Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a great fighter for human rights, but also a lucid and courageous thinker, very necessary for this difficult moment when the crisis of civilization has the world with its back against the wall. From his most consistent militancy in the service of the people, Esquivel, together with Norita Cortiñas and many other personalities, is a member of the Call for the Audit and the Suspension of the payment of the illegitimate and odious debt that Argentina is facing. He will also be participating in an Ethical Trial on the Debt and the IMF on July 13. Carlos Aznárez of Resumen Latinoamericano spoke to Pérez Esquivel about the issues facing us in the period we are living in.
Carlos Aznárez: Adolfo, tell us the reason for this letter you addressed to President Alberto Fernández and also to the President of the Central Bank calling for an Audit and the suspension of the payment of the foreign debt.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: This is not a new request, it’s been going on for more than 30 years, when Alejandro Olmos raised it at the time. Since then, he has been working on the illegitimacy of the debt and asking for an investigation. Until now, none of the governments have decided to carry out an audit; the reasons are unknown to me. But there was a trial, carried out by Judge (Jorge) Ballestero, where he said that the debt is illegitimate, it is unpayable. However, all the governments tried to negotiate the debt, and this is serious.
We demand the same from the current government, to carry out an audit to determine the legitimacy of debt of the illegitimate Macri. What is legitimate must be paid and what is illegitimate cannot be paid. In Latin America, the only country that has taken this decision, to carry out an audit, is Ecuador. The rest of the countries remained silent about this. The president of Ecuador (Rafael Correa) decided to do it and he did it, headed by Alejandro Olmos Gaona, the son of Alejandro Olmos. Today we are in this situation, it is as Eduardo Galeano said: “the more we pay, the more we owe and the less we have”. These are the new mechanisms and forms of slavery and submission of the people. And the Latin American countries, even those countries that at that time had progressive governments, did not decide to carry out an audit or form a common Latin American front for non-payment of the debt. The illegitimate non-payment of the debt. None of the countries assumed it. I could tell you about Lula, about Ecuador, about Venezuela.
Fidel was the one who raised this issue of non-payment of the debt in Havana when he called on people of different political persuasions, including those of the right, to analyze what was happening with the foreign debt. And that is also where the Jubilee is proposed, which is in the sacred books, not in the Old Testament, which says that every fifty years the debts should no longer be paid and that one should start again from scratch. But in the present age, where financial capital dominates the world stage, they do not want to know about anything like that. Capitalism, neoliberalism, all they want is to be paid. They privilege financial capital over people’s lives. And I believe that this is leading us to this situation because the payment of the debt brings poverty, misery, and lack of development to the people.
There is a debt that is much more important than the internal debt, the debt with the people. That is to say, what the people need is to have the means and resources for their life and their development. I believe that we are facing totally opposite models and capitalism is not going to be humanized. There is no way to humanize capitalism. First, because capitalism was born without a heart, without feeling, it is not interested in the lives of the people. The current government of Alberto Fernandez is being subjected to strong pressure to pay, without taking into account the situation that humanity is experiencing and that our country, Argentina, is experiencing. They are not interested in the coronavirus, nor in the serious situation, the economic debacle that the world is experiencing today, because they are the ones who want to maintain power and the submission of the peoples. And that is why we have to do it. Because there are reports from the Inter-American Commission that have recommended to all the Member States that they consider suspending the payment of debts, because life must be a priority. President Alberto Fernández said very clearly that an economy can be resolved, one can figure out how to deal with it, but life cannot. And we have to put all our effort into protecting life, and not just any form of life, not surviving, but living. And that living is fundamental
CA: This government makes that statement, the one about life in the economy, but on the other hand it surprises us with the theme that it continues to pay the debt at this moment, precisely at this time. Many people say, in the poor neighborhoods, mainly, where there is hunger, where the pandemic is, there is hunger, and they ask “why pay the debt if this money could be used to try to alleviate this difficult situation we are living in?
AP: There are several types of pandemics, this coronavirus pandemic, which will not be easy to banish, but there is also the pandemic of fear. The pandemic of fear has attacked many governments, which think that if they do not pay, if there are no negotiations, the trials will come. Because, for example, Macri conditioned the debt credits to the courts in the United States. We never won a single trial in the courts in the United States. Because the courts are subject to this pandemic of domination. There are countries that say no, we have to negotiate, we have to see, we have to be allies with the United States. Look: The United States has no allies. It has no friends. The only thing the United States has is economic interests. We can see it historically, that at no time did the United States respect countries. That is, they subjugated countries to the United States to work for the United States.
I’ll give you an example during the dictatorship. The dictatorship wanted to be in line with the policy of the United States. Their police and the policy of disappearing people, the methods of disappearing people and children, were all implemented through the national security doctrine of the United States military academies. When Galtieri goes to the United States and decides to take the Falkland Islands, hoping that the United States will help him, at one point Galtieri says: “they have betrayed us”. Who has betrayed him? He has betrayed himself, hoping that the United States and the TIAR (Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) did not work because the United States did not want that to work. And who did the United States support, its natural ally, its mother, Great Britain. Well, I give this example, but there are many, many others. The only countries that wanted to support Argentina, despite the military dictatorship, one was Peru, with Belaúnde Terry and Cuba, the rest of the countries called for silence. So the TIAR, that treaty of mutual aid does not exist, except for the United States. So we have to face up that reality.
There were people here with a very strong Latin American thought, Fidel, Hugo Chavez… We have to rescue the figure of Hugo Chavez because of his Latin American Bolivarian vision, the case of Evo Morales in Bolivia, where he begins to nationalize. No country has sovereignty if it does not have the resources of the people, oil and the media, and Evo managed to build the economy of a multicultural linguistic country in another way. And that is why the United States has always been conspiring to defeat Evo Morales, as it also tried to do with Hugo and now Maduro. So, the only way out of this is for Latin American countries to unite. And today this is not possible, because even Alberto Fernández said that the only ally he has in the continent is López Obrador, in Mexico. In the rest of the countries, there is cultural subjugation. That is why I always talk about cultural rebellion.
This will not be resolved through the governments. Unless governments are aware. Look: why didn’t they let Lula be president again and set up that whole situation with the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff? Because it was simply to get Lula out of the way. Here’s the serious part. These democracies that we live in are conditioned and restricted democracies. Therefore, the payment of the debt is one of the great mechanisms of domination of our peoples and that is why rebellion is needed, basically cultural rebellion. Because if there is no cultural rebellion, we cannot change any of this.
Another issue is the media and who they serve. Many are sinister because they were used to overthrow Lula, they were used to defeat Dilma Rousseff and they are used by the big world media because they are part of the system of domination. So this has to be changed. I am very happy because we have stayed with TeleSur from the beginning. We discussed it a lot with Hugo Chávez. It is a pity that Hugo Chávez left before his time, because he wanted the Bank of the South. And until now it has not been possible to discuss this, because there is a deep cultural domination and we have to wake up. When people stand up, they have the capacity to change. That is why we are asking for meetings with Alberto Fernández, with the Central Bank. To say: stop, audit the debt, it is fundamental to know what the legitimate and illegitimate debt is. When people stand up, they must be able to say enough is enough. Because if we are not going to stop it, after this pandemic there will be more hunger.
The next pandemic is hunger, and we need to regain food sovereignty. Debt has to do with all this, it is not just an economic problem. It is a social and political problem. I am going to mention to you, and I am always aware of this, Josué de Castro, he was that great thinker, a doctor, but he became aware and said, hunger is the biological manifestation of a sociological disease. It is incredible. Today children are dying of hunger and preventable diseases. What is the United States going to do with millions of unemployed? I’m talking about the great power that dominates the world, what’s going to happen to all those people? And those people have to be in a social, cultural, political and spiritual rebellion. Pope Francis, when he raises the Laudato si’, the protection of the common house, is warning about all this, it is not only an ecological problem, it is a social and political problem that we are living today. And the foreign debt prevents people from having the resources for their life and development. This is what we have to think of, we have to change the Cartesian thought for the holistic thought, of knowing that everything is a process, that we have to find human exits for the lives of our peoples.
CA: You spoke just now of the need to combat this crisis and you also mentioned Fidel, a statesman who was thinking ahead, looking back on a hundred years. Fidel was talking about food sovereignty, about a civilization crisis and he was talking about an incredible concept, which was: either this humanity realizes that we are in the same boat and we have to help each other or it sinks and we all lose. It is not just a problem of revolutions, it is a problem of humanity.
AP: There are great thinkers in Latin America, who have a clear path to follow. First, to get out of this well in which we are submerged, that of the foreign debt, of submission. That is why, when Fidel convened a meeting in Havana in 1985, he already warned: Look, if you do not unite, the foreign debt will wipe out the goods and resources of the peoples. We have talked a lot with Fidel, we have even gone to the harvesting area, and I tell you something, I saw the machinery that Fidel had there, it was from the year 25 or 29, and I ask him: “tell me something Fidel, how did you get all this machinery working that is like a museum”, and Fidel looks at me and says: “Ah, you see, all this working is thanks to the United States. How is it thanks to the United States? Look, if the United States had not blockaded us, we would not have developed our imagination and creativity. You see those cars on the street that are from the year 20, 25, 30 and 35 and they are all working, it is the creativity of the people”. But Fidel marked us a lot, because Fidel was not only an intellectual, he was a wise man, he was a man who could see beyond his nose. But I remember in a meeting we had in Havana, Fidel could no longer walk, they had to help him, we were there with Atilio Borón and Stella Calloni, and Fidel gave us a lesson for four hours about fracking, what fracking was and the damage it was going to cause to the environment. Today we have it here in Argentina, and we have it worldwide. The question of the environment, the destruction of the forest, all this barbarism that they are doing to destroy flora and fauna.
We have to recover the balance of Mother Earth with the needs of the Human Being, because the coronavirus comes from the break with the balance of Mother Earth. If we do not reestablish the balance with Mother Earth, we are lost. This is what Pope Francis says, to protect the common home, this is what we have to do. All these capitals, all these economies are no longer going. We have to look for the social economy, the economy that has a sense of humanity and not of exploitation. Food sovereignty does not belong to the big corporations, food sovereignty comes from the small and medium rural producer and we have to give them the means to be able to extend the social economy. It cannot be an economy of exploitation.
I had many experiences in Latin America, including with the Mayan brothers in Chiapas, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, where I often went to see them. One time I was going to a meeting on “development and disarmament”. Note that much more is being invested in the arms race than in the life of the people. And this is fatal. So, there I meet with the Mayan brothers and they tell me once again, we are going to put you up in one of our houses and we are going to make a bed for you. And I tell them, look, I come to a meeting about development and democracy. I remember that in that meeting there was Beverly Keene, and I ask them, what is development for you? They opened their eyes and asked me: “What do you want to develop, to have more computers, more money, more cars, more cell phones? In our language there is no such thing as development. And what does exist. No no… the word development is an invention of these so-called civilized societies. What do you think? We don’t have the word development, but we do have the word balance. Balance with ourselves, balance with others, balance with our community, with our peoples, balance with Mother Earth. We are part of Mother Earth, we are not the owners. Balance with the cosmos, because we are part of the cosmos, we are sons and daughters of the stars. Balance with the cosmos and with God, that Supreme Being, because we belong somewhere. We are in a process of evolution, we are not the owners of the universe. It is balanced with God.
Violence comes when they break the balance of the human being with life, with Mother Earth. And we have to recover the balance and for that, we need to rethink who we are, what we want, and where we are going. This is the metaphysical challenge of all times. We have to find answers there. And finding ourselves is not the maelstrom that we have been subjected to, of technologies and time. Today we have to use technologies, but in the service of the human being and not of the human being dominated by technologies.
Human beings, peoples, cultures, we have to stop and be protagonists and builders of our own life and our own history. We are the managers of history because the history that we are going to leave to our children and our children’s children will depend on it. And we do not want to leave them a world of slaves. That is why the message is so important, what Fidel, Hugo Chávez, José Martí, the liberators of our continent, left us, for this we need to insist again, to be rebels, if we bow down in the face of injustice it is because we are dominated. I have hope that we will succeed.
Original text in Spanish published in Resumen Latinoamericano, English translation done by Resumen Latinoamericano.