THE World Forum of Intellectuals and Artists in Defence of Humanity concluded on December 6 with the Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, reading "The Caracas Declaration". The Declaration focuses on the urgent need to build up global resistance to the dangerous policies of the George W. Bush administration and the forces of globalisation, symbolised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Esquivel, who won the Nobel for his role in highlighting human rights violations in Latin America, said that it was the duty of everyone to work intensely and unitedly to "put the ideas concluded in this forum to work, let's make it a reality".
Several other intellectuals, artists and political leaders from various corners of the world were present in Caracas. They included Prakash Karat, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Atilio Boron, the internationally reputed Mexican political theorist; Ignacio Ramonet, an editor of the French monthly, Le Monde Diplomatique; Tariq Ali, Pakistan-born British author and political activist; Danny Glover, Hollywood actor and champion of progressive causes; Ramsay Clark, former United States Attorney General, who has been championing the cause of peace since the late 1970s; Alice Walker, the American novelist; Daniel Ortega, former Sandinista President of Nicaragua and now the leader of the Opposition in the country's Parliament; and Ernesto Cardenal, the Nicaraguan poet and activist.
Cuba was represented by a high-profile delegation, which included the Minister of Culture, the Speaker of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, and the senior Scientific Adviser to the Cuban government and President Fidel Castro's son, Fidel Castro Diaz -Balart. "Castro will forever be with us," joked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the opening ceremony. At the concluding session, the first dignitary Chavez singled out for special mention was the veteran revolutionary and statesman, Ahmad Ben Bella. The first President of independent Algeria, now in his eighties, was an active participant in the Caracas meet.
THE Caracas Declaration states that the world is living through an era in which the "United Nations' decisions are not respected, international laws have been broken, and the basic principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations - and the concept of sovereignty itself - have been lost". It points out that the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war are being routinely violated and that an illegal jail has been constructed in the usurped territory of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The document takes serious note of the ongoing devastation being wrought in Iraq, the continuing suffering of the Palestinian people and the intervention of the "superpowers" in the African continent. All this, the document affirms, reveals the intention to "impose through blood and fire, a world based on force".
It notes that the main objective of the new wars is the appropriation of natural reserves of hydrocarbons and other natural resources of the least developed nations. "Part of this hegemonic project is the collection of an illegal foreign debt and the attempt at economic annexation of Latin America and the Caribbean, through the FTAA and other trade and financial accords, damaging possibilities for independence and real development."
The Caracas Declaration criticises the notions of "pre-emptive war" and "regime change", which have been proclaimed as official policy of the U.S. government. These policies are being used to threaten all countries that do not submit to "imperial interests" or have "specific strategic interests". The recent U.S. intervention in Haiti is cited as an example.
Expressing solidarity with the people of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and other people resisting occupation and aggression, the Declaration says that the urgent need of the moment is to "mobilise solidarity with Venezuela, Cuba and other popular causes in Latin America". The document condemns terrorism, but rejects the characterisation of people's resistance struggles as "terrorism" and the aggressive acts committed by the oppressors as "war against terror".
The Declaration disapproves of the military industrial complex wasting "incalculable financial resources" while a "silent genocide" is taking place every day owing to hunger, extreme poverty, curable illnesses and epidemics. "The absence of effective proposals for real solutions to these problems is another sign of the dehumanisation that characterises our era."
The role of international financial institutions and organisations comes in for sharp criticism. "The dominant economic system generates the commercialisation of intellectual production, privatises it, and turns it into an instrument to perpetuate the concentration of wealth and the domestication of consciousness. We must stop the WTO [World Trade Organisation] in its obsession to transform the world into commodities by annihilating cultural diversity."
Another issue addressed by those gathered in Caracas was the role of the mass media. "The concentrated ownership of the mass media has made freedom of information a fallacy. The power of media, at the service of a hegemonic project, distorts the truth, manipulates history, foments discrimination in all forms and promotes a resignation to the current state of affairs, presenting it as the only possible option," the Declaration states.
The participants at the Forum were unanimous that it was necessary to immediately go on the offensive by taking concrete actions. The first step was the announcement of the creation of a "network of networks" which would unite intellectuals and artists with popular struggles and social forums, guaranteeing the continuation of these efforts and linking them in an international movement "in defence of humanity".