A Comment on the FSA of Quito

A Comment on the FSA of Quito

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By Santiago Ortiz Crespo

Thousands of people came by bus, on foot, by bicycle, by plane, coming for their personal interest or on behalf of hundreds of organizations, to participate in this mega event of the Social Forum of the Americas.

Those who arrived discovered that they were welcomed by an open, free, warm Quito and wide streets to accommodate so much testimony of dignity. They discovered that brotherhood and respect for differences were possible here and that, for this time, the "municipal and thick" city was transformed into a school of recognition, exchange, celebration of struggle and joy.

A summer in July that had something of Spring, something of Seattle, Portoalegre, Mombai, Florence. A time to reinvent time, so that life makes its own, a space where many aspects converge, which arrive by opening cracks in the borders. An opportunity to examine reality from new scales and dimensions, to look at the past from another angle and accept new challenges to take on the future.

In many corners of this city, between conventual and modern, voices were heard and faces of a continental civil society were seen that unfolds differently, arousing sensitivities in the skin, in an intense vital, affective, mental and aesthetic experience. An encounter of hundreds of encounters, a dialogue of many languages, a party of multiple shapes, bodies and colors. In this city we gave ourselves the opportunity to get out of our daily nightmares and weave dreams together, affirming in contact, in the sound atmosphere, in the exchange of glances, new ties and friendships.

And it is that for many of those who were here it was almost obvious that the contact networks go beyond the States. But other actors also perceived that it was possible to build an agora in the middle of the globe, as a Peruvian dancer said on the closing day of the event at the House of Culture of Quito "we have been able to gather after five centuries at the head of the Tahuantinsuyo, with his body that came from the south and his extremities "; again the myth of the Inkarri present.

But after the noises pass and the neighbors return to their distant worlds, when the city becomes routine again, when the dense and ambiguous air returns, it is time to gather memories, reveal impressions and put together the puzzle of what which was this little tower of Babel.

Difficult thing, because the one that arrives for the first time to this labyrinth, is lost. An altercratic and hermetic language prevents newbies from having a blog to look at the whole. When the days go by and one loses listening to many gurus and it proves impossible to get everywhere, you find certain paths and meanings.

This meeting of civil society has the form of an informal mass, without a platform and without a central committee, but in its diversity and disorder, it seems to be the keys to its vitality. It is not easy to parameterize uncertainty, even though there is evidence that the time of death has a twilight and it becomes evident, clearing the fog, that an arrogant and planetary power shows itself with all its self-confidence.

Others think that it is time to connect the dots and tighten the nuts so that civil society in the region can organize itself. As a Hindu leader said, recalling the symbolism of the Ghandi march, it is time to go collect a handful of salt by the sea to break the commercial monopoly of the Colonial Empire. It is not known whether an action of this dimension on a planetary scale will still be possible. At least the massive mobilizations for peace have done a lot in recent years.

Because the first thing we love at this time is diversity. The fear of the sordid voluntarisms of the 20th century still weighs heavily. The memory of the "Gulags", the "Pol Potianos" fields or the trails of Comandante Gonzalo. There is still the danger that the plural and creative energy of the social actors will be absorbed in the pyramid organizations.

It seems that diversity has had enough to walk in the region, find new forms of encounter, dialogue, expression, not in the rigid style of the old parties and corporations, but in the miracle of the encounter with groups from civil society and social movements.

Hence, at the center of the Forum is an active concern for freedom, for rights, for respect and democracy. Many came here to unravel discrimination and put their finger on the sore of old and new authoritarianisms, to imagine new citizenships and new forms of government that ensure that the majority should and can speak and decide. In reality, this civil society is jealous of its space and wants to ensure conditions of participation and public expression that empower it as a maker of processes and futures. It is still too early to put such a strange movement on an iron corset.

The concern about power is a point of the storm, round and infiltrates many of the workshops and seminars. It is not about taking a corrupt power that ends up eating away those who are taken; There are many challenges to a central power, to a Center-State, which ends up being a facade of the new Empire.

There are still many roads: the people practice electoral strategies in Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and even Venezuela; in other places the peoples cannot stand and overthrow governments like in Argentina and the Andean plateau. Masses of residents and indigenous people rise up to stop perverse projects, such as the privatization of water in Cochabamba, or the monoculture of transgenic soy in Paraguay or the Camisea or Sarayacu projects, which are carried out without caring for the jungle and the habitat of native populance. There is also the path of Argentine picketers seeking employment while the Landless in Brazil find land.

And throughout Latin America new forms of government are being tested, such as the municipalities of Chiapas or the communal and municipal autonomies of the indigenous peoples of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Amazon basin, who dispute territorial control.

By the way, the problem of resistance is more complex now than in the past. Given the neoliberal denationalization and its violent escalation, it is considered possible to turn democracy into a space of resistance. The task is to dispute the meaning of democracy and renew it, based on new agendas and actors.

A meeting in Quito, a city that is 200 km away. from Colombia and equidistant from La Paz and Caracas could not fail to be marked by the Andean conflict. We are on the scene of all the violence and trials of free trade and militarism for the region. The mountain range is a propitious point to feel the wind of distrust in the institutionality and the whirlwinds of radicalism. It was the Ecuadorian writer Alejandro Moreano who highlighted "a very significant political radicalization", expressed in the FSA march on Wednesday, which summoned 10,000 protesters, and in the support for the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez (IPS).

Another Andean brand is the ethnic presence. The Indigenous Peoples Summit reflected the tension that exists in the páramos and in the Amazon. The transnational power seeks to trap every plant, every cubic meter of air and every centimeter of land. It aspires to expropriate ancestral knowledge and knowledge. Territorial problems occur in various forms and nuances from Canada to Patagonia and we are close to the strategic biological corridor of the Amazon basin. A Brazilian journalist said that the holding of this meeting in the capital of Ecuador put the indigenous movement in the sphere of the World Social Forum with greater force, in a dimension of rediscovery of identities, nationalities and citizenships when nation states weaken (IPS )

But beyond the Andean scenario, transnational politics makes itself felt in many latitudes. The debt grows and suffocates, with new ropes of political and financial colony; social inequity is accentuated in what Boaventura Souza de Santos proposes as social fascism, where there are political rights but the population does not feed itself or have a job; the privatization of natural resources is expanding the field of struggle of the people. It is a global crusade that seeks in an unbridled way to commodify all spheres of life on the planet.

For this reason, in Quito the neocolonization of the hemisphere was denounced over and over again, followed by the North American State, which, as Antonio Negri says, is staging a "coup" to assume all the imperial powers. Hence, it distributes military bases in the four cardinal points, seeks impunity for the new gladiators and traps the National States to reuse them for their benefit. And all this legitimized under the atmosphere of his anti-terrorist crusade.

Speaking to IPS Andrea Borges, leader of the Movement of the Landless in Brazil, said that another central challenge today is the fight against the militarization of the continent that the United States is carrying out within the framework of the preventive wars of the government of George W. Bush. This meeting is also "an alert against the risks of recolonization of Latin America", through the imposition of a neoliberal globalization model with trade agreements in that direction and the installation of US military bases in the region dominated by the mountain range. from the Andes, he added.

When the borders are twisted in the face of nomadic crowds, when the patriarchal, sexual and racist power systems are stirred up through resistance and creativity, behind each of the conflicts emerge the traces of a power that is sustained over the exclusion and social apartheid. Hence, this human magma that marches in the Forums is finding in the interpellation of transnational power and the defense of life in articulating elements of all the resistances.

Apart from consensus, there were also tensions in the Forum: the demand of various social movements to advance in an anti-capitalist struggle, while others argue that a path that has a civilizing dimension is being opened. They speak again of classes, of wage exploitation, but other disputes are also expressed and other forms of oppression are exposed. Is there a conflict that articulates the others or is there a diversity of conflicts? Now that Latin American society has left half the population in its collapse in the informal sector and ethnic, gender, forgotten regions, rival knowledge struggles appear everywhere, it is difficult to find a single logic. It is not easy to integrate into a single cause the struggle of lesbians and gays, that of women and youth, that of Indians and peasants, that of fighters for citizenship and the environment, that of Christians and that of "traditional" social movements.

And that is why the articulation of a single strategy is complex. In multiple workshops and seminars they argue that "another world is possible", but the various alternatives of solidarity economy, fair trade, agro-ecology, food sovereignty, education and social communication have their own clue and do not necessarily find a single conductor thread.

It is still pending what to do in the face of the heavy burden of the States that have given up representing their citizens, how the eroded institutions are modified, what alternatives are found before the school, the union, the social security, pillars of the old modernity. There is still no coherent and unified approach to strategies, beyond certain actions such as the one proposed for October 12. Hence, the central axes of concern of the Forum are often sectoral issues or the exclusive attention of each social movement.

And this diversity is expressed in the debate sessions on critical thinking. In the Forum, several exhibitors focused their criticism of that planetary power that recalls colonialism and dusted off the arguments of Liberation Theology, Dependency Theory, and Marginality Theory to seek a Latin American root that allows developing their own ideas. to challenge the "single thought".

Although there is an attempt to return to Marxism, thinkers too cannot ignore new approaches. If the fruitful critical thinking of the Frankfurt School asked in the 1930s why Nazism managed to control the minds and hearts of the workers, it is likely that today, after two decades of neoliberal thought, it should ask why it managed to become in hegemonic thought and the cynical atmosphere of individualism and Everything Worth! in the population.

To recover creative thinking, it is not only necessary to denounce the perversities of the adversary but also to refound a new way of seeing the world, dialoguing with indigenous knowledge, with feminist thought and postmodern and postcolonialist theories that question universal paradigms, and fostering the lively ecological debate that looks at the spirit of progress with suspicion.

It is a novelty in the Social Forums that intellectuals and academia have had their space and it is symptomatic that their meeting is framed in this puzzle of encounters, where it seems that it arises as a challenge for theory to reflect on those new events that are opening the crowds in the hemisphere. It must also provoke a new communicative and cultural revolution if it really wants to reach the common people of the region with a new language and new ethical, aesthetic and symbolic proposals.

There are other latent questions about the most significant processes of the Latin American conjuncture, since we must not forget that the meeting was held when social leaders began to discuss the meaning of the government of Lula and that of Chávez, with Bolivarian rhetoric. Both act, with different resources, to stop the FTAA and the new WTO rounds, both seek to renew democracy and with their Missions and Campaigns to address pressing social problems. However, the styles and degrees of confrontation diverge, because while in Brazil there is a social fabric built on the basis of organized actors, in Venezuela the social fabric is built between the poor and excluded, in an open climate of confrontation and with a leading role of the State. However, the honeymoon seems to end in both processes and the moment of truth arrives, when they must respond to the internal demands of the population and effective changes, to continue believing that it was worth investing so many years of combative patience.

Other questions people ask themselves What is the role of NGOs. in the Forum and what is the role of social movements? Is it possible to endow these processes with new forms of education? What is the role of art in this phase of crisis of neoliberal hegemony but of absolute market hegemony? How far is it possible to advance if new forms of economic production and other paths for sustainable development are not tested?

Many questions remain pending when "the winds of August" begin in this equatorial country, which, as García Márquez once said, is the southern limit of the Caribbean and the northern border of the Andes. But we must ask ourselves a question for responsibility, as homeowners, what happened to the Ecuadorian organizations and representation?

Perhaps one impression we left on the visitors was the weakness of the delegation of Ecuadorian civil society and social movements. Although there was a considerable delegation from the country and many volunteers who collaborated and in the end things went more or less well, it was evident that 80% of the events and the march were foreign participants. As a young Colombian woman said: "in my workshop we were more Colombians than Ecuadorians". Buses from Colombia, Peru and planes from Venezuela arrived but there was no massive mobilization from the Coast, the Sierra or the Amazon.

The restless visitors dared to ask and some of us were able to try explanations: that "the setback of the indigenous movement in government", that the "betrayal of the Colonel", that the "organizational weakness of urban actors", that "the decline of the public unions ". But what is at the bottom of this weakness? Perhaps it is possible to point out some factors: one of them is the corporate spirit of Ecuadorians, that particularist logic that does not value meeting with different people. Perhaps at the bottom is that esprit de corps, which extols its own "emblematic" symbols and figures, to hide insecurity. Perhaps that foolish attitude anchored in the schemes, which we use to distance ourselves from others. Here civil society is weak while corporations are strong.

Quito was a full setting for this meeting, its geography and architecture amazed those who knew how to look at it, but at the same time its weakness was felt as a dynamic center of a counterculture and of institutional and political processes that respond to the complex Ecuadorian reality. It must be recognized that the Forum was possible because it was convened by the WSF Executive Secretariat, not because there was a prior process in Ecuador. There were no significant preparatory meetings in Ecuador and although there were many self-managed meetings, the shed was run by an "official" who coordinated the events and continued with the logic of renowned exhibitors.

But it must be recognized that this was the case, because in Ecuador it would have been impossible for us to convene ourselves as a civil society. At the end of the day, our virtue and defect is that we have a strong organization at the local level, decentralized and spontaneous groups that make themselves feel five-year-old to dismiss Presidents, but which is incapable of generating a culture and instances of dialogue, respect and collaboration. That parochial attitude is still present, that absence of communication, that cannibalistic culture that we like so much and solace.

For this reason, the FSA was induced in Quito and made little sense in the rest of the country; It was a forum of leading groups on the part of Ecuador, rather than grassroots people. At least that was evident in several of the workshops and thematic meetings. Meanwhile the provinces are on their own, the indigenous in elections and the students on vacation.

But let's get back to the Forum. When we got to the end, in the closing ceremony the news of the death of Nela Martínez was given. It seemed that Nela, that writer and social and political activist, was waiting for the moment to leave. He found it at the culmination of the event, when hundreds of people joined hands singing, in a new witness of brotherhood.

That is when Nela's son, Juan Meriguet, read the last letter on the stand. He wrote it from Cuba, so that we do not forget his love for that island, for that Revolution, which he always defended as his own utopia.

He told us, with his lucid words, to think again about that idea of ​​"Homeland"; not in a cowardly homeland, a homeland on its knees that sings the national anthem while folding its arms, but a homeland that fights for its future, facing the traps that are set for it from the north.

Nela was one of the women who could never practice hypocrisy, a woman too free and rebellious for it. As W. Benjamin would say, our nonconformity does not exist in the present, without the nonconformity of those who left us. It is not possible to let such a rich testimony of a woman's life be lost if the new viceroys and magistrates win in this country.

And his death was like a mark of the Marker, of memory, of long duration, of History. In reality, it seems that only now, when it is seen that "another America is possible" and the great challenges are visualized, is the heavy 20th century just ending. But that possibility depends on what we do, it depends on our knowing how to recognize the other and go beyond the boundaries that distance us, that we know how to build a culture of dialogue, that we gain trust and rebuild the hope that has been forbidden in recent decades. Then, we will be able to leave the darkness of this turn of the century and let ourselves be guided by the arrows thrown into the wind.

* By Santiago Ortiz Crespo

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