Luiz Ignacio, or "Lula," Da Silva, the newly elected President from the Brazilian Workers' Party (PT), marks a breakthrough for the working class struggles and was welcomed at the Anfi-teatro 'Pôr-do-Sol' (Sunset Amphitheatre) to a mass of waving flags and the loud chant of "olé, olé, olé, ola, Lula, Lula."
Forum participants represented a growing grassroots movement against neo-liberal globalization in Latin America because the goal of the FTAA is capitalist and corporate-driven - but paid by the poor. Some of the important leaders heading the governmental opposition are Brazil's Lula da Silva, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and Ecuador's Luz Gutierrez. Additionally, Bolivia and Argentina are fast becoming part of that continental movement against the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA). The latest developments bring together a group of countries and their Presidents that have publicly opposed FTAA as the "annexation" of Latin America. These countries are under tremendous pressure by the U.S., the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to cave in and accept the rules of FTAA and "fall in line."
More than 150,000 people, including delegates from 156 countries, observers, press, and activists from all over the world participated in the Forum. It gave us a new way of talking to each other, a new way of sharing our experiences; the impact was extraordinary.
A strong and sizeable delegation was present from the United States. Previous delegations to international arenas have been Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and policy groups, not grassroots efforts. To change this scenario, about 20 organizations met last year in Chicago to organize an effort to take a big delegation of grassroots organizers and activists to the Forum. The Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) as the organized group was called, not only planned taking the delegation to the Forum but to organize once back home in the United States.
The World Social Forum has been held in Porto Alegre, Brazil for the last three years. The Forum grew in opposition to the World Economic Forum (WEF) where the richest nations meet to decide the economic world policies and rules. The WEF is dominated by the G-8 (the eight most powerful nations), as is the world economy. The World Economic Forum is usually held in Davos, Switzerland, although last year New York City hosted it. The World Economic Forum has played a strategic role in formulating the thinking that promotes and advocates neo-liberal policies throughout the world and is funded by more than 1,000 multinational corporations. The next World Economic Forum will be held in India. The 2005 World Social Forum will return to Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Locally, San Antonio will host a social forum later this month.
In the spirit of the World Social Forum III, Southwest Workers Union (SWU) will hold a South Texas Social Forum on Globalization in San Antonio from March 28-30. The conference will focus on uniting the organizations and activists who are interested in doing work against globalization in particular the FTAA and the NAFTA. The San Antonio conference will link up with the Grassroots Global Justice and COMPA efforts on the continental movement. The FTAA conference will take place at UTSA-Downtown campus. For info call Co-Director-Che Lopez or, Ruben Solis at SWU 210 299 2666 or, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.swunion.org
Later this year, from October 11-12, the SWU plans a U.S.-Mexico Border protest against globalization. U.S. organizations included the Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice, Southwest Organizing Project and SWU. To combat the negative effects of NAFTA and FTAA and the globalization plan of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice and its affiliated organizations, including Southwest Workers Union, organizes a border-wide U.S.-Mexico protest every year
Genaro Lopez is Co-Director of Southwest Workers Union and Ruben Solis is an organizer and founder of SWU.