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Bolivian President Evo Morales on Climate Debt, Capitalism, Why He Wants a Tribunal for Climate Justice and Much More

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Bolivian President Evo Morales joins us in Copenhagen to talk about the UN climate talks, capitalism, climate debt and much more. “Policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment,” Morales said. “And that irrational industrialization is capitalism.” [includes rush transcript]

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StoryDec 16, 2009Bolivian President Evo Morales: “Shameful” for West to Spend Trillions on War and Only $10 Billion for Climate Change
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: We believe in the right of people to protest or to dissent. And we just can’t — I can’t personally understand why we are kept out of the conference.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: The debate between the NGO, the poor people, and the governments is no more possible at two days of the end of this meeting.

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “climate,” you say “justice”! Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!


    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    PROTESTER: The police pepper-sprayed me. I was shouting, “We are peaceful!” And they pepper-sprayed me.

    SUNITA NARAIN: The US has been the major obstructionist force in climate change from the day the crisis began.

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. It’s Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the Bella Center.

It’s just one day before the COP15 UN climate summit comes to a close. The summit has been described as the biggest gathering on climate change in history. And now, ten days after it started, are the talks on the brink of collapse?

The dispute between rich and poor countries, between the Global North and Global South, on key issues, including greenhouse gas emissions and climate debt, remain unresolved. World leaders from more than 110 countries have begun arriving at the summit and are delivering their addresses to the main plenary as we speak. As for civil society, the only thing worse than the endless lines of thousands of people trying to get into the Bella Center are no lines, because civil society has largely been locked out.

Well, just before we went to air today, I interviewed Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Evo Morales called on world leaders to hold temperature increases over the next century to just one degree Celsius, the most ambitious proposal so far by any head of state. Morales also called on the United States and other wealthy nations to pay an ecological debt to Bolivia and other developing nations.

    AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, welcome to Democracy Now!

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Thank you very much for the invitation.

    AMY GOODMAN: You spoke yesterday here at the Bella Center and said we cannot end global warming without ending capitalism. What did you mean?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism — and I’m speaking about irrational development — policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialization is capitalism. So as long as we don’t review or revise those policies, it’s impossible to attend to humanity and life.

    AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to — or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.

    AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, what are you calling here — for here at the UN climate summit?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Defense of the rights of Mother Earth. The earth is our life. Nature is our home, our house. Happily, the United Nations have declared a Mother Earth Day. If the mother is recognized as Mother Earth, it’s something that can’t be sold, it’s something that can’t be — it can’t be violated, something sacred. This is nature. This is planet earth. And that’s why I’ve come here, to defend the rights of Mother Earth, to defend the rights to life, to defend humanity and saving Mother Earth.

    AMY GOODMAN: What does climate debt mean, President Morales?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After the destruction of Mother Earth, it’s important to recognize the rights of Mother Earth. And the best way to recognize this is by paying a climate debt. Second, it’s important to recognize the damages that have been done and attend to the people who have been affected by climate change, people who will lose their island homes, for example, people who will remain without water.

    AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said today, “We can’t look back; we have to look forward.”

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Looking forward means that we have to review everything that capitalism has done. These are things that cannot just be solved with money. We have to resolve problems of life and humanity. And that’s the problem that planet earth faces today. And this means ending capitalism.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also said today that $100 billion would be promised if a deal were arrived at, not just by the United States, per year, but in a public-private partnership with a number of countries around the world, but only if a deal is arrived at. She would not say what the US would contribute to this. What do you say about the US spending on the issue of global warming versus — well, you talked yesterday about war.

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] The best thing would be that all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America. This money would be better directed to attending to the damages that were created by the United States. And, of course, this isn’t just $100 billion; this is probably trillions and trillions of dollars. How are we going to spend money to kill and not save lives? We have to spend money to save lives, not to kill. These are our differences with capitalism.

    AMY GOODMAN: You called the war in Afghanistan terrorist. Are you saying President Obama is a terrorist?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] People who send their troops to kill outside their country, that’s terror. There’s not only civil — terrorists dressed as civilians; they can also be dressed in military uniforms. Worse still if they’re financed with the money from the peoples, from taxes. Of course, every country has the right to defend itself, just as every country can defend itself. But invading another country with uniformed people, that’s state terrorism.

    Moreover, to establish military bases in Latin America with the objective of political control, and where their military base is an empire, that’s not respect for democracy. There is no peace, social peace. There is no development for those countries nor integration in those regions. This is what we’ve lived in South America and Latin America.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to President Obama at these climate talks?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After listening to his speech at the heads of state Summit of the Americas, we were very hopeful that he would be an ally in addressing poverty. Now I’m not so hopeful. Rather, we’re disappointed. If something has changed in the United States, it’s the color of the president.

    So I’ve been called upon, through administrative resolutions, to close unions, or to eliminate unions, when I’m doing exactly the opposite. [translator: “I apologize.”] In the report that was done regarding access to trade preferences under the ATPDEA program, it was charged that the Bolivian government has been involved in suppressing unions, when, in fact, quite the contrary, the government’s been very active in providing infrastructure and support to unions through improving the centers where unions meet, etc.

    Even President Bush did not make any observations about the new clauses in the constitution of Bolivia, whereas under the new administration there have been observations and comments made about the new constitution that’s been drafted, in particular in relation to the management of the gas and oil sectors. This is a clear involvement in Bolivian internal affairs by the Obama administration. At the end of the day, it seems that they’re asking us to change the constitution. This is something that not even Bush did. If we just look at this, this makes Obama seem — look worse than Bush. And the documents are there.

    AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to leave. My last question is: you’ve called for a climate tribunal; what do you mean?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Those who do damage to planet earth and those who do damage need to be judged. Those who do not fulfill the terms of the Kyoto Protocol should also be judged. And for those ends, we have to organize a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations.

    AMY GOODMAN: And one degree Celsius?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] That’s our proposal.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it could be achieved?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Yes. Yes, otherwise it would be a lack of commitment to humanity.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there will be a deal that comes out of Copenhagen?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I doubt it. We’re developing other proposals for my intervention.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s catastrophic that there’s no deal?

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] No, it’s a waste of time. And if the leaders of countries cannot arrive in an agreement, why don’t the peoples then decide together?

    AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there. I thank you very much, President Morales.

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking to us here in Copenhagen. This is Democracy Now!, It’s Climate Countdown. You can go to our website at to read the transcript of what President Morales had to say and also to see or hear the video podcast.

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