Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Grassroots leaders in Guatemala for Americas Social Forum

Grassroots Newswire
Michael Leon Guerrero
October 7, 2008

Catch ongoing news and updates of the GGJ delegation to the Americas Social Forum at our blog:

Delegation of Grassroots Leaders Arrives at Americas Social Forum

U.S. Foreign and Economic Policies Will Be Major Topic as Financial Crisis Infects Guatemala and Central American Region

GUATEMALA CITY -- Thirty-nine representatives of community-based and worker organizations that are part of the U.S.-based Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) arrived on October 6 in Guatemala City. Representing 20 organizations from 8 states, the delegation is here to participate in the 3rd continental Americas Social Forum (ASF). With the backdrop of the spiraling collapse of the U.S. and global financial system, the GGJ delegation plans to meet with other grassroots movements from throughout the Americas to discuss a range of topics including the economic crisis, the environment, militarism, women's rights and indigenous sovereignty.

”It's important that we discuss strategies and alternatives to neoliberal policies of the past 30 years that have driven millions more people into poverty,” says Cindy Wiesner, GGJ Political Coordinator, “For the past 3 decades the problem of this system has been felt globally, now we are feeling it in the U.S. The Social Forum of the Americas provides the opportunity for U.S. grassroots leaders to meet with social movements from the hemisphere and construct a vision to reverse the neoliberal agenda that is exploiting poor and working people across the globe.”

“Our communities in the U.S. have been hit hard by the financial collapse,” says Shirlene Cooper of the New York City AIDS Housing Network, a group working for housing rights for people living with AIDS. “More people are losing their homes. Homeless shelters are filling up. Social programs are shutting down.”

“Another stock market slide yesterday only highlights the fact that the $700 million bailout of Wall Street last week is not the answer,” says Maria Poblet of the St. Peter's Housing Committee in San Francisco, “The problem is a much deeper crisis of capitalism, and saving the rich will not change the lot of most of the people in the world. We need a long term economic plan that puts people first – an economy that's built from the bottom up.”

The U.S. financial crisis is deeply affecting Guatemala and the Central America region. Imports, exports and trade are largely dependent on the U.S. Guatemala was one of the countries that signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) last year. “Clearly trade policies pushed by the last three U.S. administrations have had devastating impacts on the region,” says Che Lopez of Southwest Workers Union in San Antonio, TX. “It is the other financial and social bubble that has busted, we see it in the form of economic refugees forced from their homelands in Mexico, Central America, and other countries, the deepening poverty throughout the hemisphere, the strength of the working class being eroded and protections for the environment being stripped away.” Trade policies will be the focus of discussions at the ASF on October 8.

Roughly 8,000 to 10,000 delegates are expected to come from throughout the hemisphere, many of them indigenous peoples. President Evo Morales of Bolivia is expected to address the forum on Thursday. Morales' administration is under attack by wealthy oligarchs that control the energy rich states in the eastern part of Bolivia. The President has nationalized much of Bolivia's oil and gas resources to redistribute the revenues to the Bolivian population which ranks among the poorest in the world. “The self-determination and autonomy of indigenous nations throughout the Americas are threatened as their lands are being exploited for energy resources,” says Jihan Gearon of the Indigenous Environmental Network,” we need to stand in solidarity with the administration of President Morales and all other nations fighting to maintain their sovereignty and the sacredness of Mother Earth.” The ASF will close on Sunday with a ceremony led by indigenous people.

U.S. military policy throughout the hemisphere will also be explored. “The war and occupation of the Middle East is just one front where the U.S. government is imposing its will and attempting to control resources,” says Stephanie Guilloud of Project South in Atlanta, GA. “The occupation of Iraq is taking a huge toll in human lives in Iraq and the economy of the U.S. The Bush administration has not only directly benefited financially from the war, it has also continued its military buildup in Latin America in order to control resources.” The U.S. maintains 27 military bases in the Americas, more than during the height of the Cold War.

Another major concern is the criminalization of social movements, who are facing renewed repression as they oppose the impacts of CAFTA and other neoliberal policies. “The economic plans of business interests are accompanied by the military plans, Plan Mérida and Plan Colombia,” says Carlos Arriaga of Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas (National Coordinator of Peasant Organizations) in Guatemala, “The same methods that were used under the dictatorships in Guatemala are beginning to be used again today, including intimidation, investigations, even assassinations. The purpose of the militarization is to control the movements that are rising up to oppose mining, water privatization, and mega projects, .” Hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans were killed, tortured or kidnapped under brutal right-wing military dictatorships supported by the U.S. government.

The Americas Social Forum is the hemispheric version of the global World Social Forum process. The WSF was established in 2001 under the theme “Another World is Possible”. Tens of thousands of social justice activists from around the world converge to define alternatives to corporate-driven economic policies.

“We look forward to the next 5 days here,” says GGJ Coordinating Committee member Trishala Deb of New York City and NNIRR, “We know the world is resisting the U.S. empire, and we are here to say there is resistance growing within the U.S. as well. We are connecting across sectors, issues and communities to join the liberation movements of the Americas and beyond, and we are very grateful for the opportunity to learn from and grow with our comrades.”

“We are here, standing, dreaming, with dignity, and a historical memory and vision towards the future,” declared Carlos Arriaga in his welcoming statements to the GGJ delegation.


Michael Leon Guerrero
Grassroots Global Justice/Alianza Popular por la Justicia Global
Phone: 424.772.6410
FAX: 424.675.5419

No comments:

Censored News Special Edition

Censored News Blog Radio

Donate to Censored News

. Censored News is free of advertising and has no sponsors.

Censored News Homepage

About Censored News

Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
COPYRIGHTS All material is copyrighted by the author or photographer. Please contact each contributor for reprint permission.
Audios may not be sold or used for commercial purposes.

"O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold." --Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Faith