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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une balade pour la paix

by By Bernard Duraud

A Walk for Peace

Translated by Carol Gullidge

Translated Sunday 5 February 2006, by Carol Gullidge

A whole embattled world flooded onto the streets of Caracas for a massive demonstration in support of the anti-war lobby and social emancipation on the evening of January 24.

WSF, Caracas (Venezuela)
Special correspondent.

A west wind blew in from Colombia on to Caracas on January 24, when around 100,000 people took part in the World Social Forum’s massive inaugural march. Christened “Una caminata por la Paz” (A long walk for Peace), the march proceeded along the wide avenues of the south-west of the capital, ending in a fireworks extravaganza in the historic Paseo de Los Próceres. Named after the Latin-American Independence heroes, this district is more commonly a base for military rather than political parades. Busloads of Colombians came to join Venezuelan and Brazilian delegations who had turned out in force, along with slightly smaller deputations from other Latin-American countries such as Cuba, as well as from North America and Europe. A whole world of struggling minorities was assembled there, gathered behind a huge banner proclaiming: “No to war and imperialism. Another world is possible. Another Latin America is possible.”

Personalities from every continent

Heading the procession, and expressing the same dream and the same struggle for peace amongst nations, were personalities of every colour and from every continent. One, Brazilian Candido Grzybowski - a key figure in the WSF - explained to anyone who would to listen to him: “We must never forget Porto Alegre [the birth-place of the World Social Forum]”. A new leaf is being turned in continuity and diversity. There was great enthusiasm, and high hopes, inspired to a great extent by the progress of democratic forces in Latin America. This was especially true of the Colombians, who, after jeering at their president “Fascist Uribe” following several months of electoral fiascos, have mobilised unions, students, women, local committees, human rights associations, political parties, and ecologists. Representatives of the international branch of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) also took part in this celebration complete with full-blast acoustics, drowned in a sea of posters and multicoloured flags.

Movements and organisations each detailed their struggle of the moment: women’s rights defenders such as Kambiri (the Afro-Colombian Women’s Association), the Nicaraguan Women’s movement demanding the removal of penalties for abortion, and the Women’s World March protesting against “feminicide” perpetrated in Juarez, Mexico. Other issues included the rights of homeless Brazilians or Venezuelans to a roof over their heads; ecologists seeking fair trade “without Monsanto and without Bayer”; campaigns by young Catholics for the right to work, and by the Latin-American Workers’ Centre for social justice and sovereignty. The list goes on:- young people’s union struggles in Sao Paulo or the MST (Landless Rural Workers’ Movement in Brazil); a Canadian quest for peace in Haiti; the “respect” owed to South America demanded by the Californian George Martin (one of those responsible for United for Peace and Justice); Action Aid International’s campaign against the death penalty in the U.S.; and Argentine solidarity networks.

The Venezuelan contingent relied on local “missions”, the unions - including civil aviation unions, círculos bolivarianos (Bolivaran circles: solidarity groups who promote the ideals of Latin America’s Liberator, Simon Bolivar) and MPs. In particular, parliamentarian Dario Vivas proclaimed with feeling: “Together we’re going to prepare activities that will express the plurality of peoples and unity of thought, here, in Bolivar’s own birth-place. Three cheers for the people marching for a better world!” On this score, the South Americans seemed to have set their hearts on far greater regional integration. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project has some obvious failings because it is perceived to be dominated by U.S. interests. The Argentine leader Emilio Taddei sums it up thus: “We’re against the politics of death that have taken hold on a planetary scale. We want to find out a lot more about other countries’ experiences: anti-war, and pro-stopping-U.S.-imperialist attempts to impose its grip on other nations.”

By Bernard Duraud

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