Bienvenidos, camaradas y amigos / Oswaldo Barreto

Welcome, Comrades and Friends

Among the seventy thousand or more people who'll come to Venezuela to participate in the Caribbean edition of the World Social Forum are some of the oldest and most faithful friendships that I still maintain, spread out over diverse areas of the planet. I confess that each time I was certain of the participation of each one of them in this event I felt they were moving away, decidedly and decisively, from the political positions I share, since this fifth edition of the World Social Forum has been presented by its promoters as an act of solidarity with the authoritarian and oppressive politics of Hugo Chávez.

On each of these occasions a great bewilderement invaded me, since all these friendships have gone on being built, throughout many, many years, on the base of our participation in the defense of those rights and freedoms of mankind that are shamelessly being trampled in Venezuela today.

In effect, we will have among us people with whom I participated in combat against all the tyrannies that have existed in the last half-century here in America, or in Asia, in Africa, or Europe. Militants of movements in solidarity with those who fought against the tyranny of the Shah of Iran or of Augusto Pinochet, the tyranny of the Somoza or of the gorillas in Argentina or Brasil, will come now to Caracas to participate in this forum that's presented as an act of solidarity and support for the tyranny of Hugo Chávez. And, I repeat, this used to confuse and bewilder me.

But I was confused, I was mistaken.

It's just that, when all accounts are drawn, they don't think the man who governs us is a tyrant. Abroad they speak of Chávez as a man who fights against imperialist oppression and fights for the poor. They talk about Chávez in France, in Argentina or Chile, as a fearless and original defender of the cause of other oppressed nations and, above all, as a man concerned about the emancipation and well-being of his own nation. And, correlatively, regarding what we say and do in the opposition against Chávez they speak of a right wing opposition, insisting on defending privileges obtained through a systematic violence, exerted in collusion with North American imperialists.

Well, let them come and see our realities with their own eyes. Let them pass freely through the streets and roads of the country and let them see our president's work.

Let them listen to his speeches and see his charismatic manners up-close, let them share the happiness and enthusiasm that Hugo Chávez inspires in all of us Venezuelans.

Welcome to all participants of the World Social Forum.

Because of national vanity, perhaps trite and patriotic, I would have liked for you to have seen a different reality, whichever one of those that were the worst realities of the regimes that ruled after January 23 of 58, regimes I systematically fought against with the assistance, exactly, of those friends who now come today to manifest their solidarity with Chávez. I would have liked to have served you as a guide through all the roads you might want to explore in Venezuela. Now, instead, besides giving you a welcome, I would like to ask for just one thing: that you speak about what you've seen everywhere, what you've found as reality in Venezuela. And I don't think I abuse any power when I tell you the pages of this newspaper are completely at your disposition. Welcome, participant friends from the World Social Forum.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 20 January 2006 }

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