World Social Forum 2009: A very presidential forum

29 January 2009 - 8:58pm

The presidents also stressed the importance of realising two crucial goals: the creation of a Bank of the South and the development of a single currency for Latin America. They also called for a review of the Organisation of American States, a regional body which currently excludes Cuba.

With his trademark humour, Hugo Chávez spoke about the enormous changes occurring in Latin America. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that four presidents of such a distinct backgrounds - an indigenous Aymara, a former bishop, a former general and an academic - all struggling for a socialist Latin America? All four leaders said that countries in the global North had only themselves to blame for the financial meltdown - and that they would bear the brunt the crisis. The presidents also openly charged the US with being complicit in the killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli army. Evo Morales struck a slightly softer tone by saying that all Latin American countries have to take some responsibility for ending US interventionism in their countries, while Chávez boldly declared that Bush should be tried by the International Criminal Court for genocide.

The next speaker, Ecuadorian President Fernando Correa, began by promising to keep to the 20-minute limit. (Chávez, notorious for speaking his long-winded speeches, was forced by the chair, a representative from CTA, to keep it short, which provoked laughter amongst the audience and the panel, including Chávez himself.) The meeting ended with an impassioned interjection by João Pedro Stedile, the chair of Via Campesina, who accused all four of the presidents of not doing enough for their people. He said: 'you give good speeches but they need to become real; you must commit yourselves with actions. In your hands rests the responsibility of uniting Latin American peoples and for that they need to respect each others' differences and focus on only one goal, the building of a socialist Latin America, as they have said.'

In a fitting end, just as Chávez was leaving a member of the Palestinian Farmers Union gave him a traditional Palestinian scarf.



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