The Presidents took part in a debate organized by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST = Movement of landless farmers) and the umbrella organization of small farmers, Via Campesina. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil was not invited to this meeting.
In the debate with the MST, Rafael Correa set the tone at an early stage, when he said that “neo-liberalism is a perverse system that now crumbles.” The Ecuadorian president also said that the Social Forum is part of the solution the world needs and proposed enthusiastically: “The WSF is part of the solution to the crisis. Hopefully, the alternative emerges now from this Forum in Latin America.”
Hugo Chavez argued that the Forum has to leave the trenches of the fight and launch the attack. “The WSF must change its strategy because we are in the phase of attacks and no longer in the period of trench warfare.”
During the debate, called “Prospects for the Integration of Latin America”, the Presidents launched numerous attacks on the “North American imperialism.” Chavez proposed an international trial of the former U.S. president George W. Bush for his alleged crimes against humanity. In the same debate, the freedom fighter Che Guevara was honoured. His daughter was present during the session.
With the new American president Chavez was cautious: “We are still waiting for the performance of the new American government, which faces itself a very serious problem within its borders: the economic crisis.” But he stated that he was not blinded by the promised changes: “The empire is still intact and the president [Obama] has said that Chavez is an obstacle.”
Fernando Lugo, Paraguay’s last year elected President, new in this ‘left’ presidential bloc, welcomed the participation of farmers and indigenous movements as agents of change in the WSF: “Thanks to the social movements in Latin America, we experience a time of change.”
Evo Morales expressed his solidarity with the landless and indigenous people and admitted that he can make mistakes, but promised never to abandon “the struggle against North American imperialism.”
The Brazilian Minister of Agrarian Development, Guilherme Cassel, said that the MST made a serious “political mistake” by refusing, Lula to taking part in the debate with the Latin American presidents. And concluded with the words: “He, who takes part in a WSF debate is open to dialogue and criticism.”
It is clear that the MST is very dissatisfied with the agrarian reforms (or lack there of) during the reign of the Lula administration. And it is also clear that what Cassel said is a farce, because Lula has never been able to handle criticism in a positive way.
Lula will participate in some activities during the last days of the WSF, but none of the MST and Via Campesina, the international organization to which the MST is connected.