Feb. 13, 2003: CubDest Agency (6th Article in the Series "World Social Forum 2003")

São Paulo Forum & Cuba in the Third World Social Forum

Continental articulation of radical leftists view "gradualist" strategies with skpticism and are ready to move forward into direct action when circumstances permit it

During the recent Third World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, members of the pro-Castro Forum of São Paulo (FSP) opted for a discreet profile, both in their declarations and in public appearances. The caution in avoiding extreme leftist pronouncements was debated in Buenos Aires, a few days before the Third WSF commenced, in the international seminar "Crisis of Capitalism and Socialist Alternative", which was attended by leaders of Communist Parties from 15 countries including Spain, Cuba, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. This strategy had been previously adopted in December 2002, in Guatemala, during the 11th Forum of São Paulo. Mainly, this strategy was used so as not to damage the actual "moderate" image of President Lula, of Brazil, who is precisely one of the founders of the FSP.

Actually, in July 1990, at the request of the communist dictator Fidel Castro, Lula called to order the first FSP meeting with the objective of protecting Cuban and Latin American socialism during a time in which the disintegration of the Soviet empire was being consumed. Quickly, the FSP would turn into the most important leftist network of Latin America. Among its current members, together with the Brazilian Workers' Party, and all of the communist parties in the continent, are the Colombian narco-guerillas.

In the Second WSF of 2002, opposing the strategy adopted this year, the FSP had opted for a visible "ostensiva", actually holding a mass assembly in one of the largest auditoriums of the Pontific Catholic University of Porto Alegre (PCU), with participation from members of the WSF organization committee. It contributed to the opening of another strategy, evidencing the direct relationship between both leftist networks ("cfr. "Porto Alegre 2002: World Social Forum and Forum of São Paulo come together", CubDest, Feb. 10, 2002).

Some months later, during Lula's electoral campaign, his well-known ties with FSP gave him some trouble. International analysts such as Professor Constantine Menges, of the Hudson Institute, based on declarations made by Lula, Fidel Castro and Chávez, made allegations that a Latin American "evil axis" was being outlined. In October 2002, during a popular Brazilian television program, Lula attempted to ridicule that accusation, which caused a public appeal from Cuban ex-political prisoner Armando Valladares (cfr. Armando Valladares, "Ironías del neo-Lula nada responden y confirman aprensiones", Diario Las Américas, Miami, Oct. 11, 2002) . Lula, in an attempt to not bring any more problems to his electoral campaign and his international image by dealing with such a touchy subject, remained absolutely silent regarding the issue.

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Communist Cuba participated heavily in the Third WSF, sending a delegation of 243 members, much larger than those sent in previous years. The committee was led by the head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party of Cuba, José Ramón Balaguer, Culture Secretary, Abel Prieto and Vilma Espín, President of the Federation of Women of Cuba, and was reinforced by Cuban Foreign Secretary Felipe Pérez, who traveled from Caracas accompanied by the controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. "Because of Brazil's importance strategically, the most important victory which we celebrate today is the election of Lula", said Balaguer. Prieto lashed out against the "actual axis of evil" which according to him is made up by the right wing of Latin America, which he classified as "insurrectionists", and by the United States.

From Havana, in a one hour televised speech, the Cuban dictator spoke of the hope which he has in the WSF and urged the Cuban delegation to take advantage of the publicity of the event to "defend the conquests of the revolution", and to "denounce the imperialist and fascist offensive" which would be in effect against his ally, President Chávez, of Venezuela.

However, in spite of the yearning to take advantage of the Third WSF and use it as a propaganda springboard, the results obtained by the Cuban delegation were mediocre, far from being the center of attention as they were in the First WSF of 2001.

In the Third WSF, the Cubans held "Casa de Cuba" in a gymnasium next to several places where the event was taking place. During inauguration day, and in order to fill the gymnasium, the Cubans started a rumor close to the International Youth Camp, that the famous singer Silvio Rodríguez was going to be there. Aided by that strategy and by a heavy downpour of rain, a large number of young people attended, looking for temporary refuge under precarious tents.

Among the causes of least attraction to the Cuban revolutionaries, is the growing uneasiness, in Brazilian and international leftist bases, of the violation of fundamental rights of Cubans such as freedom of expression, movement, association, etc. It has transformed into proof that is no longer concealed. Which results in, even in those leftist bases, an unjustifiable oppressive situation.

Cases that were highly publicized in Brazil and in the Americas, such as that of the Cuban girls Sandra Becerra and Anabel Soneira, who were literally held hostage in Cuba against the will of their Cuban parents, who were residents of Brazil; that of the Cuban physicist Dr. López Linares, also a resident in Brazil, who the communist government of Cuba does not allow to travel to the island to meet his son Juan Paolo, are all elements which have also contributed to this uneasiness towards the Cuban regime.

Dr. López Linares appeared at the Third WSF to denounce the situation of his family. The press of Porto Alegre had members of the Cuban delegation such as Aleida Guevara, daughter of "Che" Guevara, publicly debate with Dr. López, regarding the situation of rights and freedom in Cuba. But the Cubans, sensing the fragility of their situation, denied the debate. The wives of the five Cuban spies arrested in the United States held a press conference and when they were questioned as to the situation of well-known political prisoners in Cuba, such as the blind attorney Dr. Juan Carlos González Leiva, they refused to respond.

Another important factor in the diminishment of Cuban influence is the advancement and consolidation of anarchist tendencies in the core of the WSF, in contrast to the supremacy of only one party, as it is in the Communist Party of Cuba.

Nevertheless, in spite of having less influence, the power of mobilization and articulation of Cuban communists cannot be underestimated in the WSF - where they received ovations in some auditoriums - nor at the international level. They are a decisive part of an "axis" of leftist radicals who view "gradualist" strategies with skepticism such as the one which Lula is apparently now using, and who will soon move forward to direct revolution action once the social-political circumstances of Latin America permits it.

There is no doubt that contemporary political reality is complex and difficult to evaluate. Between the chaos which is escalating, it is vital to make a serious attempt to plan an objective diagnosis of the diverse left currents, with its actual strong and weak points, in such a way that it will enable an efficient action of publicized denouncement to be made.

Translation: Betty Smith