Wednesday morning opened with a bang here at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, with heated speeches coming from Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. Both South American leaders railed against the notion that capitalism was the only method of halting and reversing climate change. Addressing the plenary, Chavez said that the negotiations in the Danish capital were a complete farce imposed by the rich nations of the world: "On this planet we live under an imperial dictatorship. I say down with the imperial dictatorship and long live the people and democracy! There is a group of countries who believe that they are better than us in the South, who think they’re better than the so-called Third World, the developing world, the overwhelmed and devastated world," Chavez said.
The fiery Venezuelan leader lent his support to the protestations of other developing countries, who condemned the behind-the-scenes formulation of a new document that is to be put forth by the Danish president in an attempt to salvage the negotiations. Chavez and other representatives denounced the document, claiming that it favored rich nations and undermined the transparency and democracy of the summit.
"I’ve asked to see this text," Chavez said, "but I have not been allowed. ‘Top secret!’ That’s what they say … This is not a democratic or inclusive text, it is a text that has been thrust upon us from out of the blue, and we will not accept any text other than that which comes from the working group for the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention, which are the legitimate texts that we have been so intensely negotiating for these past two years."
"A ghost moves through Copenhagen," Chavez continued, paraphrasing "the great Karl Marx," – "and this terrible ghost is with us now, silently haunting this chamber. Capitalism. Capitalism is that ghost." In efforts to deepen his critique, Chavez incorporated slogans from the protests outside, such as "Don’t Change the Climate, Change the System." Chavez declared that "capitalism is threatening to eradicate life as we know it on this planet," complementing his charge with another protest motto: "If the environment were a bank, they would have saved it by now."
The Venezuelan president also took the opportunity to upbraid Obama: "He received the Nobel Peace Prize practically on the same day that he sent 30,000 soldiers to kill innocents in Afghanistan," and his actions have worked to spread social inequality across the globe. "The rich are destroying our planet," Chavez said. "Perhaps they have plans to fly off to another one."
Chavez far exceeded his three minute time limit.
His speech was similar in content and spirit to that of the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, who said to the press and to the convention that "the cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to solve this problem, we’re going to have to do away with the capitalist system." Morales also called for the formation of a "climate justice tribunal to prosecute those countries," which pollute too much. Only that way, he said, would it be possible for a place like Africa to avoid the horrors of "a climate holocaust."
Translation: Ryan Croken.
Ryan Croken is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Z Magazine and ReligionDispatches.org. He can be reached at [email protected].