With the symptoms of social and environmental crisis all around us — runaway climate change, Third World poverty, seemingly endless wars — it is sometimes easy to feel discouraged about our ability to change “the way things are”. We can forget that millions of ordinary people have many times over said “enough is enough” and come together to take action to change history.
Today, in one continent in particular, those powerful forces are fighting, and winning, many battles for a better life for the majority. Across Latin America, people’s movements are challenging the plunder, war and injustices of the old system, toppling neoliberal governments, and starting to construct alternative ways of living.
The Venezuelan revolution’s “socialism of the 21st century” is building on the Cuban revolution in proving what popular power can achieve. The indigenous people of Bolivia, led by indigenous President Evo Morales, are challenging the West’s “business-as-usual” response to climate change.
In El Salvador, Nicaragua and around Central America, after decades of civil war, people’s struggles for genuine democracy are deepening. In Ecuador and Uruguay, workers and indigenous people are fighting for, and winning, progressive change.
United States imperialism is scrambling to maintain control of Latin America. In the past 18 months, it has orchestrated a coup in Honduras, moved to establish new military bases in the region and poured millions of dollars into shoring up the corrupt old elite. But the poor are fighting back, and gaining ground.
To learn more about and build solidarity with these people’s power movements, two Latin America Solidarity Conferences will be held in Australia next month. In Melbourne, the Latin America Forum-Victoria is hosting a conference on October 8-9 and in Sydney, the Latin America Social Forum’s conference is on October 16-17.
The two conferences will be addressed by an outstanding range of guest speakers from Latin America, including:
• Alina Ganaviri Sullcani, a leader of the National Federation of Indigenous-Peasant Women of Bolivia "Bartolina Sisa". Sullcani is also a member of the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) and was a candidate in the 2009 election.
• Dr Guillermo Mata Bennett is a member of the lower house of El Salvador’s national parliament and a former president of the Medical Association of El Salvador. He was the vice-presidential candidate for the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) in the 2004 elections.
• Washington Belleti, a former political prisoner and member of the National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (MLN-T), and Viviane Larfitte, will represent Uruguay’s Movement for Land and against Poverty.
Developments in Guatemala will be addressed by Edgar Jimenez, professor of political economy and economic history, and former secretary of the Workers Union, at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. Jimenez was also co-founder of the Central America and Mexico Trade Union Federation and a leader of Guatemala’s Autonomous Trade Union Federation.
Jorge Gonzalez Castillo, president of Chile’s National Federation of Forestry Workers and a member of the Chilean Communist Party central committee, will attend, as will Palmenio Poveda, a representative of Fensuagro, the main campesinos (peasants) federation in Colombia.
From Venezuela, Gonzalo Gomez, a co-founder and current editor of Aporrea.org, has been invited. Gomez is also a leading member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela founded by President Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela’s ambassador to Australia, Nelson Davila, will also attend.