“It’s important we walk together”: Manchester hears from Latin America

Article published: Sunday, February 10th 2013

In a bid to bring solidarity between Manchester and Latin America a one-day school was organised to hear from Latin American groups fighting repression, climate change and exploitation. Kerry Slater reports back.

Filmmaker Ana Lucia Cuevas

Filmmaker Ana Lucia Cuevas

Despite harsh weather there was still a large turnout, with workshops not having enough seats to accommodate everyone. One popular workshop was entitled “Social Movements : Organizing and Resisting in the Context of Repression”, which had two speakers who had lived in and were still fighting repressive regimes. These where Dina Meza, a Honduran journalist and Berenice Celeita, director of a human rights NGO based in southwest Colombia.

Both discussed the repressive regimes of their countries, which have perpetuated human rights abuses such as death threats, the hacking of phones and computers and the disappearance of protesters. Many disturbing statistics came to light, such as the fact that over 30 Honduran journalists had been assassinated and that Colombia had one of the worst torture rates in Latin America.

The women emphasized that the aim of the workshop was to inform the world of these atrocities and to build a global network of support. Dina Maza stated, “I feel this warmth you give me, this warmth of solidarity and this is very important to us as Hondurans. It’s important that we walk together and have this international accompaniment.”

Independent film director Ana Lucia Cuevas ran two popular workshops. One looked at her film “The Echo of the Pain of the Many”, which documents how opponents of the military regime which formerly ruled Guatemala were disappeared. The session explored her production and distribution methods, in the hope that other people would be inspired to make their own independent films.

Cuevas’ second workshop was on her home country of Guatemala, looking at its history and politics, both formal and informal. She said, “The general idea of this day is to draw lessons from what has happened and what is going on in Latin America and how we can apply it to Manchester.”

When asked what Manchester can learn from these workshops, she replied “That people have the power if they want to. That there are more of us that want a different reality, than those who want to impose on us a different one.”

Another workshop was entitled Cuba- An Eco-socialist Renewal? The aim of this workshop was to educate the public on Cuba’s environmental and economical situation and how Cuba’s attitude towards both subjects could be a lesson to Britain.

One of the speakers, Economist Emily Morris, explained how, economically, Britain could learn from Cuba’s struggles. She said “Cuba suffered huge austerity when the Soviet Union collapsed and rather than having economists come in and tell them they had to make spending cuts, the question was turned the other way around. ‘We have a problem; how can we protect the people most vulnerable in this society?’ They begin with the main priority and it’s about priority in the end.”

She added that she found this social protection in an economic crisis to be truly inspiring. Trade unionist George Waterhouse, an RMT Young Members rep remarked, “The Cuba workshop was just inspirational. Especially the way they stressed the economical struggle of the Cuban people. There are a lot of lessons we can learn.”

Although the 26 January event only lasted one day, it inspired those who attended and forged connections between Manchester and Latin America. With many diverse speakers and a large crowd it appears this day of building international solidarity has been a success.

Kerry Slater

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this write-up. As one of the organisers of the event I’d like to add that we also had sessions on Bolivia ( – Challenges Facing the Revolution) and Mexico (Rural and Urban Social Movements: New and Social Media, Protest, and Building Alternatives) in the morning. Guatemala was part of a session on “The Battle for Formal Power – Guatemala, El Salvador Nicaragua and Honduras”. The afternoon workshops were organised thematically on “Government, Economy and Popular Participation”, “Social Movements Organising and Resisting in the Context of Repression”, “Documentary, Music, and Media: Participation, Solidarity and Resistances” and “Wellbeing and Community”. Latin America is a diverse region with inspiring revolutionary developments and new thinking forged in praxis. And it is also a site of conflict and repression as the neoliberal, imperialist forces try to maintain control and turn back the tide (for example in Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala – for now).
    THe point of all this is that the focus was as much on learning from Latin america as on the important task of working in solidarity with social movements there. We can learn a lot for our own situation of neoliberal austerity a(for example Cuba’s response to economic constraints) nd ecological overstretch (the Andean rethinking of the very idea , the Eurocentric idea of progreess).
    We wanted to make a break with the traditional solidarity congress where the many go to hear the few and having received the word, go off to do who knows what. Instead we want to continue to learn the lessons, supporting decolonizing movements there just as we work to de-colonize our own society with its return to coercive accumulation (nationalisation of debt and privatisation of the commons) and continuation of the destruction of the ecosystem. Instead we want to build on the energy in evidence at the event to struggle together to ‘make another world real’.
    Watch the website for more information http:/anotherworldreal.wordpress.com

    Comment by Mark Burton on February 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm
  2. [...] » “It’s important we walk together”: Manchester hears from Latin America – MULE. Manchester’s alternative media covers our event. [...]

    Pingback by » “It’s important we walk together”: Manchester hears from Latin America – MULE « anotherworldreal on February 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm
  3. Cuba has no free press, no free trade unions, no free speech, no free elections, no fair and independent legal system and no legal political parties except the Communist party.

    Mr Waterhouse is entitled to his bizarre view that we have a lot to learn from such a dreadful country and its totalitarian regime but I don’t think most informed people share his view.

    Comment by pete on February 17, 2013 at 7:50 pm
  4. My friend is from Cuba,(he is also an activist advocating free speech and a member of La Central de Trabajadores de Cuba) he says it’s great. Hardly the gulag you seem to believe. Free health care, free education, serious environmental initiatives. Indeed Cuba has much to be desired by way of a more open democracy (though it does have some democratic features) and more freedom of expression and press, but it has been improving in recent years and we can be optimistic for it’s future- so long as there is none of that classic U.S. intervention.
    ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

    Comment by sarah on February 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm
  5. Sarah, your friend would hardly be a member of any other trade union because free trade unions are banned in Cuba.

    Seems odd that such a kindly and skilled government which is allegedly so good at providing such important services as education and health feels it needs to ban the allegedly happy workforce from forming free trade unions, and won’t allow the population such basic rights as free speech, a free press, free elections or fair trials.

    Do you remember how we used to hear about the wonderful lives people were living in the countries behind the old Iron Curtain?

    When the soviet empire collapsed and the citizens of those countries were not terrified to speak their minds we found out just what a pack of lies that was.

    Comment by pete on February 21, 2013 at 12:15 am
  6. Of course I do, I also have Romanian friends who came from such a life ‘behind the iron curtain’. My Cuban friend campaigns for freedom of speech, freedom to form other trade unions and improvement of democracy, the point is that he appreciates the environmentalism, free health care and education and other such support they have in Cuba. Like we might praise the freedom of press/speech/elections here, but fight privatisation and economic imbalance. The point is, there are things you can learn from Cuba and other Latin American countries- such as their struggles for freedom and their economy.

    Comment by sarah on February 21, 2013 at 10:23 am
  7. I fully agree , Sarah .

    The corrupt Western non-democracies can indeed learn a lot from the Cuban economic model .

    Well said , Sarah .

    Comment by Dodger on March 27, 2013 at 11:45 am
  8. In full agreement Sarah .
    The Cuban way is the way forward .
    Freedom from the evils of Western undemocratic exploitation will be realized .

    VIVA CUBA !

    Comment by Adie on August 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm