In the wake of the Summit of the Americas and President Bush’s arrival in Argentina, a People’s Summit is also being organized as a counter protest and thousands have gathered to hear Venezuelan President Chavez speak at a rally. We hear from Nobel Peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel in Argentina and others. [includes rush transcript]
World leaders are meeting in the coastal resort of Mar del Plata. The meeting is officially assembled to focus on creating jobs and promoting democracy but thousands of protesters are gearing up to demonstrate against President Bush’s visit and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas or FTAA. Argentina is the first stop on Bush’s first trip to Latin America since he won re-election one year ago. He will to travel to Brazil and Panama before heading back to Washington on Monday.
Protests began in Argentina three days before Bush’s arrival and a massive security clampdown is in place for the talks. More than 7,500 police officers erected a security ring around summit hotels and patrolled the streets and beaches. Coast guard boats watched the shoreline and air space was restricted. Most schools canceled classes. A People’s Summit is being organized to counter the Summit of the Americas and thousands of people are due to stage a protest rally today that will be addressed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona joined other celebrities late on Thursday aboard a Chavez-sponsored private train headed from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata, to lead the march. Speaking to reporters, Maradona blasted Bush’s visit to the country.
- Diego Maradona, Argentine Soccer Player, one of the organizers of the People’s Summit:
"With my daughter, I will lead the march that we’re going to do with many because he doesn’t value us, he steps on us and yet we have to be at his feet. Not I. Not I nor many Argentines. We don’t agree with this."
The mayor of Mar Del Plata, Daniel Katz, came out in support of the People’s Summit.
- Daniel Katz, mayor of Mar Del Plata:
"It reassures me that Maradona is coming, it reassures me that people come to participate in the Summit of the People, because there is also an attempt to demonise the People’s Summit, that is to say, that the violence will be generated from there. And the architect Perez Esquival said to me from the first day the watchword is to generate consensus, not violence. And it seems to me the presence of respected, popular figures at the front of this march is going to guarantee just that."
Cuban leader Fidel Castro was the only leader excluded from the Summit of the Americas which was sponsored by the Organization of American States. However, Cuba sent a large continegent to the People"s Summit. Among the Cubans participating is Cuba"s world record-holding high jumper, Javier Soto Mayor.
- Patricia Diaz Bialet, who organized a contingent of artists taking part in the protests:
“We artists, intellectuals and writers repudiate the presence of Bush in Argentina. We say "No" to those responsible for the genocide in Iraq and guilty of the hunger and poverty in the world."
- James Petras, author and journalist, Professor Emeritus at SUNY Binghamton. He has written about Latin America for many years and is author of the new book, "Social Movements and State Power: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador."
- Elsa Montero, IMECC, a worker-run clinic in Argentina. She is translated by Gretchen Begley.
- Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentine Nobel Peace Laureate
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to reporters Maradona blasted Bush’s visit to Argentina.
DIEGO MARADONA: [Translated from Spanish] With my daughter I will lead the march that we are going to do with many because he doesn’t value us. He steps on us. And yet we have to be at his feet. Not I. Not I nor many Argentines. We don’t agree with this.
AMY GOODMAN: Soccer legend Diego Maradona. Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is one of the organizers of the People’s Summit as well.
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [Translated from Spanish] The People’s Summit wants to build, not destroy. With violence nothing is built, everything is destroyed. We don’t want that. We came to work. We came to propose. We came to build, because we want our people to be able to live in freedom and with dignity.
AMY GOODMAN: The Mayor of Mar del Plata, Daniel Katz, came out in support of the People’s Summit.
MAYOR DANIEL KATZ: [Translated from Spanish] It reassures me that Maradona is coming. It reassures me that people come to participate in the Summit of the People, because there’s also an attempt to demonize the People’s Summit, that is to say, that the violence will be generated from there, and the architect Pérez Esquivel said to me, from the first day, the watchword is to generate consensus, not violence. And it seems to me the presence of respected popular figures at the front of this march is going to guarantee just that.
AMY GOODMAN: Cuban President Fidel Castro was the only leader excluded from the Summit of the Americas, which was sponsored by the Organization of American States. However, Cuba sent a large contingent to the People’s Summit. Among the Cubans participating is Cuba’s world record holding high jumper, Javier Sotomayor.
JAVIER SOTOMAYOR: [Translated from Spanish] Above all, because of the march on the fourth day to say 'No to the F.T.A.A., no to Bush, yes to the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas], yes to a new and better Latin America.'
AMY GOODMAN: Also, Patricia Díaz Bialet, who organized a contingent of artists taking part in the protests.
PATRICIA DÍAZ BIALET: [Translated from Spanish] We are artists, intellectuals and writers repudiate the presence of Bush in Argentina. We say 'No' to those responsible for the genocide in Iraq and guilty of the hunger and poverty in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by author and journalist James Petras, Professor Emeritus at SUNY-Binghamton, written about Latin America for years. We’re also joined on the telephone directly from the major protest in Mar del Plata by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: [in Spanish] I would like to thank Adolfo Pérez Esquivel for being with us. Good morning.
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [in Spanish] Good Morning. How are you?
JUAN GONZALEZ: [in Spanish] Good, thank you. [in English] We have Adolfo Pérez Esquivel on the phone. [in Spanish] Can you tell us why you are participating in this protest?
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [Translated from Spanish] This is a large march. We have representatives from the U.S. and Canada and from all of the Americas until Patagonia.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Why do you want to participate in this protest? What are the issues?
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [Translated from Spanish] This is the third Summit of the People. We have people from all over the continent, and we are constructing alternatives to hunger, and we say 'No to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, no to militarization.' And Bush is guilty of crimes against humanity. He invades countries, he starts wars, and he ignores the United Nations.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re also joined by James Petras. Could you put these protests in context? You have been writing about Latin America many years. What do you see has been the changes in Latin America now that are making it so much more difficult for President Bush to make a peaceful visit there?
JAMES PETRAS: Well, you have many years, not only under President Bush, but many years of pursuing this neo-liberal agenda of privatization of public enterprises, structural adjustment policies which reduce salaries and generate unemployment and cuts — vast cuts in social spending. There’s a whole series of issues: Promotion of agribusiness instead of small farmers; you have massive unemployment as a result of debt payments and the lack of public investment. There’s a whole gamut of problems, which have emerged from the Washington Consensus of applying this neo-liberal policies which have had the effect of polarizing society between 1% of billionaires and 50%, 60%, 70% of people who’ve been impoverished.
So the demonstrations here are a response to the causes of poverty and unemployment. The official conference is calling for tackling the problems of unemployment and poverty, and this, of course, is the problem that they have created. That is, the governments and particularly the United States. I should mention here very clearly that, contrary to the Financial Times and other media, this is not an anti-American movement. The — first of all, the Latin Americans are Americans in the broadest sense and, secondly, they are attacking a government, a policy, and an economic system. They are not attacking some abstraction called America. They’re really attacking U.S. imperialism, and not the U.S. People.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Petras I want to go back for one minute to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, whose in the midst of the protest that are just happening right now in Mar del Plata and ask if he can just describe the scene right now. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: [in Spanish] Yes, Mr. Pérez Esquivel, can you describe what is happening at this moment in the protest?
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [Translated from Spanish] We are marching right now and we are entering into the stadium.
JUAN GONZALEZ: [in Spanish] Yes, continue please.
ADOLFO PÉREZ ESQUIVEL: [Translated from Spanish] We have delegations from all over the continent, and we have lots of organizations from all over the Americas and from Argentina.
AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined in our New York studio by Elsa Montero of IMECC, a worker-run clinic in Argentina, translated by Gretchen Begley. Welcome to Democracy Now! You are from Argentina. What do you think people here in the United States should understand about the country where the Summit of the Americas is taking place?
ELSA MONTERO: [translated from Spanish] They should understand that all this is really a mask. There’s no possibility of respecting human beings in a system where there is great richness, and it’s owned by very few people. And I just can’t say. There’s hunger all over the world. The ideas of Bush aren’t going to take us anywhere. I think that they have sold him a magic mirror where he looks at himself every morning and he sees his own reality thinking that that’s the reality.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush’s men who are with him are, like Stephen Hadley, are desperately trying to take attention away from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stealing the limelight of this summit. What does President Chávez in neighboring Venezuela mean to you? What does he mean to you?
ELSA MONTERO: [translated from Spanish] Hugo Chávez was in Buenos Aires recently. The movement of worker-won workplaces met with him in Chilavert, and he held out his hands to the Argentineans. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in that invitation that was made to Venezuela, because I was coming here. So we are building relationships and interchanges with Venezuela. And this is very exciting to see what’s going to come out of this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We have only about a minute left, but I’d like to ask you, given that Argentina has been through such an enormous crisis, largely as a result of implementing the kind of policies that the Bush administration wanted, what is the response of the people of Argentina now to having this summit right there?
ELSA MONTERO: [translated from Spanish] It came out in the news this morning that 76% of the Argentinean population does not agree. And I think it’s even much more than that, because there are people that are afraid of saying it openly. Nobody who sees the consequences of what’s happening this our country can be in agreement with the arrival of a killer, a murderer.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us. We will certainly continue to focus on what has taken place in Latin America with the summit next week. Elsa Montero with us, our guest in the New York studio, of IMECC.