|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA ON INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY
The primary cause of the twenty-first century should be the recognition of the rights of Mother Earth, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma declared hours after the General Assembly passed a resolution designating 22 April as “International Mother Earth Day”.
“If we want to safeguard mankind, then we need to safeguard the planet,” he said, stressing that social movements, regular citizens and presidents the world over needed to understand and support the rights of Mother Earth. “That is the next major task of the United Nations”.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, he said previous centuries had witnessed a permanent ongoing battle for human rights. With those human rights now secured, it was time to fight for those of the planet, including the right to life, the right to regeneration of the planet’s biodiversity, the right to a clean life free of pollution, and the right to harmony and balance among and between all things.
“Mother Earth cannot be a piece of merchandise”, he argued, stressing that it was necessary to correct humanity’s historic mistake of buying and selling the planet. Human beings could not exist without Mother Earth, but changes in climate and the environment were already beginning to threaten that existence in some places. In the Andes, mountain peaks were losing their white snow-caps, lakes were drying up, and fish were disappearing from the Orinoco.
In light of the damage traditional power plants caused to the environment and the fact that gas and oil deposits are limited, he said his Government would be reconsidering its energy policy. It would explore developing clean energy sources, especially its numerous natural opportunities for hydroelectric energy, but investment would also be needed.
He was also working to defend equality, democracy and the rule of law in Bolivia, he said. Moreover, he intended to defend himself as Bolivia’s constitutionally-elected President and head of a Government that had, for the first time in the Republic’s 180-year history, been elected four times in a row with over 50 per cent of the vote.
Bolivia was also moving towards the approval of a new Constitution, which was supported by some 70 per cent of the population, he said. “This is a process of great transformation and change. Unfortunately, the neoliberal groups which still exist in some regions have attempted to take over the palace, but did not succeed”.
President Morales was joined by Paul Oquist, Senior Adviser to the President of the General Assembly, who outlined the run-up to the high-level General Assembly meeting on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, scheduled for 1 to 3 June in New York. Informal consultations had already begun, with Member States submitting proposals for the meeting’s outcome document. Those deliberations would continue until 4 May, when the President of the General Assembly would issue a draft document that would then be subject to intergovernmental negotiations ahead of the high-level meeting.
The high-level conference would, he said, allow the “G-192” of the United Nations “to give voice and participation to all the world’s countries on the most important issue of our decade and perhaps our century”. It was intended to be a forum that was legal, representative and credible, since it would take into account the interests of all those affected by the crisis.
Echoing that statement, Mr. Morales said he was looking forward to the meeting, which would be an opportunity for everyone to be heard and the economic problem collectively resolved. “We all need to shoulder the responsibility for resolving the financial crisis.”
In response to a question on whether the United States stimulus plan was good enough to bring it out of the economic doldrums, he said that the crisis of capitalism could not be solved merely by injecting money. “You cannot issue more and more money unless you increase the means of production and the real economy of countries”, he stressed, underlining how even the G-20 [Group of Twenty] disagreed on how to turn national economies, as well as the global economy, around.
To a number of questions about the global financial architecture, he pointed out that France and Germany had questioned the bureaucracy of the International Monetary Fund and he welcomed proposals by Brazil and Argentina for its radical reform. He further welcomed ongoing changes within the World Bank, which had previously urged him to privatize a number of Bolivia’s industries, to no avail.
He went on to say that the response to the financial crisis had to be more than just the provision of money by the same institutions that had contributed to its cause, such as the International Monetary Fund. In fact, a revolution within the Fund was needed, with its bureaucrats thinking about the big picture rather than “lining their own pockets”.
Asked when his Government would provide more information on what it had described as a plot to assassinate him and two other high-level members last week, he said the investigation was ongoing. [Three men were killed and two others jailed by Bolivian police last week in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.] But, it was his hope that the Bolivian justice system would pursue the case to its end.
Asked about Government efforts to end cases where the working conditions of servants among some wealthy landowners seemed tantamount to slavery, as well as initiatives to redistribute land to the poor, he said a great deal of education was needed to end such conditions. The Government hoped to do more than institute agrarian reform. Indeed, the four components of its initiatives were just redistribution of land; mechanization; increased production of organic and biological products; and just and fair trade. It was also focusing on credit for micro-enterprise.
Responding to a question about recent educational reforms, such as the right of indigenous people to be instructed in their own languages, he said those new types of universities sought to repair the damage of the last 500 years. But, radical change –- as seen in the case of the new Constitution -- was needed. He hoped that those universities would teach young patriotic students who were committed to their country and would eventually work for it, rather than participating in a “brain drain”.
Asked about his recent hunger strike, he noted that such methods had previously been against the military dictatorship, but were now being used against the neoliberal model. Those who subscribed to that model were frightened of democracy, because they knew they would not win.
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