Month: December 2015

500+ attend Latin America 2015

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Over 500 people attended the 2015 Latin America Conference – now in its 11th year – at a packed TUC’s Congress House in London, where attendees heard from ambassadors, academics, MPs, trade unionists, activists, campaigners, journalists and artists at the largest event of the year for Latin America solidarity in Britain.

With over 75 speakers, 24 seminars, three plenary sessions, several film showings, and many solidarity stalls, participants were once again spoilt for choice at the sold-out event.

 

The opening plenary saw Noe Ramirez of Guatemalan banana workers union SITRABI explain the dangers of being a trade unionist in Guatemala, and the continued attempts of multinational fruit firms to exploit workers.

Alongside him, Shadow Department of International Development Minister, Diane Abbott MP spoke in the opening plenary about how progressive governments across the region are meeting their UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs; Cuba is the first country in Latin America to meet all the MDGs) by putting people before profit and investing in health and education. Abbot spoke about global inequality is “out of control” and how we in Britain can “learn from the governments of Latin America, who are liberating hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty”.

“Jeremy Corbyn and I have always stood in solidarity with Latin America and we will continue to do so”, she said.

 

Seminars covered a range of issues, including:

A discussion of the film ‘Nae Pasaran’ showing Scottish T&GWU trade union activists at Rolls-Royce showing solidarity with Chile’s Socialist Allende government and refusing to repair engines of Pinochet’s planes.

The continued integration of Latin America, through the development of ALBA and other new regional bodies including CELAC:

 

The role of trade unions in Cuba in setting the economic agenda in a Cuba Solidarity Campaign seminar with Steve Cottingham, Wendy Emmett, Steve Ludlam and London UNISON’s Linda Perks:

The continued and growing threat of US destabilisation in Venezuela, with a Venezuela Solidarity Campaign seminar addressed by the Embassy’s Marcos Garcia:

Discussions on the political situation in Brazil, where the right continues to seek to destabilise Dilma Rousseff’s democratic government:

 

Elsewhere, Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling joined War on Want’s John Hilary, discuss the threat of TTIP and agreements such as CETA.

In another packed plenary, Alicia Castro, the retiring Argentinean Ambassador to Britain, spoke about how “Fidel and Raul Castro have been central to the progressive wave across Latin America”.

She said “In a world of chaos Latin America is now a region of peace. We stand against foreign and political interventions – and just as Jeremy Corbyn and the Pope have recently said –wars simply bring a cycle of further wars”.

Speaking just days after the left government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner narrowly lost the Presidential elections in Argentina; the outgoing ambassador said “This is by no means a farewell. The struggle continues and international solidarity must continue and will always be needed”.

George Galloway heaped praise on the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, urging people to join the CSC, “the best campaign in Britain by some way”, he said.

On the new US-Cuba relations, Galloway said: “What a fantastic achievement that the US had to come to Cuba. They tried occupation. They tried invasion. They tried attacks, sabotage, killing people, terrorist attacks; all organised by Washington, the capital of the Land of the Free and centre of the so called war-on-terror – but they got a bloody good hiding.”

“According to the normal rules of aerodynamics, a bumble bee would not be able to fly. According to the normal rules, Cuba should have collapsed. But rather than collapsing, it is probably the best loved country on earth – think about that. Cuba sends doctors all round the world; peaceful internationalism; restoring sight, treating ebola in Africa and treating people in the mountains of Kashmir following their earthquake – all of this in the face of terrorism and subversion from the United States”.

Galloway also expressed solidarity with the Stop the War Coalition rally in opposition to the bombing of Syria.

 

Ahead of the final plenary, in the final screening of Alborada’s film festival, attendees saw an excerpt of Patricio Guzman’s Battle of Chile film, about the experience of Allende’s government in Chile.

In the final plenary, Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary of Unite and CSC Chair, spoke of the importance to “maintain vigilance as well as solidarity – we must never forget the coup in Chile” in light of continued interference and destabilisation tactics from the US.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, the Leader of the Labour Party, has spoken at the previous ten Latin America conferences but could not attend this year’s event due to “putting all his efforts into trying to stop war” Diana Holland said, as David Cameron’s call to bomb Syria is being discussed by MPs in Britain.

Chris Williamson, the former MP, spoke in place of Jeremy Corbyn, who said we should “dare to dream of a better world” and spoke of how “Cuba and Venezuela offered inspiration”.

Look out for details of Latin America 2016 next year.

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