live below poverty line. Not resisting occupation is like asking a woman not to scream as she is raped”.
Appealing to the solidarity of WSF participants, Barghouti reminded them of the struggle for independence in India and South Africa’s apartheid. “There’s no room for neutrality”, he sustained.
Elected years ago as one of the eight most beautiful women in the word by People magazine, writer Arundhati Roy made the toughest speech against the US.
Linked to India’s most radical movements, she said that the poor and the terrorists have been levelled by American policy. According to her, American imperialism is becoming both a world police force, by using power and weapons, and an economic power, through the might of big multinational corporations and by imposing the neoliberal economic model to the world.
“No country in the world is off the aim of American missiles. But the new genocide is now carried out above all through economic power. Discussing imperialism is like discussing the pros and cons of rape”, Roy sustained.
And she concluded by saying: “the new American project wants injustice and inequality. We want justice. So let us considered ourselves at war”.
Agência Brasil & Agência Carta Capital