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.
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.