Thursday, August 27, 2009

Letter from the Brazilian Solidarity Economy Movement



“Looking at the future, I wish that our region of Santa Maria, which
is relatively poor, would be more intensely supported by attitudes of
Hope. We don’t want complacent people, nor we want to give anyone any
false hopes. We want to be agents of true Hope”.

(Dom José Ivo Lorscheiter, late Bishop of Santa Maria, Brazil).

Since 1994 takes place in Santa Maria, state of Rio Grande do Sul,
Brazil, the yearly Solidarity Economy Fair, which would complete on
the 10th, 11th, and 12th of July 2009 its 16th state-level edition and
its 5th edition as an international event.

For 16 years, this event has been dreamed, planned and carried
out by the strength of the horizontal networks of the Solidarity
Economy Movement, gathering around the Brazilian Forum of Solidarity
Economy, the state-level Forums, the 60 organizing commissions of
Projeto Esperança/Cooesperança of the diocese of Santa Maria, our
institutional partners, the governmental and non-governmental
organizations, the social movements and the worker-managed

The yearly fair of Santa Maria is part of a National Program of
Solidarity Economy Fairs, a public policy that supports fair and
solidarity-based production and consumption.

Since 2001, the Fair became a national event with the
participation of many worker-managed enterprises from other states and

The 2008 event counted with the presence of about 145 thousand
people from 25 countries, 27 Brazilian states and around 400
municipalities, with the participation of 850 worker-managed
enterprises and many Solidarity Economy Networks from Latin America
and other continents. It offered them a large amount of training
events such as national and international seminars, workshops, the
International Ecumenical March for Peace, the Youth Mobilization,
diverse exchanges of experiences and cultural moments with the
presence of different cultures, ethnicities and a large amount of
indigenous people from many tribes.

The Santa Maria yearly fair: “A Learning and Teaching Experience”.

The year of 2009 will enter history in a different manner, with a
projected record attendance of 150 thousand participants. The
voluntary work and effort of the 60 organizing commissions former by
worker-managed enterprises that compose the network of Projeto
Esperança/Cooesperança, integrated in the social work of Banco da
Esperança (Cáritas Diocesana) of the Diocese of Santa Maria, of
Cáritas Brasileira and Cáritas Regional/RS, of SENAES (Secretaria
Nacional de Economia Solidária/National Secretariat of Solidarity
Economy), of IMS (Instituto Marista de Solidariedade) and many other
partner and supporting organizations which came to this event, one
year ago, have been interrupted and cancelled.

Why was the Fair cancelled if other public events kept on
happening around the country?

The argument of Judge Eloísa Helena Hernandez de Hernandez was
that “there would be an agglomeration of people”, which would pose a
risk of contagion of the H1N1 flu. What could we say of other
agglomerations: public transport, movie theatres, shopping centres,
parties, nightclubs, markets, sports events, harvest festivals, car
fairs and may other events that lead to large agglomerations of people
in Santa Maria and other towns and cities in Rio Grande do Sul and the
whole of Brazil? Is our air different? Is our food different? Is our
work different? Is our athmosphere different? Or the true reason is
that Solidarity Economy opens to the world the possibility os a new
economic model, of Solidarity-based Development, of inclusion, of
sharing, of human dignity, where the excluded of the mainstream
economic model have a voice and an active role through interactive and
engaged participation?

You can check the course of events in the following chronology:

1. On July 1 2009, the representatives of the organizing commission of
the Santa Maria yearly fair and of the Santa Maria town hall had a
meeting with Dr. José Haidar Farret, Municipal Secretary for Health,
to arrange the Medical Team and the supporting Mobile Unit for the 3
days of the Fair. It was confirmed by Dr. José Haidar Farret that his
team would provide assistance during the whole duration of the event,
including for the 4th Youth Mobilization and Camp. We trusted that the
Municipal Secretariat for Health would provide all the necessary

2. On July 2 2009, there was an enlarged meeting with various segments
of the health sector, representatives of the town hall and the central
organizing committee of the 16th FEICOOP. During this meeting there
was a long debate on which segments of the health sector wanted to
cancel all the events. However, the organizing committee reflected on
the issue and decided to cancel only the international events. This
decision was sent on the same day to Mayor Cézar Schirmer, who
manisfested his agreement in keeping only the national events.

3. On July 3rd 2009, all the segments of the health sector mentioned
beforehand had a meeting with the Public Prossecutor, Mr. João Adede Y
Castro. He recommended the organizing committee the cancellation of
all the events connected with the Fair and demanded the town hall the
total cancellation of all events. The documents were sent around 5PM
the same day to the organizing commission.

4. On July 4 2009, on the “Centro de Referência de Economia Solidária
Dom Ivo Lorscheiter”, in Rua Heitor Campos, s/n, in Santa Maria, we
had a meeting of about 170 representatives of the organizing
committees, which requested, in the presence of lawyers, a
reconsideration of the judiciary decision. This negotiation went until
July 7 2009 at16h30min, when it was announced in the press, by the
town hall, the APPROVAL of all the national events, since the
organizing committees have already cancelled all the international
events, with the agreement of Mayor Cézar Schirmer. On the very same
day, around 18h, the public prosecutor, Dr. João Marcos Adede Y Castro
imposed a cautionary lawsuit, demanding the cancellation of all the
national and international events.

5. On July 8 2009, around 10h30min, the organizers received a document
ordering the total and compulsory cancellation of all events, with a
penalty of R$ 50.000,00 (fifty thousand reais) for each of the
organizing entities of the events of 2009: Santa Maria Town Hall,
Diocese of Santa Maria, Banco da Esperança and Projeto
Esperança/Cooesperança in case they didn’t follow the orders.

6. From July 1 until July 12 2009, there were several meetings with
the central organizing committee of the Fair, as well as with the
partner institutions. We also received thousands of telephone calls
and E-mails requesting information on this situation.

The total cancellation of the Fair was announced just one and a
half days before the scheduled beginning of the national events,
making it impossible to warn the caravans that were coming from
distant regions and were already on the road. Still, despite the
cancellation, everybody that left their homes to come to our events
were well received by us.

We manifest our repulse and our deep indignation to public
prosecutor Dr. João Adede Y Castro nd judge Dra. Eloísa Helena
Hernandez de Hernandez, who did not have the capacity to listen to the
organizers, nor gave them the chance to exercise the right to
self-defense and clarification of the situation. This indignation
spread across all the national and international Solidarity Forums and
Networks at the world level, the very same movement that is
strengthening the construction of a new model of solidarity-based and
sustainable development with public policies through a new form of
organization, production and just, ethical and solidarity-based
production, trade and consumption.

In fact, these events represented a wound in the “Heart” of the
worldwide movement of Solidarity Economy

When the order for the definitive cancellation of all national
events came on July 8 2009, 15 caravans of participants have already
left from different regions of Brazil. Despite the cancellation of the
Fair, these caravans organized, in Santa Maria, a very significant
movement of sharing, exchange of experiences, knowledge and protest in
different areas of the town and the surrounding region. Among them was
a visit to the tomb of Dom Ivo Lorscheiter, at the Sanctuary Basílica
de Nossa Senhora Medianeira; the March of Hope, in which thousands of
people supporting the same cause claimed for Hope, Courage Justice and
Freedom, strengthening the Web of Hope in the perspective that
“Another World is Possible”.

Durign these three days, facing an exclusionary and oppressive
system that is generating a growing “excess mass” of poor and excluded
people outside the formal labour market, we reaffirmed the need and
the urgency of turning Solidarity Economy into a large-scale worldwide

With that aim, we are setting up for the month of January 2010,
in the framework of the commemorations of the 10th anniversary of the
World Social Forum, which will take place in the metropolitan region
of Porto Alegre, the 1st World Social Forum of Solidarity Economy and
the 1st World Fair of Solidarity Economy in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do
Sul, Brazil, just before the events in Porto Alegre. These events will
take place in the presence of all the worldwide networks of Solidarity
Economy affirming that “Another World is Possible” and that “Another
Economy is Happening”.

Santa Maria, RS - Brazil, 10 to 12 July 2009.

Signed by representatives of the 60 organizing committees of the 2009
Fair and the representatives of the 15 Brazilian states, together with
the Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy, the state-level Forums, the
partner organization and sponsors of the cancelled events.

“If you want to plan for a year, plant cereal;

If you want to plan for 30 years, plant trees;

If you want to plan for 100 years: Mobilize and organize the
mobilization of the PEOPLE” (Chinese Proverb).

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