Socialism is the course for the salvation of the planet

• Speech given by Hugo Chávez Frías, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, at the United Nations Climate Change Summit, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 16, 2009

Mr. President; Gentlemen; Ladies; Your Excellencies; friends:

I promise you that I am not going to speak longer than the person who has spoken the most here this afternoon.

Please allow me an initial comment, which I should liked to have made as part of the previous point exercised by the delegations of Brazil, China, India and Bolivia – we were there asking to speak, but that was not possible.

The Bolivian representative said – greetings of course to compañero President Evo Morales – who is here (Applause), president of the Republic of Bolivia – among other things – the following – note this – “The text presented is not democratic, it is not inclusive.”

I was just arriving and we were sitting down when we heard the president of the previous session, the minister, saying that a document was coming here, but nobody knows anything about it. I have asked for the document; we still don’t have it; I don’t think anybody knows about that top secret document. Now, the Bolivian comrade definitely said it: “It is not democratic, it is not inclusive.”

Now, ladies, gentlemen, is that not precisely the reality of this world? Are we actually in a democratic world? Can we hope for something democratic, inclusive from the current world system? What we are experiencing on this planet is an imperial dictatorship and from here we continue condemning it: Down with the imperial dictatorship and long live the peoples, democracy and equality on this planet! (Applause)

What we are seeing here is a reflection of that: exclusion. There is a group of countries which believe themselves superior to us from the South, to us from the Third World, to us the underdeveloped or, as our great friend Eduardo Galeano says, we, the countries run over by a train that ran over us in history.

And so, we shouldn’t be surprised by that, we are not surprised: there is no democracy in the world and we are here, once again, in the face of powerful evidence of a world imperial dictatorship.

Two young people got up on the platform here; fortunately, the agents of order have been decent, a bit of shoving and pushing, and they cooperated, right?

There are many people outside, you know? Of course, they can’t fit in this hall. I have read in the press that some of them have been arrested, some intense protests here on the streets of Copenhagen, and I want to salute all those people who are out there, most of them young people (Applause). Of course, they are concerned young people, rightly, I believe and much more than us, for the future of the world. The majority of us here have the sun behind us; they have the sun before them and they are very concerned.

One could say, Mr. President, that a phantom is sweeping Copenhagen, paraphrasing Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx. A phantom is sweeping the streets of Copenhagen and I believe that that phantom is moving silently through this hall, moving here and there among us, it gets into the corridors, comes out downstairs, it is climbing. That phantom is a terrifying one, hardly anyone wants to name it. Capitalism is the phantom! (Applause); hardly anyone wants to name it, it is capitalism. The people are praying out there, they can be heard out there.

I was reading some of the slogans painted in the streets and I think I heard some of those slogans of these young people when they were moving around out there. There are two that I took note of; among the others, two powerful slogans could be heard: One: “Don’t change the climate, change the system” (Applause) and I take it as ours: Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system and, as a consequence, we shall begin to save the planet. Capitalism, the destructive model of development is doing away with life, it is threatening to definitively do away with the human species.

The other slogan calls for reflection, very much in keeping with the banking crisis that spread throughout the world and is still striking it, and the way in which the countries of the rich North came to the aid of the bankers and the big banks; the United States alone… well, the figure got lost, it is astronomic, to save the banks. In the streets they’re saying the following: “If the climate was a capitalist bank, one of the largest ones, they would have saved it already,” and I believe that that is the truth (Applause). If the climate was a capitalist bank, one of the largest, the rich governments would already have saved it.

I believe that Obama hasn’t arrived, he received the Nobel Peace prize virtually the same day that he was sending an additional 30,000 soldiers to kill innocent people in Afghanistan, and now the president of the United States is coming to present himself here with the Nobel Peace Prize.

The United States has a little machine for printing bills, for making dollars and it has saved… well, they believe that they’ve saved the banks and the capitalist system.

Well, this commentary on the margins, which I wanted to make there, because we were raising our hands to accompany Brazil, India, Bolivia and China, in their interesting position firmly shared by Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance; but, well, we were not given the floor, so please don’t discount these minutes from me, President, it was for that. (Applause)

Well, look, I had the pleasure of meeting here this French writer, Hervé Kempf. I recommend this book, I recommend it, it can be obtained in Spanish – Hervé is somewhere around here – in French as well, definitely in English, How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth, by Hervé Kempf. That is why Christ said: “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Christ our Lord said that (Applause).

The rich are destroying the Earth. Could it be that they are thinking of going to another one when they have destroyed this one, do they have plans to go to another planet? To date one cannot see any on the horizon of the galaxy.

This book has only just come into my hands – Ignacio Ramonet, who is also here in this hall, gave it to me – and, at the end of the prologue or preamble, this sentence is very important. Kempf says the following: “We will not be able to reduce material consumption at global level if we do not force the powerful to descend the ladder a number of rungs, if we do not combat inequality; what is needed is for us to add to the ecological principle, so useful at the moment of becoming aware, the principle imposed by the situation: to consume less and to distribute better.” I think that is good advice from that French writer Hervé Kempf.

Well, Mr. President, climate change is, without any doubt, the most devastating environmental problem of the present century: flooding, drought, severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, a rise in average sea levels, the acidification of oceans and heat waves; all of that is sharpening the impact of the global crises that are lashing us.

Current human activity is in excess of the thresholds of sustainability, thus endangering life on the planet; but in that we are profoundly unequal, I wish to recall that. The 500 million richest people, five hundred million! this is 7%. Seven percent! Seven [in English] percent of the world population. That 7% is responsible, those 500 million richest people are responsible for 50% of contaminating emissions, while the poorest 50% are responsible for just 7% of contaminating emissions. For that reason it strikes me that it is a little strange to put the United States and China on the same level here. The United States could amount to possibly 300 million inhabitants; China has a population that is almost five times larger than the United States. The United States consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil per day. Chine barely reaches 5 or 6 million barrels per day. One can’t ask the same of the United States and China. There are issues that have to be discussed here. I wish that, as heads of state and government, we could sit down and really, really discuss these issues.

So, Mr. President, 60% of the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, 20% of the earth’s crust is degraded. We have been the impassive witnesses of deforestation, land conversion, desertification, alterations to fresh water systems, over-exploitation of marine resources, contamination and the loss of biological diversity. Exacerbated utilization of land is 30% in excess of its regeneration capacity. The planet is losing its self-regulation capacity, the planet is losing that; every day more waste is released than can be processed. The survival of our species is hammering on the consciousness of humanity.

Despite the urgency, two years of negotiations for concluding a second period of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol have passed by and we are attending this meeting without any real and significant agreement.

And, doubtless, referring to the text that is coming out of nothing – as some have described it, the Chinese representative – Venezuela says and the ALBA countries, the Bolivarian Alliance, say that we do not accept it, we have said that already, no other text unless it comes out of the working groups of the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention, and are the legitimate texts that have been discussed with such intensity during these two years and in the last few days. I believe that you have not slept; moreover, that you have not had lunch, you haven’t slept, eh? It does not seem logical to me that a document should come out of nothing, as you are saying.

The scientifically sustained objective of reducing contaminating gas emissions and achieving a long-term cooperation agreement, evidently, today, at this hour, seems to have failed, for now. What is the reason for that? We are not in any doubt, the reason is the irresponsible attitude and the lack of political will on the part of the most powerful nations of the planet. Nobody should feel offended, I will have recourse to the great José Gervasio Artigas when he said: “With the truth I neither offend nor am afraid;” but, in truth, it is an irresponsible attitude, of marches, of counter-marches, of exclusion, of an elitist management of a problem that is of all of us and that only all of us can solve.

The political conservatism and egotism of the major consumers, of the richest countries, denotes an elevated insensibility and lack of solidarity with the poorest, with the hungry, with those most vulnerable to disease, to natural disasters.

Mr. President, there is an indispensable need for a new and sole agreement applicable to absolutely unequal parties, given the magnitude of their economic, financial and technological contributions and capacities and one that is based on unrestricted respect for the principles contained in the Convention.

The developed countries must establish binding commitments which are clear and concrete in respect of a substantial reduction of their emissions and assume their obligations of financial and technological assistance to their poor countries, in order to confront the destructive dangers of climate change. In that context, the particular situations of island states and the most underdeveloped countries must be fully recognized.

Mr. President, climate change is not the only problem affecting humanity today; other scourges and injustices await us, the gap that separates the rich countries from the poor is still expanding despite the existence of the Millennium Goals, the Monterrey Summit on finance, all of these summits – as the president of Senegal said, denouncing a great truth, promises and promises and promises that have been unfulfilled, while the world continues along its destructive path.

The total income of the 500 richest individuals on the planet is greater than the income of the 416 million poorest people. The 2.8 billion people who live in poverty, earning less than one dollar a day, and who represent 40% of the global population, 40% of the global population!, receive just 5% of the global income.

Today, some 9.2 million children die before they reach their fifth birthday, and 99.9% of those deaths occur in the poorest countries. Infant mortality stands at 47 per 1,000 live births; but the figure for the rich countries is just 5 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy around the world is 67 years of age, in the rich countries it is 79, while in the poorest countries it is just 40 years of age.

In addition to this, there are 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean potable water; 2.6 billion without health services; more than 800 million illiterate individuals and 1.02 billion starving people. This is the global scenario.

Now, the cause, what is the cause? We’re talking about the cause, we cannot shirk our responsibilities, we cannot evade the seriousness of this problem. The cause, without doubt – I’m going back to the same issue – of this entire disastrous panorama is the metabolic, destructive system of capital and its embodied model: capitalism.

I have a quote here that I would like to read to you, from the great liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, as we know, a Brazilian, from Our America.

On this subject, Leonardo Boff says the following: “What is the cause? Ah! The cause is the dream of seeking happiness through the accumulation of material wealth and unending progress, using science and technology to achieve this, and with which all of the Earth’s resources can be exploited,” and I will now mention Charles Darwin and his natural selection, the survival of the fittest; but we know that the fittest survive over the ashes of the weakest.

Jean Jacob Rousseau —— we must also remember him – said about that: “”Between the weak and the strong, it is freedom which oppresses.” For this reason, the empire talks of freedom, in order to invade, to murder, to annihilate, to exploit, that is its freedom. And Rousseau goes on: “it is the law which sets free.”

There are certain countries which are playing with the fact that there is no document here, precisely because they do not want a law, they do not want an agreement, because the nonexistence of this agreement allows them to wield their exploiting freedom, their overpowering liberty.

Let’s make an effort, put pressure on ourselves, here and out on the streets, so that a commitment comes out of this conference. So that a statement is released demanding a commitment from the richest countries on the Earth! (Applause).

President, Leonardo Boff asks the question – do you know Boff? I’m not sure whether Boff could come; I met him recently in Paraguay; we have always read his work: “Can a finite Earth withstand an infinite project?” The doctrine of capitalism: infinite development, is a destructive model, we have to accept that.

Then Boff asks us: “What can we expect from Copenhagen?” Just this simple confession: we cannot continue as we are at present, and one simple proposal: “Are we going to change our path? Let us do it, but without cynicism, without lies, without double agendas, with meaningless documents, with the truth striding ahead.”

Up to what point, we ask ourselves in Venezuela, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, up to what point are we going to allow so many injustices and inequalities? For how long are we going to tolerate the current international economic order and the market mechanisms in force? Until what point are we going to allow fierce epidemics such as HIV/AIDS to devastate entire populations? For how long are we going to allow hungry people to starve and prevent them from feeding their own children? For how long are we going to allow millions of children to continue dying from curable diseases? For how long are we going to allow armed conflicts that massacre millions of innocent human beings, with the aim of awarding the resources of other nations to the more powerful ones?

Stop the aggression and the wars, we, the people of the world are calling on the empires, on those who are attempting to continue dominating the world and exploiting us! No more imperial military bases or coups d’états. Let us build a more just and equitable social and economic order. Let us eradicate poverty. Let us bring an immediate end to high levels of emissions, let us halt environmental destruction and prevent a climate change catastrophe. Let us join together in the noble objective of being more free and driven by solidarity!

Mr. President, a Venezuelan who made his name almost two centuries ago, the liberator of nations and the precursor of consciousness, left a resounding maxim for posterity: “If nature opposes, we will fight against her and make her obey us.” That was Simón Bolívar, the Liberator.

From Bolivarian Venezuela where, on a day like today, in fact, exactly 10 years ago, we experienced the greatest climatic tragedy in our history, the tragedy of Vargas, that it how it is known; from that Venezuela whose revolution is attempting to secure justice for all of its people, the only road forward is that of socialism…Socialism, the other phantom of which Karl Marx spoke, is moving around here too; rather, it’s like a counter-phantom. Socialism, that is the way forward, that is the path for the salvation of the planet, I have not the slightest doubt whatsoever about that. And capitalism is the road to hell, toward the destruction of the world.

Socialism, from that Venezuela which is confronting the threats of the U.S. empire, from the countries that make up the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance, we are calling for, I respectfully ask for but, from my heart, I am calling on, on behalf of many people on this planet, the governments and the peoples of the world, in paraphrasing Simón Bolívar, the Liberator: if the destructive nature of capitalism opposes, then we will fight against it and we will do what we must; we cannot wait with our arms folded for the death of humanity.

History is calling us to unite and to fight. If capitalism resists, we are forced to fight a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It is up to us, raising the standards of Christ, of Mohammed, of equality, love, justice, humanism, of real and profound humanism. If we do not do that, the most marvelous creation of the universe, namely human beings, will disappear! They are going to disappear!

This planet is billions of years old, and has existed for billions of years without us, the human race: that is to say, it does not need us to exist. Now, we cannot live without the Earth, and we are destroying Pachamama (Mother Earth) as Evo says, as our indigenous brothers and sisters in South America say.

Finally Mr. President, now to conclude, we hear Fidel Castro when he says: “There is an endangered species: humans”. We hear Rosa Luxemburg when she said: “Socialism or barbarism.” We hear Christ, the Redeemer, when he said: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs shall be the kingdom of heaven.”

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of ensuring that this Earth will not be the grave of humanity; we can make this earth a heaven, a heaven of life, peace and sisterhood for the whole of humanity, for the human species.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you and bon appetit. (Applause).

(Translated by Granma International)

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