March 19, May 1: World actions for peace set

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Calls for worldwide, coordinated peace actions were a hallmark of this year’s World Social Forum, which reaffirmed its commitment to peace and its opposition to “any form of imperialism.” The 155,000 participants from 135 countries who gathered here Jan. 26-31 heard plans for both a Day of Action against the U.S. occupation of Iraq on March 19 and demonstrations against nuclear weapons on May 1. The May actions will take place in New York City and elsewhere in conjunction with the UN’s special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A commitment to a more humane, just, and democratic world order was evident in literally hundreds of events at this year’s gathering, its fifth edition. From an opening march of over 200,000 people — a march that included chants, songs, and scores of colorful banners in many languages calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq — to more specialized panels and cultural presentations featuring struggles on all continents, the quest for peace and justice was omnipresent.

One of the largest panels, titled “The struggle for peace, and against war and imperialism,” was hosted by Cebrapaz — the Brazilian Center for Solidarity with the Peoples and the Struggle for Peace — and co-sponsored by a score of other groups, including the World Peace Council.

Over 1,000 people packed into a huge tent, one of nearly 300 such structures erected on the banks of Guaiba Lake for the WSF, to hear the president of Cebrapaz, Socorro Gomes, welcome them. “People everywhere are pressing their wishes for a better world, a world of social justice and above all, peace,” Gomes said.

“We are gathered here today in opposition to the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq,” she continued. “We are a powerful force. The world is not the same after our global demonstrations against the war on Feb. 15, 2003.”

“We say no to war,” Gomes said. “We say no to torture. We will not be intimidated. And that is why we are calling upon the Security Council of the United Nations to put George W. Bush on trial for crimes against humanity!” The crowd erupted into applause and shouts.

Gomes outlined a bill of particulars against Bush for his lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and his contempt for international law and his war crimes. She urged those present to join Cebrapaz in circulating petitions calling on the UN to formally indict Bush.

Gomes was followed by an impressive range of speakers from at least a dozen nations, including Tran Dac Loi, vice-president of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, and Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly.

Loi noted that, even though 2005 is the “30th anniversary of the defeat of U.S. interventionism in Vietnam,” his country is still contending with the aftereffects of the Pentagon’s use of chemical weapons there, particularly Agent Orange. “Bush claimed there were chemical weapons in Iraq as a pretext to launch his war,” Loi said, “but it was the U.S. that used such weapons in Vietnam. What hypocrisy!”

Alarcon denounced a recently released U.S. blueprint for the takeover of his country. He appealed for heightened solidarity with the Cuban Five, who languish in U.S. prisons for having tried to foil terrorist attacks emanating from Miami against their homeland.

Musa Amer Odeh, the Palestinian ambassador to Brazil, said, “We come to you and ask your support for our just cause. We have no interest in fighting, in killing or being killed. Our only interest is in peace and justice, but we can have neither as long as we have the Israeli occupation, the annexation of our land, and the assassination of our leaders.”

Denouncing the apartheid-like wall being built by the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, Odeh called instead for “a Palestinian state and Israel state living in peace, side by side, in keeping with international law.” He demanded that Israel retreat to its 1967 borders and respect East Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state.

Tadaaki Kawata, a leader of the Japan Peace Committee, said, “This year will see an intensified struggle to rid our country of the 130 U.S. military bases that are still occupying our soil.” He said over 50,000 GIs are stationed in Japan, primarily in Okinawa.

“This year, too, marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed over 200,000 people,” Kawata said. “There are 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. Getting rid of these is a world priority.” He urged peace activists on all continents to participate in joint actions on May 1, especially at the UN, and on Aug. 6-9 to abolish nuclear weapons.

Al Marder, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Peace Council, denounced the Bush administration as “the most arrogant, right-wing cabal that has ever seized the reins of government in the U.S.,” but said that the U.S. people, like people throughout the world, will never give up in their fight for peace. He received enthusiastic applause.

Mark Almberg (malmberg@pww.org), managing editor of the PWW, attended the World Social Forum, Jan. 26-31.



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Global Day of Protest: March 19

End the War * Bring the Troops Home *Rebuild Our Communities*

The weekend March 19-20 marks the two-year anniversary of the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq. After all of the death and destruction, and with the Bush administration claiming a mandate to continue their war, there’s a new urgency and a stronger determination within the global antiwar movement to bring the troops home now.

United for Peace and Justice is organizing nationwide actions on March 19 with a regional demonstration in Fayetteville, N.C.

For more information or to list your action on UFPJ’s web site, go to: www.unitedforpeace.org. click here for Spanish text