Via Campesina: A hero's welcome for a grassroots president
Article by Brenda Norrell
Photos Philippe Revelli/La Via Campesina.
CANCUN -- It was a hero's welcome, with all flags flying for Bolivian President Evo Morales. With jubilant music -- farmers, laborers, workers, Indigenous Peoples, mothers and migrants -- welcomed their hero, a hero of the people.
Flanked by rows of television cameras, musicians and climate marchers, President Morales was honored by thousands -- thousands of people at La Via Campesina! who were barred from attending the official UN Conference on Climate Change.
President Morales is the only Indian leader in the world to press for protection of Mother Earth, reduction in greenhouse gases and the establishment of a climate court of justice.
When Morales arrived at La Via Campesina on Thursday afternoon, a double rainbow appeared in the sky.
"We were continuing our solidarity with President Morales to continue on, to continue for our survival and the future of Mother Earth," said Ofelia Rivas, O'odham, who served as cochair of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples at the Cochabamba Climate Summit.
"We needed to hear his strength. As grassroots people, we needed to hear that strength in his voice. The strength of the people was confirmed by the double full rainbow when President Morales arrived."
Sarah James, one spokesperson for the Gwich'in Nation, from Arctic Village, Alaska, appreciated President Morales' focus on sovereign rights to protect Mother Earth.
"As a sovereign nation, we have sovereign rights with our Earth. President Morales spoke on sovereign rights. Sovereign rights are our very own given to us by the Creator," James said in an interview.
"Climate change and global warming are very real and rapid in the Arctic. We have a right to speak, to stop climate change, because of our human rights, birthrights and sovereign rights," she said.
Surrounded by a delegation of dignitaries, President Morales spoke of the challenges of bringing about change in the official negotiations. Morales said the official negotiators are unwilling to address the real causes of the climate crisis: Capitalism.
"They don't want to change the causes of climate change," Morales said.
"They want to privatize nature," Morales said, describing the carbon market schemes that offer dollars to small countries. "They are bringing more problems with their solutions."
Morales said capitalism is the cause of the climate crisis and the other crisis: The financial, food and energy crisis. Without water, he said, there is no solution to the food crisis. Water, he said, can not be produced from the World Bank's dollars and neither can the food which depends on water.
Morales also described the United States' efforts to spy on, and destabilize the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Honduras.
Ultimately, Morales called for a new movement for the protection of Mother Earth and a new form of socialism.
Speaking to waving flags, cheers and applause, Morales spoke to the heart of the people, as some Indigenous Peoples sat silently or tears fell from their faces.
"The leaders of the world do not suffer what we suffer, they do not feel the pain we feel," Morales told the people.
Before Morales spoke, the Declaration of Via Campesina was read, denouncing the predatory system of capitalist countries. Calling for a halt to the destruction of Mother Earth, Bolivia was recognized for the courage of its resistance.
With chants of "No REDD and Si! Cochabamba!" one speaker from Nigeria's Friends of the Earth pointed out that the official negotiators have been meeting "on the moon, and do not know what is going on, on Planet Earth." Referring to the two-week official negotiations at the Moon Palace, he pointed out that it took only three days in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for the people to create the Peoples Agreement for the Protection of Mother Earth.
Note: The Red Road Cancun video of President Morales' talk will be reposted after Govinda/Earthcycles breaks the 3-hour broadcast into smaller videos. Check back for the link.
In the news: