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[Nettime-bold] attac news from porte alegre

ATTAC newsletter live from Porto Alegre
Saturday 02/02/02

You can find articles, photos and interviews on

The Arab World is at Porto Alegre
By Guillaume Bertrand
Translated by Chris Arden, volunteer translator

Militants from Arab countries were absent last year but they are well
represented this year and they have mainly focused on the question of how to
strengthen the specific demands of Arab organisations within the global
social movement.

The first subject discussed was the planned calendar for future World Social
Forums. Nothing has yet been decided at Porto Alegre and within the Social
Forum but there is a project which seems to have the support of Arab
countries: organising an Arab Social Forum before or even at the same time
and as an echo to the next World Social Forum in 2003.

Several hypotheses were examined without, however, any decisions being
taken. Some Brazilian organisations even went so far as to suggest holding a
World Social Forum in Jerusalem. The main preoccupation of the Arab
associations is definitely that they want to watch out for the impact that
the organisation of such a meeting would have on the local militant
situation and the urgent need to improve the living conditions of the
populations and of the Palestinians in particular.

In that sense, organising a summit in Palestine seemed to be the boldest
proposal in terms of the pressure it could apply on the Israeli authorities.
However, this idea turns out not to be very realistic, given the situation
in the occupied territories. The proposal that the forum could be held in
Beirut was presented as the most likely solution in terms of there being the
capacity to welcome as many organisations as possible.

There was also discussion of the form the World Social Forum should adopt in
the future and fears were expressed that it might become even more
institutionalised; there was a clear determination that the WSF should
continue to be a space for as wide-reaching a debate as possible.

Amongst the subjects that raised the greatest anxiety the two main issues
were the question of the Palestinian people's cause and the crusade launched
by President Bush:

- Regarding Palestine, the message that the Arab movements want to get
across during this World Social Forum is to show just how the Palestinians
are being deprived of their rights by the Israeli occupation of their

- For the Arab militants, the events of September 11th have been a bitter
blow for the image of Moslem people and have contributed to widening the
divide between them and westerners. In this context the defence of liberty,
economic and social rights as well as women's rights continue to be the
essential issues. The debate then widened with the Brazilians and French in
the room to encompass two main subjects :

- In the end, whether one is dealing with the struggles of the Palestinians
or the emancipation of Latin-American civil society, it's the same fight
against the same model and it's very important to bring our struggles
together to overcome this oppression.

- Next spring there will be a summit in Valence on economic partnership
between European Union countries and the countries around the Mediterranean
(Euromed). A rendezvous was agreed on during the World Social Forum between
the organisers of these countries in order to ensure greater convergence of
the initiatives which will be taken on the fringes of the Euromed summit.

Reporter's Notebook
By Louis Sallay
Translation: Leah, volunteer translator,

Sailboats and saucepans--everything's turned upside down.

A return to reality against a soundscape of clanging cookware. Determined to
stir things up in the IMF's kitchen, Attac Argentina bursts onto the scene,
banging its pots and pans. They say words have meaning. Agreed. But does
meaning always find words to express itself? It's hardly a sure bet. And in
Porto Alegre, things are turning out to be curiouser and curiouser.
Yesterday's demonstrationstraight out of Alice in Wonderlandproves the
point. You know what marching is about, of course, even if you've only been
on a few. All you have to do is follow the people ahead of you who are
following the people ahead of them. Simple as child's play!

Except in Porto Alegre, it's not. Wherever you turn, nothing is what it
seems. It's all confused and tangled. Here demonstrating has been raised to
a high art of urban navigation unlike anything you've seen elsewhere.
Whether it's because the streets are so cramped, or because the
demonstrators have mastered a complicated choreography, everyone weaves in
and out, criss-crossing each other like Maypole dancers. Don't worry,
though, because everyone ends up at the same place.

Still, there's that anxious moment when you're moving forward and find
yourself intersecting thousands of others who are also moving straight
aheadbut they're going in the opposite direction. In short, you're looking
at the people marching behind you! What a brilliant trick;you get to size up
the length of the parade behind you even as the marchers' smiling faces pass

The rising and falling tide leaves you dizzy. Swept away by the crowd, you
seek refuge on the nearest desert island, hooking your anchor on a leafless
tree. Moored there, you count the wavesgreen, red, rainbow. Suddenly, just
when you think you've shaken off the jet lag and the effect of the dangerous
lemon punch someone keeps pouring into your glass, here it comes: the
inevitable, killer seasickness. Ever since the World Forum of Fishermen
passed by holding their banner, this ocean's
swells have been mounting.

I'm not talking about one of those tiny sloops fated to be tossed about on
the seas. It's more a general sense of motion and movement. Because thanks
to the music, waves of bodies remain in motion even when the parade comes to
a halt. They may not be walking, but their legs are still moving. With the
first chorus of ;Yo soy un hombre sincero; hips start to swivel. The rhythm
reaches out, surrounds you, holds you in its clutches and your head starts
to spin;Doctor, doctor, what can I do? I feel sick; There's nothing you can
do, just hold on ; Especially when you shiver, hearing the echoing
;Commandante Che Guevara; It's heaving and rolling and then, come what may!
the tide blots out;beneath the pavement-the-beach--the footprints of the
dreamers, awakened.

Yes, indeed, there's the wake-up call. A return to reality against a
soundscape of clanging cookware. Determined to stir things up in the IMF's
kitchen, Attac Argentina bursts onto the scene, banging its pots and pans
noisily. You follow the sound of the pots and pans. Their persistent ringing
speaks of hunger in the world. Their verses sing of the end of one world and
promise a new recipe for a different one. Off you go, once more, everything
upside down. And the ship sails on!

Louis Sallay


When farmers gather
Words recorded by Julie PAGIS on January 31
Translated by Jean-Paul Schermann, volunteer translator

This article reports on talks which were heard during two events: a first
large meeting of Via Campesina in the Capucin convent during the night of
January 31 (first part) and the following morning in the Teshurina gymnasium
where farmers from different movements of Via Campesina are camping (second

Summary and context : This article reports on talks which were heard during
two events: a first large meeting of Via Campesina in the Capucin convent
during the night of January 31 (first part) and the following morning in the
Teshurina gymnasium where farmers from different movements of Via Campesina
are camping (second part).

About 200 farmers coming from all parts of the World, from Nicaragua to Sri
Lanka through Lebanon and India gathered during the evening of 31 in the
Capucin convent which is also the Head quarter in Via Campesina. Rafael
Alegria, (president of Via Campesina, V.C) chaired the meeting, with some
heads of the main represented movements among which, of course, the MST
(Mouvement des Sans Terre, Movimento das Trabalhadores Sem Terra) with its
head, Joao Pedro Stedilea, representative of the Focus on the Global

South organization; Nicolae, a representative of Food First and Christophe
Aguiton for ATTAC. The theme of alliances turned out to be central. In fact,
several speakers emphasized this necessity of opening. Rafael Alegria had
already proposed them at the end of his opening talk to set up a delegation
gathering not only actors of Via Campesina but also from other organizations
(unions, social movements) in order to think about the final release to be
presented on February 4...

The will, the necessity of alliances will thus be expressed all along the
meeting: Paul Nicholson (representative of Via Campesina for Europe) ended
his talk emphasizing the fact that Via Campesina has an important role as a
rallying movement. It must thus be opened and join other organizations of
the movement .

Christophe Aguiton went further: Since two years, we have set up a policy of
alliance with unions, social movements and Via Campesina and we have seen,
in particular in Genova, the rallying power it now represents. This policy
of bringing together is decisive. Christophe will also insist on the
importance of gatherings such as Porto Alegre in order to build the agendas
of future actions to be performed together.
Nicolae (representative of Thailand for Focus on the Global South) will then
talk about the importance of Asia in FSM: The main différence with respect
to Porto Alegre 2001 is that there are many more representatives of Asia,
around 40 coming from different countries, from Sri Lanka to Thailand
through India. An Argentinian representative speaking about the Argentinian
crisis: it is very important since it has become a massive claiming of the
people against the debt. It is in fact a link in between three
fights: fight for debt cancellation, fight for rejection of Free Trade
Agreements and finally struggle against repression of social movements.

>From Middle East, a farmer from Lebanon talking about the forum: this place
allows for this exchange and the role of Via Campesina is to let everyone
become aware of the fundamental link which exists between farmers,
agriculture and others in the World.
Just to provide a last talk which summarizes the spirit of this ensemble of
speeches, a farmer of Zimbabwe said: this is a process of links, exchanges
in between continents and in between sectors. Other themes, more relevant to
Via Campesina were evoked, such as the necessity for land reforms in many
countries (principal topic of this forum according to the president of V.C),
the fight for food sovereignty , fight against patenting of living bodies
and privatization of natural ressources or, finally, the
necessity of excluding agriculture from WTO negociations. But I would like
to here emphasize this idea of alliance which underlined the majority of
speeches. On the next morning, it is in the Teshurina gymnasium, camping
site expecting around 2000 farmers from Via Campesina were I collected some
new words from farmers.

In the bus which brings us there, Yves Manguy, former speaker of the
Confédération paysanne, discusses with a trade unionist (but not a farmer
union): one feels that everyone is moving somewhat out of its ghetto. In the
gymnasium, it is time for settling. Each country occupies a fraction of the
tiers which become full of colours and banderoles. There will sleep farmers
from 6 countries: Argentina, Paraguay, Chile,Uruguay, Peru and, of course,

Miriam Taluri, a Chilean woman from ANMURI (Agrupacion Nacional de Mujeres
Rurales y Indigenas) tells me: we are women, country girls and moreover
natives. We work with Aymaras, Mapuches whether they are farmers or seasonal
Among the 22 representatives of Red Puna ( Argentinian farmer union),
Froilan, to whom I ask which is the main reason why he came, answers me:
neo-liberalism has consequences for everyone, but even more for the most
poor peoples and we are here to fight against this.

Furher down, we start discussing with Paraguayans from MCNOC (Mesa
Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Campesinas). Quite rapidly, Rodolfo tells
me that they are against GMO and that, us, we use seeds that our fathers
inherited from their fathers who themselves inherited them from their
fathers. This is thus with my mind full of words from farmers that I left
the gymnasium, leaving farmers from the MST ( who arrived today 01\31 in 40
buses) to settle in turn.

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