was the most hopeful thing I could send you today. Ron Ridenour
is an LA guy and old friend who's long lived in Latin America and
most recently, Copenhagen, exercising his craft as writer and activist.
My warmest wishes to all, for better years ahead.
From: Sid Shniad
Copenhagen: Morales and Chavez a 'smashing success' -- an insider's report
from the ALBA delegation
By Ron Ridenour
December 23, 2009 -- "Nobel War Prize winner walked in and out of a secret
door, and that is the way capitalism and the United States Empire will end
up leaving the planet, through a secret back door." So spoke Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez from the plenary podium on the last afternoon,
December 18, of the 12-day long Copenhagen climate conference (COP15).
"While the conference was a failure, it, at least, led to more consciousness
of what the problem is for all of us. Now starts a new stage of the struggle
for the salvation of humanity, and this is through socialism. Our problem is
not just about climate, but about poverty, misery, unnecessary child deaths,
discrimination and racism—all related to capitalism", Chavez said at the
Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America (ALBA) press conference
held at the Bella Centre immediately following Chavez' last remarks at the
Bolivia's President Evo Morales followed Chavez' remarks by saying:
Barack Obama said a while ago -- the only delegate to walk in and out of the
stage from a concealed door -- that he came here not for more words but for
action. Well, then you should act by using the money you are spending for
wars against the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, for militarising Colombia
with seven military bases to save lives, to save the planet our Mother
Both presidents, the only heads of state representing eight of the nine ALBA
countries present at COP15, denounced the failure of the Copenhagen
conference in both form and content.
Chavez: "There are no documents presented for consultation by all. The
responsibility is a lack of political will by a few rich countries,
including the host Denmark, headed by the US Empire."
Morales: "There is profound difference between their document [26 rich
countries drew up a so-called `Copenhagen Accord'] and the peoples
fighting for humanity and the planet. This group of friends led by Obama
accept that temperatures can increase by 2 degrees Celsius by 2020. This
will end the existence of many island states; it will end our snow-capped
mountains. And Obama only seeks to reduce gas emissions by 50% in 2050. But
we want and need 90 to 100% reduction, in order to save the planet. Then
they speak of spending crumbs for mitigation and adaptation. The third
theme, which they are only just now debating, is how to set up a system of
controls for monitoring agreements and what sanctions there will be if this
is not done.
That is why we want an International Climate Justice Tribunal that can
sanction failure to comply with agreements, so that we can govern based on
balance and achieve real solutions."
President Morales was referring to one of the five questions -- to be
answered yes or no-- that he proposes for a global referendum on climate
change. The other four are:
1. Do you agree with re-establishing harmony with nature, recognising the
rights of Mother Earth?
2. Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that
the capitalist system represents?
3. Do you agree that developed countries reduce and re-absorb their domestic
greenhouse gas emissions so that the temperature does not rise more than 1
4. Do you agree with transferring all that is spent on wars to protecting
the planet and allocate a budget for climate change that is bigger than what
is used for defence?
At the press conference, and on various other occasions during the three
days of his attendance, Morales posed the problem and the solution to it
thus: "The rich countries seek to divide the rest of us ... by offering
crumbs of money. Mother Earth can't be preserved with money alone. Europe's
food almost entirely depends upon petrol. What happens when there is no
petrol? This dependency on fossil fuel is a threat to humanity, so we have
to change the structures of food. It is a structural problem of two forms of
life: one way of living is the way of over-consumption and waste, the way of
luxury, of egoism and individualism-capitalism. The other way is vivir
bien — living well — food enough for all and living in harmony with others
and our Mother Earth, in solidarity and complementarily."
At the final press conference -- for which I was one of two media
consultants during this two weeks, along with Nick Buxton -- for the ALBA
countries, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela attended. Cuba's
vice-president Esteben Lazo said that socialism offers greater protection
for the Earth than does capitalism:
"Before our revolution, capitalism had nearly depleted all our forests. We
have focused on replanting and now 20% of the land is covered by forests. We
also educate our school children about ecology, and about the ALBA network.
We are founded on principles of solidarity, of human rights and nature's
Nick and I had rushed to put out a media advisory announcing the above press
conference, about which we were informed only 90 minutes before that Morales
would be attending rather than leaving Copenhagen earlier that day as he had
planned. We wrote it in a blink and passed out 200 fliers. At the appointed
time, the press room began to fill with media and delegates from several
countries. Bolivia was the only state, of which I know, that insisted on
allowing anyone to attend our press conferences, in accordance with Morales'
practice of inclusiveness and transparency. The time allotted was 30
minutes. Morales did not arrive on time, which he usually does. We heard
from a top Bolivian delegate inside the plenary that Evo had just gotten an
opportunity to respond from the floor to the rich countries' secret
document, now leaked. Fifteen minutes ticked by and he did not arrive.
Another phone call informed us that Chavez would be following Evo and then
they were both coming to the media hall. Oh, no! Chavez never talks briefly.
We would lose the conference time and 100 people present would be
Use the "dead" time, my experience told me. I asked two Indigenous social
movement delegates if they would take the podium and speak, perhaps about
their movements and the five-point referendum. They agreed. I translated for
them. They spoke of how this very act of taking the podium before their
president's arrival illustrated how democratic the new Plurinational State
of Bolivia actually is. Social movements work hand in glove with the
government and their president -- reelected less than two weeks before with
a 64% majority.
As the activists were speaking, about their movement and the referendum, in
walked presidents Morales and Chavez followed by the Cuban, Ecuadorian and
Nicaraguan leaders. The activists and I calmly walked off the stage and the
leaders took our seats as we nodded to one another.
Morales' entourage of ministers and ambassadors took their seats. They are
known to us as Eugenio, Pablo, Roberto, Ivan, Angélica, David, Rene and not
Your Honorable, Excellency, Minister, Ambassador. When speaking with or
about their presidents, most common people call them Evo and Chavez.
On other occasions -- such as before 3000 persons at the ALBA People's
Meeting held in a sports stadium on December 17, where Morales and Chavez
spoke alongside top leaders from Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua -- the leaders
of the Bolivian and Venezuelan governments thoughtfully thanked their teams
of paid workers and volunteers, and the organisers of political events. They
also praised the activists inside and outside the Bella Centre conference.
They applauded the 100,000 plus demonstrators who mobilised on December
12 -- twice the size of the hitherto largest demonstration ever held in the
Banana Republic of Denmark -- and the 1500 activists arrested
preventatively, nearly none of whom had performed an illegal act. Only two
handfuls were eventually charged with any violation. Several hundreds had
their hands handcuffed behind their backs and were forced to sit on the cold
ground and asphalt for up to five hours before being bussed to makeshift
cage cells. No water, no toilet. This is the treatment a "democratic" police
state can render potential "terrorists" under their new terror laws, which
they deem to be necessary to accompany their imperialist wars.
In addition to these demonstrations, there were smaller ones attended by
hundreds or thousand in several parts of the city everyday. Some were
decidedly opposed to capitalism and its wars. I participated in one in front
of the Yankee Embassy of Murder the day before its president was to receive
the so-called Nobel Peace Prize.
Evo Morales, 50, comes from the people's struggles. He was an amateur soccer
player, a musician, a coco farmer and a union organiser and leader before
entering politics. He is a man of dialogue with his people. I note one
illustration. When he came out of a news conference, the Indian Youth
Climate Network, a group of youth from India, wanted him to hear a song one
of them had written about Bolivia. He stopped to listen to "I wish I was
Bolivian", sung to the tune of "Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel.
"Every day they are stalling and they are saying the same old things again,
But one bright country stands apart,
They're saying things close to my heart,
They've got a plan with hope in hand,
They're saying c'mon, let's just start...
Bolivia, I wish I was Bolivian...
Just one degree temperature rise,
300 ppm in the skies,
100 per cent emissions down by two thousand forty,
Does anyone know the price of waiting?
Fighting, hating, procrastinating,
My future stands in front of me,
While people here make history,
I hope and pray that it will be,
What the world's children wish to see,
We've got to take the boldest steps,
There's work to do; clean up the mess,
The evening before, Morales attended one of the hundreds of side events
organised by people's movements and NGOs. This one was about the Indigenous
peoples of the Americas. He spoke briefly giving plenty of time for
questions and comments from the floor. Anyone could speak and there was no
formality or nervousness before the president.
At one point, Evo Morales said that he couldn't always set in motion all
that we wanted but it would be easier now, given that the Movement Towards
Socialism, the president's party, had won so overwhelming in the
presidential electoral campaign and also now controls both parliament
"Politics is a science of serving the people. I live to serve the people.
Participating in politics is part of assuring our dignity, our traditional
way of life. It is my duty to take your message to the heads of state here.
If I make a mistake, let me know so that I can rectify it.
"I don't think we'll make progress here. We must organise and mobilise all
the more. Not just climate justice activists, but all of us: workers,
farmers, media people, academics, everybody. That is the answer."
Following this meeting, several Indigenous people told me that those are not
empty words. "We always speak out in meetings with the president and we
offer criticisms and make demands. He listens."
Niels Boel, a writer for the daily Danish newspaper Information had one of
two dozen bilateral interviews with Evo Morales. He wrote:
As the police fought against demonstrators ... the world's greatest
activist, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, got off with being chased by the
While he did not go to jail this time, the world's first Indigenous
president knows what prison and torture are all about. He was so treated
under previous Bolivian presidents doing capitalism's bidding. As Boel
Solutions for Morales come only from people's organizations, which can
And that is why I say this conference was a smashing success. Especially
because of Morales and Chavez' anti-capitalist dialogue in those few days,
and the many thousands carrying picket signs displayed during the massive
march that damned the greedy economic system ("Change the system, not the
climate"), capitalism is now on the agenda of many more people than in a
long time. Even some of the mass media could not avoid headlining this
message from the two "bad boys".
"I have heard many debates in the UN where presidents condemn climate change
but they never say -- cowardly enough -- what causes it. We say clearly that
it is caused by capitalism", Morales said in closing.
[Ron Ridenour worked with the ALBA countries' delegation at the Copenhagen
climate talks. He has written widely on Latin America and other political
developments. His website is at http://www.ronridenour.com. This article
first appeared at Tlaxcala, the network for linguistic diversity. It has
been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the
1. ALBA is comprised of: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica,
Ecuador, Honduras (which was not present given the illegal coup d´état
against the legitimate President Manuel Zelaya), Nicaragua, St. Vincent and
Grenadines, and Venezuela.
2. This exclusive accord, rejected by the other nations, is a non-binding
political agreement setting an objective for them to keep a maximum rise in
temperature by 2 degrees Celsius; a voluntary commitment to publicise the
amount of each developed country's greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation
action for developing states; short-term funding for development countries
up to 2012 of $30 billion annually, to increase to $100 billion annually
between 2013 and 2020. (The US alone is spending $1.5 trillion dollars to
rescue the banks responsible for the financial and economic global crisis.)
These 26 countries suggest that there be another climate conference in
Mexico in a year's time.
Post-note: Some institute calculated that the amount of carbon emissions
from this two-week ordeal was greater than some of the island nations exude
in a year. One of the wastes during this failed non-summit, non-climate
conference was the amount of paper used by 30,000 delegates and 3000
journalists and technicians. The official figures published by the UN even
on the first day stated that 8 million sheets of paper were provided. I
guess that Nick and I used 2000 sheets of paper, which we distributed to let
media people know of our news conferences.