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LATIN AMERICA
Unity in crisis
2/4/2009
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Indigenous and Afro-descendent activists use World Social Forum to push for their rights.

With the backdrop of a deepening global financial crisis, the more than 130,000 participants in the ninth World Social Forum called for urgent action to protect the most vulnerable populations.

Indigenous and Afro-descendents, many from Andean countries, used the Jan. 27-Feb.1 forum in Belem do Para, Brazil, to slam the “Western civilization crisis” and call for humanity to look for new ways of life and better relationships with nature, instead of merely profits. Organizations demanded respect for and protection of their land, autonomy and intellectual property rights.

“Not only ´other worlds are possible,´ but are urgent,” said the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, signed by 34 indigenous organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean, 21 of them from Andean Community member nations.

The activists called for “unity between Mother Earth, society and culture,” and called for community self-governance, plurinational states, self-determination and unity in diversity.

Afro-descendents demanded the recognition of their lands, social organization, customs and even their own languages.

In an open letter, the social organizations pointed out the positions they have in common with indigenous and Afro-descendant movements and suggested an integration of “our peoples from the bottom up” drawing inspiration from “anti-capitalist” and “anti-imperialist” movements existing in the region for 500 years.

Participants in the World Social Forum, which was created in 2001 in response to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, railed on the neo-liberal economic system for causing the severe global financial crisis, which they had been denouncing for years.

Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela also blamed the financial sector for the economic turmoil and stressed the importance of Latin American integration and social organizations.

“Popular organizations are the base of change in the region and have transformed the Americas,” Lugo said. “We don´t have to make pretty statements, we have to achieve the integration of our people from the bottom up.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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