Saturday, January 28, 2006

la lucha continúa

Just got an email from a friend who's fluent in Spanish and English. She got a last-minute call to go to Venezuela to interpret at the World Social Forum.

The WSF started five years ago to provide a platform for people and groups opposed to globalisation to meet with others from around the world. It hosts tens of thousands of delegates from a broad range of anti-capitalist, social justice and anti-corporate struggles.

The mass media still don't want to get it, either painting it as scarily radical or - like the BBC saying delegates are there to 'discuss fair trade, debt forgiveness and indigenous rights' - thinking it's merely about Bono-esque tinkering with the fringes of the system.

My friend's ticket out there was paid for by the Venezuelan government! Can you imagine the UK government paying for translators to come to the London WSF?!

the forum is incredible, in the sense of unbelieveable. the most chaos i have ever seen in my life! i am staying in the hilton, which resembles a luxury refugee camp - we are crammed 13 to a room, but every morning they come with clean towels and make the beds!?

and the political stuff is amazing. last night i was interpreting for a group of venezuelan women who have got into politics through the last elections, campaigning for chavez, and who were so shy they would not speak to the meeting, but they would whisper to me so i could translate, and that way, communicate with a radical turkish womens activists. it nearly made me cry!

the day before i was in a conference booth, interpreting for a seminar about the victory of evo morales in bolivia and the nationalisation of bolivia's oil. that was really amazing, a big theatre, totally full. one of the speakers was from petrobras, the brazilian oil company, nationalised by lula, but also a multinational that controls the oil in bolivia. he made a speech supporting the bolivian constituent assembly and the nationalisation of the oil, it was really weird.

the rest of the panel were indians from brazil and ecuador, talking about the new south america, and an end to 500 years of colonialism. the talks had to stop for 10 minutes because the audience got so excited, shouting and stamping. and some of the indigenous women who spoke from the floor were so amazing we had to keep changing interpreter, because it brought tears to the eyse to translate it!

the government involvement is pretty wierd. there are military everywhere. yesterday i was interpreting at a military airport, with planes and helicopters landing on the other side of the field, and lots of indians in full head dress walking around! but there really seems to be a grassroots involvement in politics that i have never seen anywhere. there are stalls all over the place selling copies of all the different laws, and people actually buy them and read them. all the venezuelan people i have met here seem to really "own" their political process, like they feel that it is theirs and they actively take part in it. and murals everywhere, with everything from "viva the revolution" to "pay your taxes for good eduction"!!

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