Caracas–In January, the Sixth World Social Forum will take place on three continents: Africa (in Mali), Asia (in Pakistan) and Latin America (in Venezuela). The Caracas forum is scheduled for January 24-29 on the theme “Another world is necessary, with you it is possible.”
Parque Central in Caracas has become one of many hives of activity in preparation for the Latin American forum. There, Ernesto Che Mercado (El Che), a member of the WSF youth camp national coordinating committee in Venezuela, told Green Left Weekly about how plans for the forum are shaping up. El Che is also a spokesperson for the organisation Revolutionary Youth for Popular Power.
“If you are familiar with the WSF principles, you will be aware that the forum is organised very much along the lines of horizontalism and popular power. The range of social organisations participating is very large and broad. Our role at the WSF will be to host the youth camp … Already we are advertising the WSF on radio and television and will be launching a dossier about the event next week.
“We are expecting a record turnout of up to 200,000 participants at the WSF … It has come to our attention that many of the African WSF participants want to move their forum forward so that they can also come to the Caracas event. We think that this is very much related to the developments in Venezuela.”
The logistical tasks to host such a large event in a country in which the majority of the population is poor, with limited infrastructure and no mass tourism industry, will be very challenging. Yet El Che is very excited that Venezuela was chosen as one of the three host countries, and anticipates that it will help raise international awareness of the gains of the Venezuelan revolution since the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998.
“There is no doubt having the WSF in Venezuela will help strengthen international solidarity and increase many participants’ knowledge about our country and the revolutionary process taking place. The WSF is not ‘Chavista’ or ‘Bolivarian’ in itself — it is international — but our progressive ideas, of which there are many in Venezuela, will be very much represented.”
Organisers of the WSF are working with the Venezuelan government to access resources and support for activities and accommodation, which has posed some contradictions. El Che explained, “I think we still have a way to go to work effectively together with the political parties in government. At the moment they are all focused on the National Assembly elections on December 4. So it is very frustrating getting them to help out with funds and resources. I am sure we won’t have a problem after the elections but that will leave things very late.”
El Che told GLW that “There will be WSF events also in nearby provinces, and as things stand the youth camp will be held at La Carlotta, the military airbase in Caracas, a place that can hold the expected 26,000-35,000 people. Imagine a whole bunch of young people coming to the youth camp with a range of ideas, from anarchism to anti-militarism, and they will be camping at a military site. This could become quite interesting!
“WSF coordinators will provide the security inside the camp, not the army, however the military will provide peripheral security. We are in the process of discussing the issue with army personnel, educating them about the people who will be camping in their base to help avoid the possibility of any unnecessary confrontations. If all goes to plan, on October 31 we will also be sending orientation material to the participating organisations, informing them about the reality of Venezuela and the Bolivarian process in preparation for the forum.”
El Che also raised some concern about possible sabotage from those opposed to Venezuela’s government and the Bolivarian revolution: “The right is pretty crazy here and they have access to a lot of mainstream media. The WSF represents everything they are against: anti-[corporate] globalisation and peace; and gender, race and economic equality, so we need to be extra careful and take security seriously.
“At the moment a beautiful 70-metre long flag is being sewn together from over 100 small country flags, and if my wish comes true, we will be marching through Caracas with our international flag showing our solidarity with the entire planet. More than ever now we need to show our solidarity with the entire world, creating peace and justice.”