Eduardo Galeano, pulp mills and Environment Day
On World Environment Day, we want to share with all of you the words of the well-known writer, Eduardo Galeano at the demonstration against the installation of two pulp mills on the Uruguay River organized on 27 May in Montevideo by the Guayubira Group. The objectives of this demonstration were clearly expressed in the slogan “YES to life. NO to the pulp mills.” However the leading newspapers linked to the traditional parties – that are presently relegated to the opposition – attempted to present it as an act against the new progressive government that the country voted in at the last elections. With his usual clarity, Galeano put this and other things in their right place. Thanks Eduardo!
“Good evening to you all, my dear all. I would like to start by making a couple of clarifications. Some newspaper published and some radios reproduced the news that tonight I was going to head a march against the Government. Well, neither do I head any march – because I do not head anything, I was not born to head – nor is this concentration against the Government. I would say, on the contrary, that this concentration is fed by a collective hope, the expectation that we all share that the government will listen to other voices and not only to the voices urging it to take hasty decisions regarding fundamental issues that are of importance to the country. Because there are decisions that take 15 or 20 minutes to make but that have consequences that last for centuries.
And now it is given as a fait accompli that the Government has approved or given its clearance to the installation of pulp mills in Fray Bentos.
What we had asked in a declaration that we signed and what we have afterwards emphasized time and again, and again, is the need to listen to these testimonies before taking a decision that seems very serious to us and that can involve the poisoning of the river and the reduction of the scant humus left to us on the soil, putrefying the waters and drying out the soil, in no way the work of our imagination but the sorry teachings left by the pulp mills following the experience of neighbouring lands, mostly Chile and Argentina and, before taking a decision, to give a good lot of thought to what is going to be done. We must listen to various voices because this thing of various voices is finally a tradition of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front). The Broad Front is called so because it was born wanting to be broad, a conjunction of consciences united under common flags but coming from different places and being able to have different opinions.
Someone said, I don’t know if it was Artigas – it was probably Artigas – [Uruguay’s national heroe] that contradiction is the only proof of freedom. But additionally, I believe that contradiction is the proof of life, because life is contradictory and we must not be afraid of this.
We are also certain, fed by the long-standing experience that when unity is confused with unanimity we cannot reach a safe port because there is no single truth, but the sum of truths that result from the contradiction of the many truths contained in truth.
So, we are not afraid of contradiction and it does not matter to us, it really does not matter to us that we are called traitors because we dissent.
Or have we gone back to the times of the Holy Inquisition and are we now going to be burnt with green wood for believing that some of the measures the Government is taking are mistaken or hasty?
No companions, I believe that we must claim the right to divergence within common grounds and that this is the best way of helping the Government to govern.
Because this Government was not pulled out of a magician’s hat and was not voted in by a gentleman called the market, and who seems to be the one who is taking us to task.
Because now what is being said is: No, what happens Eduardo: (I am being told so by my friends, loved ones, companions I love) you don’t understand that the market is satisfied. I say to them: the market? They say: not this because the market doesn’t want it.
The market? I ask: and is this Mr. Market Uruguayan? Has he got his voting papers? Has he voted? Was he voted? Who voted for Mr. Market?
The Broad Front does not have to be accountable to Mr. Market, but it is obliged to be accountable to the people who voted for it.
In these days, in these times we are living – I believe not only the Broad Front, the Government, but the whole country – in very difficult times. There is no doubt that the Government has inherited a mortgaged country, up to its ears in debt, with the margins of its sovereignty curtailed and increasingly narrow. And so it is a climate in which it is very difficult to say some things, and I understand this.
I understand that there may be sectors of the population - as in some sectors in Fray Bentos - that are happy with the idea that they are going to have jobs. Because this is a dismantled country where, unfortunately, work has become the privilege of a few. Then ecological defence of the environment, of the land, of water and also of human health, seems to be something related to Martians. Because we are living in a climate similar to that film (perhaps some of those here will have seen it), “Welcome Mr. Marshall,” in which a Spanish village was going crazy because Mr. Marshall was coming to bring money, that is to say investment - the other thing that experts talk about all the time, day and night.
Talking about investment, I am reminded of that episode that took place not so long ago, when a good part of the population of this country got a stiff neck from looking up at the sky, waiting for the plane that was going to bring the 3 billion dollars that had been promised by an Ambassador of the United States who is very interfering, and who is now urging the Government to approve an investment law containing colonial clauses that are humiliating for the country.
This meddlesome man has not understood that the country has changed, because the people voted so that the country could change, and things that were previously normal, humiliations accepted as usual in times of whitish or redish power (*) have now become serious offences to the restored national dignity.
I believe that it is not only our
legitimate right but also our obligation to remind this Government,
which many of us feel is our Government, to remind it that dignity is
our prime obligation and that the leader who said: “We shall not
sell the rich assets of the Uruguayan people at the low price of necessity”,
was not mistaken.
* referring to the two traditional parties: the White party (Partido Blanco) and the Red party (Colorado Party).
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