Report back from a recent trip to Lima to submit a report on Shell's and the Government's activities in Mayo, to a Permanent Peoples Tribunal at the Summit of the People.
Cumbre de los Pueblos
Summit of the People
Enzalando Alternativas 3
Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos
Permanent Peoples Tribunal
Members of the S2S campaign went along to deliver a report into the activities of Shell, the Irish Government, the Gardai and the EU to the PPT.
Let us say from the start that the entire event is conducted through Spanish, the dominant language in Peru and, i believe, Latin America, the representatives sent could not speak Spanish, however simultaneous translation was available in English for us at the major meetings and we delivered our verbal report in English with the physical report being handed in in English and some Spanish translations.
We arrived to a preliminary meeting to the Riveria Hotel in Lima and met with the summit organisers and other participants.
It was obviously a large affair with many delegates from various organisations staying in the hotel.
Hre we learned that the TTP would be hearing testimony from the various cases on Tuesday the 13th and Wednesday the 14th and would then retire to consider their verdict before releasing it on Friday the 16th.
While the PPT occupied the largest said area, dozens and dozens of workshops were going on simultaneously as well as plenary sessions on umbrella issues. Outside, in the courtyard area of the National University of Engineering, where the event was being held, displays and stalls were set up, featuring a plethora of social and environmental campaigns as well as traditional Peruvian handmade craftwork such as knitted gloves and scarves, embroidery, jumpers, drinks and local foods including coca products. All this was connected to the event, with many stalls selling crafts from their area and giving out information about the campaigns going on in their regions. Campaigns against TNCs like Shell, Repsol, Unilever, Syngenta to name but a few. Folk handed out flyers about campaigns and political beliefs even religious views.
As the days carried on more and more people arrived to try and join in the summit.
On Tuesday morning getting into the grounds was ok, but trying to get into the auditorium for the opening ceremony was like a huge rugby scrum the closer the time to starting came, the capacity for the auditorium was about 1,000 but far more had turned up and wanted to hear the opening, hundreds were forced to wait outside in the stalls and stands area.
Eventually T and I got inside after queuing for about an hour, then we were issued with head sets and radios so translators could tell us Word for Word what was being said. Voluntarily the organisers were prepared to do simultaneous translation for up to several hundred people but T and I were amongst only 5 or 6 who actually needed the translation.
Inside hundreds of press and over a dozen TV cameras were ready to capture the event.
Speakers spoke of social forums, counter summits, transnationals or TNCs, Europe & Latin America and neoliberal policies, intercultural relations and much more besides. Of making progress and moving forward, of solidarity with European networks and the hundreds of volunteers who had built this people´s summit, of examples of resistance in Latin America.
Amongst many prestigious opening speakers were, Helmuth Markov, member of the European Parliament and Irish woman Brid Brennan of the Transnational Institute, Holland.
An indigenous Peruvian ancestral ceremony then marked the opening of the PPT. This was accompanied by a speaker explaining the ceremony, its relevance and symbology. So as 1000 people looked on as well as all the TV cameras the group performing the ceremony burnt heaps of incense in a small pyre contained in a bowl, conch shells emitted a mournful sound as those conducting the ceremony, dressed in bright traditional dress and headwear prepared a mixture of petals and other ingredients and liquids. The semi dry end result was used to "protect" each speaker by placing a small amount on their head.
The speaker narrating here spoke of being symbiotic with nature, "bring us water so that life will be right", of mother leaf, of there being many foreign people here, that we will be holding hands, for we are on the same path.
The crowd watching is made up of as diverse a group as you could imagine, from Peruvian students in western clothes, journalists, suits, to traditional garbs from many different back grounds and countries. The latter featuring an array of bright indigenous clothes, babies in shawls on backs, beige almost hessian looking cloths, bamboo spears, bows and arrows, woven head dresses with feathers. Even many of the strange, small stylised bowler hats that many indigenous women here wear.
One speaker spoke of how the world was like a large garden, with people like different flowers and u could see the evidence of that here today.
Robert de la Cruz, a fiery speaker said this was not an anti summit, “We want to be heard, We believe another world is possible”.
The court was thus opened
The jurors, about a dozen men and women included
Fancois Houtart (CETRI)
Dr. Gianni Tognoni
Franco Ippolito, Corte Suprema de Casacion, Italy
Franceso Martone, ex Italian senator
Lorenzo Muelas, ex Columbain senator
Dr. Patricio Pazmino, Ecuador
Vilma Nunez, ex vice president of Supreme court of justice Nicaragua
Prof Edgardo Lander, Venezuela
The cases which were then heard over the following 2 days were broadly broken up Ander the following headings, Natural Resources and Neo-colonialism, New Constitusionism and Privatisation, Privatisation of Public Services and violation of peoples Fundamentals, Financial and Economic crimes, criminalisation of protest and resistance, Social and Ecological damage & Infrastructure.
The cases were almost all affecting LATIN American countries, by transnational companies almost all of whom where based in Western Europe, companies like, Shell (2cases), Suez, Unilever, Skanska, Bayer, Syngenta, Monterrico Metals, Repsol, BBVA, Santander and HSBC (latter 3 banks)
Our own case was listed under Criminalisation of Protest and Resistance, but could obviously have fallen under many of the other sections also. The other Shell case, brought by a group called CAVE from Argentina and Brasil, was listed under the Natural resources and Neoliberalism, a big surprise I´m sure.
Over the next 2 days representatives from each case (24 cases uner 12 sections) were given 10 minutes to give verbal evidence against their aggressor, but most groups had submitted detailed reports to the tribunal prior to attendance, as we ourselves had done, submitting a 60 page report on Shell and their agents etc in North West Mayo.
Terrence and I both gave 10 minute presentations, in English with simultaneous translation, on Wednesday evening, to a crowd of about 400 people and the jury for the PPT. It was well received and accepted by the court.
Simultaneously during the week, over a hundred workshops were being conducted in about a dozen locations through the engineering campus.
The PPT finished accepting testimony on Wednesday evening and retired to consider their verdict, delivering it on Friday afternoon in the Coliseo.
Terrence and I were again in attendance with ear pieces for translation as the hall filled up with the same menagerie of people. And kept filling, and filling. Over 1000 seats were arranged in the playing area, as well as fixed seating to either side, a multitutde of TV cameras and other press were once again in attendance, I roughly counted more than 2,500 people inside. After a few impassioned speeches addressing subjects as varied as Haitti, the Lisbon Treaty, rejection of Bio fuels, Womens Rights, FTAs, Institutional Violence and the Illegalisation of Peoples Movements, the jurors returned to give their verdict.
This will follow from me when I receive a translated copy.
During this and other days, movement slogans and chants were often shouted from audience and stage alike, forcing speakers (if they weren´t the originators) to pause while the crowd quietened again, sometimes having to wait while people took up and responded to these slogans. Also people passed out leaflets, promoting various ideas and movements, political, social justice, and environmental campaigns. On Friday as the proceedings neared their end more and more leaflets where being passed out, and to my amazement, as many had not printed enough to go around, people really eagerly clamoured for various leaflets, the culmination of which I saw was a slim magazine or brochure on climate change, which was literally being grabbed off the guys distributing them and people squabbled over the copies going out. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about but as I exited the building as most others had left not a single copy was left lying around.
Terrence and I were really impressed with the number of people involved, the enthusiasm and variety of interest involved. It was backed by the National Engineering Uni, with the Uni Pres giving a speech at the end, and Chavez arriving on Thursday to play football there as part of the event. Cultural and other festive events and displays where put on each evening, tho Terrence and I missed these, our lodgings on the far side of the huge city. On Friday evening the Presidents from many of the Latin American countries were gathering in central Lima to give speeches and the finish of the Cumbre de los Pueblos was a march to these speeches.
Terrence and I both found our inability to speak Spanish highly frustrating and limited our ability to understand all that was going on and the broader context, but an invaluable learning and sharing experience never the less.
An English translation of the juror’s verdict and findings on the PPT cases to follow.