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Copenhagen: Democracy Now! interview with Evo Morales — “We cannot end global warming without ending capitalism”


December 17, 2009 — Democracy Now! — Bolivia’s President Evo Morales joins us in Copenhagen to talk about the UN climate talks, capitalism, climate debt and much more. "Policies of unlimited industrialisation are what destroys the environment", Morales said. "And that irrational industrialisation is capitalism."

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. It’s Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the Bella Center [in Copenhagen].

 

It’s just one day before the COP15 UN climate summit comes to a close. The summit has been described as the biggest gathering on climate change in history. And now, ten days after it started, are the talks on the brink of collapse?

 

The dispute between rich and poor countries, between the global North and global South, on key issues, including greenhouse gas emissions and climate debt, remain unresolved. World leaders from more than 110 countries have begun arriving at the summit and are delivering their addresses to the main plenary as we speak. As for civil society, the only thing worse than the endless lines of thousands of people trying to get into the Bella Center are no lines, because civil society has largely been locked out.

 

Well, just before we went to air today, I interviewed Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month.

 

On Wednesday, Evo Morales called on world leaders to hold temperature increases over the next century to just one degree Celsius, the most ambitious proposal so far by any head of state. Morales also called on the United States and other wealthy nations to pay an ecological debt to Bolivia and other developing nations.

 

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, welcome to Democracy Now!

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Thank you very much for the invitation.

 

AMY GOODMAN: You spoke yesterday here at the Bella Center and said we cannot end global warming without ending capitalism. What did you mean?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism—and I’m speaking about irrational development—policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialization is capitalism. So as long as we don’t review or revise those policies, it’s impossible to attend to humanity and life.

 

AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.

 

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, what are you calling here—for here at the UN climate summit?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Defence of the rights of Mother Earth. The earth is our life. Nature is our home, our house. Happily, the United Nations have declared a Mother Earth Day. If the mother is recognised as Mother Earth, it’s something that can’t be sold, it’s something that can’t be—it can’t be violated, something sacred. This is nature. This is planet Earth. And that’s why I’ve come here, to defend the rights of Mother Earth, to defend the rights to life, to defend humanity and saving Mother Earth.

 

AMY GOODMAN: What does climate debt mean, President Morales?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After the destruction of Mother Earth, it’s important to recognize the rights of Mother Earth. And the best way to recognise this is by paying a climate debt. Second, it’s important to recognise the damages that have been done and attend to the people who have been affected by climate change, people who will lose their island homes, for example, people who will remain without water.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said today, "We can’t look back; we have to look forward."

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Looking forward means that we have to review everything that capitalism has done. These are things that cannot just be solved with money. We have to resolve problems of life and humanity. And that’s the problem that planet earth faces today. And this means ending capitalism.

 

AMY GOODMAN: The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also said today that US$100 billion would be promised if a deal were arrived at, not just by the United States, per year, but in a public-private partnership with a number of countries around the world, but only if a deal is arrived at. She would not say what the US would contribute to this. What do you say about the US spending on the issue of global warming versus—well, you talked yesterday about war.

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] The best thing would be that all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America. This money would be better directed to attending to the damages that were created by the United States. And, of course, this isn’t just $100 billion; this is probably trillions and trillions of dollars. How are we going to spend money to kill and not save lives? We have to spend money to save lives, not to kill. These are our differences with capitalism.

 

AMY GOODMAN: You called the war in Afghanistan terrorist. Are you saying President Obama is a terrorist?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] People who send their troops to kill outside their country, that’s terror. There’s not only civil—terrorists dressed as civilians; they can also be dressed in military uniforms. Worse still if they’re financed with the money from the peoples, from taxes. Of course, every country has the right to defend itself, just as every country can defend itself. But invading another country with uniformed people, that’s state terrorism.

 

Moreover, to establish military bases in Latin America with the objective of political control, and where their military base is an empire, that’s not respect for democracy. There is no peace, social peace. There is no development for those countries nor integration in those regions. This is what we’ve lived in South America and Latin America.

 

AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to President Obama at these climate talks?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After listening to his speech at the heads of state Summit of the Americas, we were very hopeful that he would be an ally in addressing poverty. Now I’m not so hopeful. Rather, we’re disappointed. If something has changed in the United States, it’s the color of the president.

 

So I’ve been called upon, through administrative resolutions, to close unions, or to eliminate unions, when I’m doing exactly the opposite. [translator: "I apologise."] In the report that was done regarding access to trade preferences under the ATPDEA program, it was charged that the Bolivian government has been involved in suppressing unions, when, in fact, quite the contrary, the government’s been very active in providing infrastructure and support to unions through improving the centres where unions meet, etc.

 

Even President Bush did not make any observations about the new clauses in the constitution of Bolivia, whereas under the new administration there have been observations and comments made about the new constitution that’s been drafted, in particular in relation to the management of the gas and oil sectors. This is a clear involvement in Bolivian internal affairs by the Obama administration. At the end of the day, it seems that they’re asking us to change the constitution. This is something that not even Bush did. If we just look at this, this makes Obama seem—look worse than Bush. And the documents are there.

 

AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to leave. My last question is: you’ve called for a climate tribunal; what do you mean?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Those who do damage to planet Earth and those who do damage need to be judged. Those who do not fulfill the terms of the Kyoto Protocol should also be judged. And for those ends, we have to organise a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations.

 

AMY GOODMAN: And one degree Celsius?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] That’s our proposal.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it could be achieved?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Yes. Yes, otherwise it would be a lack of commitment to humanity.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there will be a deal that comes out of Copenhagen?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I doubt it. We’re developing other proposals for my intervention.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s catastrophic that there’s no deal?

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] No, it’s a waste of time. And if the leaders of countries cannot arrive in an agreement, why don’t the peoples then decide together?

 

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there. I thank you very much, President Morales.

 

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking to us here in Copenhagen. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. It’s Climate Countdown. You can go to our website at democracynow.org to read the transcript of what President Morales had to say and also to see or hear the video podcast.

 

 

December 16, 2009 — Democracy Now! — In a press conference on December 16, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said, "The budget of the United States is US$687 billion for defence. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful."

 

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up today’s broadcast with a leader from another side of the world, from Latin America, we’re going to turn right now to Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, who, just a few minutes ago, finished a speech in the next room. He just recently arrived here in Copenhagen. The Bolivian President Morales.

 

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] And if we don’t—and I repeat this—we’re going to end our lives, all of us. So, as with the last country and with our black and indigenous brothers who were treated as slaves, and their rights were not recognised, now, today, too, our Mother Earth, she is treated as if she were a thing without life, as if she didn’t have rights.

 

The second climate debt is the use of atmospheric space by the developed countries. It’s not possible that atmospheric space be the exclusive property of just a few countries for their development, that the countries that are irrationally industrialised have taken over, with their greenhouse gases, the atmospheric space. To pay this debt, they should reduce their emissions and absorb their greenhouse gases in a way that there exists a fair distribution of atmospheric space between all of the countries, taking into consideration their population, because the countries that are on the path of development need atmospheric space for their development.

 

The third component of climate debt is the paying of reparations, reparations for damages that have been created by the irrationally industrialised countries. For humanity together, it’s shameful that the Western countries have only offered $10 billion for climate change. I was looking at some figures. The United States—how much does the United States spend to export terrorism to Afghanistan, to export terrorism to Iraq, and to export military bases to South America? They don’t only spend millions, but billions and trillions. I hope our figures are not wrong. For example, Obama, he asked his Congress for $40 billion more than what has already been spent. The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defence. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful. The budget for the Iraq war, according to the figures we have, is $2.6 trillion for the Iraq war, to go kill in Iraq. Trillions of dollars. But directed towards paying the climate debt, $10 billion. This is completely unfair. These are our deep observations of what’s going on. That’s why—for the war, while trillions are going to the wars, on the other hand, to save humanity and the planet, they only want to direct $10 billion.

 

The rich countries should take in all of the migrants who will be generated by climate change or affected by climate change. I think our brothers from Africa, our indigenous brothers from [inaudible], have a lot of moral authority. We have been invaded, supposedly discovered in Africa or Latin America, when in reality it was an invasion and plundering of indigenous peoples. Therefore, now, in the face of the asymmetries between continents, our brothers come looking for work, and they’re kicked out of Europe, they’re kicked out of the United States. But our grandparents never kicked anyone out, and our brothers and sisters don’t come here to take hectares of land or mines. They only come to improve their economic situation. Moreover, when they’re affected by this climate change, how is it possible they would be expulsed from Europe when they are climate refugees? How is it possible that our brothers and sisters are not taken under and protected? That’s why—therefore, our protest in the face of this discrimination to expulse immigrants, when we have never kicked immigrants out, we’ve never sent them home—

 

AMY GOODMAN: Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, just finishing up a speech here at the Bella Center, at the climate talks.

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