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1/29 WSF Caracas: Participants Declare Bush "Guilty" PDF Print E-mail

Participants Declare Bush "Guilty"
Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Jan 29 (IPS) - An informal International Women's Tribunal, meeting at the sixth World Social Forum in the Venezuelan capital, found "imperialism" and U.S. President George W. Bush guilty of violating the human rights of people in countries like Iraq and Cuba.

Another panel made up of 10 religious leaders, human rights lawyers and activists held a trial and condemned "state terrorism" committed by Washington in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Forum, which brought together the legislators taking part in the annual WSF global civil society gathering, roundly criticised a U.S. bill that would tighten immigration laws.

Host President Hugo Chávez, addressing some 15,000 WSF participants, called the Bush administration "the most perverse, murderous, genocidal and immoral empire" in history.

The Venezuelan leader said Bush, who he calls "Mr. Danger", in reference to a character in a Venezuelan novel, is "the world's biggest terrorist".

"Mr. Danger talks about human rights, but there are people in Guantanamo (Cuba) who are tortured, and people who disappear in the CIA jails in Europe and elsewhere in the world," Chávez told a cheering crowd.

In every street demonstration held at the Jan. 24-29 WSF in Caracas, signs can be seen proclaiming "No to Bush!" or "Get Out Bush!", while the protesters frequently chant anti-Bush slogans.

The International Women's Tribunal heard testimony from Irma González, the daughter of one of the "Cuban Five" - the five Cuban men in prison in the United States on espionage charges - and from Ramia Masi, an activist with the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq.

González said her father had spent seven years in prison without being able to receive visits, "because among other things, it has gotten more and more complicated to obtain a visa to the United States, which is a routine human rights violation."

For her part, the Iraqi activist presented a documentary that contains personal accounts and testimony on atrocities committed in the U.S.-led war and occupation of Iraq.

"Fundamentalism is a new thing in Iraq," said Masi. "The occupation drew out the greatest enemy of my country, the fundamentalists, who have destroyed our identity." She called for the construction of a secular alternative, in which women can be free.

Among those sitting on the panel that tried and condemned state terrorism were Reverend Lucius Walker, the leader of the U.S. organisation Pastors for Peace, Mexican activists Héctor Díaz and Guillermo López, and Reverend Raúl Suárez, a peace activist from Cuba.

The witnesses testifying against the Bush administration included Fernando Suárez, a Mexican-American whose son was killed in Iraq; Javier Couso from Spain, whose brother José, a journalist, was killed when a U.S. tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, which was being used as a base by many independent reporters; and Colombian parliamentary candidate Lilia Solano.

Couso recalled that 90 journalists have lost their lives during the war in Iraq, while Suárez stressed that his son died as a victim of a cluster bomb, which "the United States is using on a daily basis in Iraq and which not only claim the lives of Iraqi civilians, but also the lives of their own soldiers. Bush is the number one terrorist," he declared.

Solano spoke out about Plan Colombia and its recently launched second stage, Plan Patriot - counterinsurgent and anti-drug initiatives that she described as "state terrorism financed by Washington."

The panel concluded by "firmly condemning" imperialism and the Bush administration.

In the meantime, a delegation of lawmakers from Mexico earned the backing of legislators from throughout the region in their opposition to a bill currently before the U.S. Congress aimed at extending the fences already blocking portions of the U.S.-Mexican border, among other measures.

Rafael Quintanar, a legislator from the centre-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) in the Mexican state of Quintano Roo, told IPS: "We want to condemn the wall of death that the United States is erecting on the border, and the new immigration law," which could come to a vote next month, and would penalise both undocumented immigrants and their eventual employers.

Another PRD representative, Emiliano Ramos, said that the party is collecting declarations of support and solidarity for Mexico from two dozen Latin American lawmakers, which it plans to send to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Another initiative being discussed at the WSF, Ramos added, is the organisation of a march from Central America to a point on the Mexican border with the United States, where a forum on migration is to be held in March.

The fence that the United States wants to throw up along the border "is the wall of indignity, death, racism, impunity and legalised crime," he maintained.

In his speech, Chávez called on WSF participants to condemn the U.S. government, "but not the people of the United States, whose participation is essential to save the planet."

As for "U.S. imperialism," he pronounced that "we will surely bury it this century."

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