And, despite it all, we live in fascinating times

Monday, February 28, 2011

Because, for the first time, the radical changes that citizen responsibility demands are now possible.

It’s true that power (economic, military, energy, media…) has never before been concentrated in so few hands, a fact that soon gave rise to situations and events that are real –and often unprecedented- challenges, such as the speculators and the markets’ hounding of political leaders; oil consumption that, despite carbon dioxide’s toxic effects on the environment continues to increase along with its price, once again threatening the timid advances of global financial regulation; exploitation of natural resources continues in so many southern countries, progressively impoverished by the limitless greed of multinational consortia (coltan in the Congo unfortunately continues to be an odious example); not only have tax havens not been shut down, but they are receiving more funds than ever before; among the supranational trafficking that continues with unprecedented impunity, drug trafficking is particularly harmful, where there’s a refusal to admit that price is not a deterrent to drug use while its impact has triggered actual civil war in several regions in the world...

All of this has been accompanied by a gradual alienation of the United Nations, replacing it with groups of plutocrats totally lacking in institutional organization; delocalization of production with serious repercussions for the workforces of so many countries; powerful communications media that reduce us to merely fearful and uniform spectators...

As a tragic balance, hunger takes the lives of over 70,000 people daily while, armed to the teeth, we continue to increase the shameful sum of 4,000 million dollars invested daily in military spending, aircraft, tanks, rockets and warheads...

But for the first time in history citizens are acquiring global awareness, they know the “real reality,” as Gabriel García Márquez called it, which will enable them to compare and appreciate what they have, and what they and others are lacking. This “global vision” has an extraordinary transforming effect at the personal level. Human beings become progressively “aware” of the world in which they live. And thanks to modern communications technology, many are also now capable of expressing themselves, assuming commitments, acting and participating. I have often observed that this distance participation will soon result in substantial improvements in democracy and in citizens’ capacity to be active and proactive, especially with regard to young people. We have just seen what we had hoped for in Iran: mobilization brought on peacefully through cyberspace.

Yes: we are gradually ceasing to be passive witnesses to finally prompt the changes we dream of and desire. Let’s secure quick changes in the present system of powers. Take note: the tidal wave of mobilization through Internet and mobile phones won’t only change the particularly serious status of tyranny and oppressive regimes. It will go even farther to achieve the changes that are so necessary and urgent for human dignity, such as remedying social inequalities, providing an adequate quality of life for all (access to water, food, health, decent housing), with an urgent reduction in the nuclear threat and unbridled military spending in outdated weapons...

But above all we will promote prevention, adopting measures before the calls for justice, freedom and solidarity give rise to anger and violence. Soon, from cyberspace there will be support for adopting anticipatory measures, imagination. Because faced with those who oppose change, the only way to achieve it is through the unexpected, inventing the future. Our hope lies with the unexpected. I like to repeat Amin Maalouf’s recommendation: "unprecedented situations require unprecedented solutions". At her inauguration Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that in order to make dreams a reality it is necessary to “exceed the limits of the impossible". The impossibles of today can be the possibles of tomorrow, if we are capable of defeating inertia and facilitate evolution by preserving what is worth preserving and rapidly changing what needs to be changed.

We live in fascinating times: we have the means for participating; black presidents govern the destinies of the United States and South Africa; life expectancy has increased, particularly in the more prosperous regions of the earth, and it will now gradually extend to the others; the Soviet Union, so lacking in freedom, fell; capitalism, so lacking in equality and justice, has now likewise fallen...

We now feel new breezes, breezes from the century of the peoples. A new era is dawning. A new beginning.

An uncontrollable tidal wave from cyberspace has commenced!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The mobilization of the peoples has commenced.

Those who continue to speculate on the deathbed of “globalization”, those who met in Davos… are generally ignorant of current reality: citizens are starting to express themselves through modern communications technology. The time for resignation and silence is over.

They have consistently refused to listen: for years I and many others have predicted that distance participation using mobile phones and Internet would change the course of history, greatly increasing citizens’ capacity to influence the democratic process, which previously was limited in the best scenarios to voting in elections. But I added that genuine democracy is not only being counted in elections, but counting, being taken into account daily. The voice of the people! The “We, the Peoples!” so lucidly proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

The United Nations have been reduced to an international humanitarian agency and an institutional refuge of convenience, conferring real power to groups of the world’s wealthiest nations (G6, G7, G8… G20). Since the 1980s when values (social justice, equity, solidarity …) were replaced by the rules of the market and the “democracy” that the UN represented was replaced by plutocracy, it became clear that inequalities would increase, production would be outsourced, tax havens would overflow instead of being shut down once and for all, supranational trafficking (drugs, arms, people) would go unpunished, financial transactions would remain unregulated…

But it was all in vain.

Cyberspace’s capacity for moving the masses soon became apparent, even in Iran! It is now extending to the Maghreb. Hopefully it will be peaceful, and what could have been predicted won’t be put down with violence.

And, above all, let’s hope that those responsible for the current situation, particularly the “great dominion” (the energy, military, economic and media powers) promptly take the appropriate measures. When the Berlin Wall fell and with it, thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev’s magic, the Soviet empire, I warned that if the current tendencies weren’t rapidly rectified, the same would happen in the “Western” empire. “A system based on equality, but lacking in freedom has just collapsed. Now, if there are not radical changes, this system based on freedom but lacking in equality and justice will also collapse”.

The exploited, frustrated, poor and impoverished, those who have been humiliated may now make themselves heard and “seen”. Until recently, the scope was local and the basis for protests was also “local”. Now there are global causes, and the markets’ intolerable hounding of political action has become widespread.

Today it’s so easy to see that those who provoked this situation are those who are now accusing the leaders of the countries affected by this “tidal wave”! They must immediately start taking corrective decisions, because citizen mobilization, like an uncontrollable high tide (which hopefully won’t become a tsunami) is now unstoppable.

We were silenced because they deemed our voices utopian, irrelevant, irritating but insignificant… instead of realizing that this was a gradual process toward mobilization at all levels.

I remember years ago they called us “do-gooders,” when from positions of responsibility all over the world we advocated a rapid reform of the United Nations, so that citizens could finally play the role that the United Nations System represents and promotes, inspired in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Don’t look the other way. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Accelerate change. Change is going to come, regardless. Think of that incontrollable tidal wave …

Authenticity and Impartiality

Monday, February 14, 2011

The role of cyberspace, social networks and cell phones in mobilizing people has only just begun.

But it’s true that just as they enable all citizens to join together and express themselves freely, the “powers” can use new communications technologies to control, threaten and dissuade.

The echo of social networking pages is even greater when the press or audiovisual media use them as news sources.

Distance, peaceful rebellion may be the key for the “fermentation” of strong, well-organized non-violent popular action.

While the western powers looked the other way, as is customary, in Tunisia there has been a profound movement among the people who –precisely due to improved education- could no longer bear the corruption that tarnished the regime, especially given the President’s wife’s present saga.

Protests are successful because there are motives, because –in the words of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- citizens can be “compelled to rebellion”. If there are no circumstances to motivate and prompt reactions, without having to wait for a “tsunami”, which always involves suffering and negative effects, attempting to elicit a response from society at the wrong moment can be counter-productive and the targeted governments may capitalize on any failure and take regulatory, logistical and propaganda measures to later hinder the capacity for awareness and commitment that come with freedom of expression.

We have to become “indignant” at the right time and stay alert, to guarantee the effectiveness of the communications media, which in a very few years will overthrow authoritarian systems and consolidate genuine democracy.

It is also essential –as I have previously insisted*- to confirm the veracity of information provided by Wikileaks and other information sources. We need to know the truth, and all of the truth, because it is suspicious, for example, that practically none of the information leaked refers to Israel, and when it exceptionally does, it has been to denigrate the Palestinians, ridiculing their “offers” in the peace process, which can further aggravate internal divisions …

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas had announced that in September of this year, on the 20th anniversary of the initiation of the peace process with Israeli negotiators who, with the exception of Yitzhak Rabin, have always prevented them from concluding successfully, he would declare the Palestinian State, with the support of President Obama. Abbas’ position was weakened by leaks, although their veracity has never been demonstrated. “The Guardian” was the newspaper that “selected” these news items, describing them as “verified”.

And we must ask, are the aforementioned references a part of Wikileaks or are they a part of the selection made by the communications media that published them?

Rigor can be demanded. Because, if not, what might be an essential element of the “new beginning” that we all desire, could be used to the advantage of the great powers.

Rigor, verification: I was also impressed with the bias shown in the press with the recent publication of Human Rights Watch’s Report, particularly with respect to Guantanamo. The European Union was harshly criticized for its “soft” touch with the world’s dictators (the reference was principally to Ben Ali, the deposed President of Tunisia). China was treated with “almost universal cowardice”… I would also like to read a condemnation of the deadly invasion of Gaza in “Operation Cast Lead” about which, according to Wikileaks, the Palestinian leader had already been informed by the Tel Aviv government!

The crime of silence

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From wave to wave.

The sea is all knowing.

But it forgets.

Mario Benedetti

I wrote this in August 1994 in Salobreña, sitting across from the sea as the sun went down:

The crime

of silence.

We must become

the voice

of the silenced


The voice

that denounces,

that proclaims

that man

is not for sale,

is not part

of the market.

The voice

that reaches out to

the four corners

of the earth,

forceful and loud.

Let no one who

can speak

stay quiet.

Let all those who can,

join in with

this cry.

The silence of the silenced, of the gagged. The silence of ignorance. Terrible silence. Though even more terrible, so terrible it is a crime, is the guilty silence of the silent. Of those who can speak but remain quiet. Of those who can and should speak, but choose not to.

We owe our voice. To our own conscience, primarily. But, immediately after, it is our duty to be the voice of the voiceless. We owe them our voice: The voice owed to you, as in Garcilaso's eclogue, as in Salinas' book. The voice owed, above all, to those who follow just behind us, to future generations.

Without ceasing. Without flinching. Resisting distraction or weariness. Resisting the pull of the screen (s), passive viewers. It is a duty to speak out. To fail to do so is, or can be, wilful insolidarity, a moral transgression, a crime. "When the tired man / ... stops, / he betrays the world, because he yields / in hte supreme duty, which is to continue".

Try again. Without stopping, without pause, because -as Salinas continues- "It makes our lives complete / that pure, restless flight...".

A watchful voice. A voice that warns and corrects. A voice tha guides. "The voice must preceed the fact, / prevent it. / Any later and it is useless. / Nothing more than trembling air" (verse on Cambodia, 8 April 1979).

The voice owed, pledged. The voice that liberates as it utters. The voice that is a handhold, that cures. In 1995, I wrote in Paris,

"... The voice sometimes / was not a voice out of fear. The voice tha could have been the remedy / and was nothing".

In hies poem, On Present Time, José Ángel Valente warns us:

"I write from a shipwreck.

I write about the present time.

I write... about what we have destroyed

above all inside us.

I write from the night,

from the infinite progression of the shadows,

... from the clamour of man and the netherworld,

from genocide,

from the children, infinitely dead...

but I also write form life...

from its powerful cry".

Like Garcilaso, "No longer could I remain silent," let us raise our voice. A voice owed, a voice of life. The crime of silence"... Let the voice of everyone be heard, / solemnly and clearly". This is the message of Miquel Martí i Pol. Of everyone! The clamour of the people, so that our descendents do not look back one day and think: "They could have but the did not dare. We waited for their voice, and it never came".

The sea can remain silent.

We cannot.


In book "Heartbeats of time", by Ricardo Calero and Gervasio Sánchez. Published by Ayuntamientos of Sevilla and Zaragoza, 2004

Respect for intellectual property, providing users appropriate access

Monday, February 7, 2011

Without creators there would be no users. It must be made clear that this is a subject where mutual respect is essential. It is necessary to address these fundamental questions calmly, each freely expressing his point of view, so that an agreement may be reached and guidelines adopted to promote creativity, for the benefit of those who listen to, read or watch the result of this distinctive talent of the human species, the spiritual cornerstone support that dispels fatalism or any unappeasable sentiment. It is precisely an “efficient interaction” that promotes the creative capacity of each unique human being. Never are all either spectators or creators. We are all both creators and spectators. All of us should be capable of inventing our own course, our daily lives, never accepting that anything is inevitable.

The constitution of UNESCO, the intellectual organization of the United Nations system that I had the honor to direct for several years, mentions intellectual property as a common good that warrants protection, so that through education that liberates rather than enslaves, defenses of peace may be constructed in the minds of men. And the Universal Declaration of Human rights underscores the extreme care that all of us should take to protect human beings’ unique power to think, imagine, innovate and create!

It is incoherent to pay for so many things –including and primarily, technology- while refusing to contribute relatively modest amounts to creative activity (whether it be literature, poetry, music, painting, recordings, film, photography, or art in general).

Reproduction rights or copyright ensure that royalties, which should be reasonable, are paid to intellectual property creators during their lifetimes and for a period thereafter, set forth in each country’s legislation, to the family members and relatives designated by the creators. In that regard, as Director General of UNESCO I proposed that when a work enters the "public domain" and no longer generates royalties, small amounts should still be charged to finance a fund to aid and promote young creators or those who due to the nature of their works merit special consideration. Can you imagine how much the reproduction of the works of Mozart, Goya or Cervantes… would benefit musicians, artists or writers today?

No, it wouldn’t be right to continue to pay for the container and not for the content. Transparency on the part of all is essential in reaching an expedient solution. And a clear distinction must be made between the interests of creators and the so-called “cultural industry”, which can reach far beyond the intellectual activity that we seek to respect.

Internet deficiencies and abuses should be made known, preventing technology from prevailing over talent. Today Internet users play a very important role and they will do so even more in the future: for this reason it is urgent that we immediately and sensibly address all aspects of this complex world of communication. No freedom should be restricted.

Creators, users, service providers… talking around a table. Talking brings understanding. May all of them receive adequate guarantees to address their concerns, with the representatives and arbitrators already in place, so the their rights may be respected and there may be many more users to promote creative activity in themselves and in others.

To regulate downloads France has created a governmental agency, the “High Authority for the Dissemination of Works and Protection of Rights in Internet” (HADOPI). Everything indicates that it would be better to seek less bureaucratic formulas to provide for the rapid intervention of arbitrators and, if warranted, the courts.

To resolve really relevant matters, harassment and positions of force just don’t work. Obstinacy is never good counsel. In reality, such behavior never yields anything positive.

Let’s all promote creativity. It’s our common hope, especially in such uncertain and turbulent times.

PIGS... and ( I )...

Thursday, February 3, 2011






must all fall, at all costs: they are the outer limits of the Eurozone... and the “Dollar Zone’s” attack commenced with the weakest link, Greece.

There was a huge mobilization in Europe and, despite indecision on the part of an unpredictable Germany that gained so much from its big business with Greece in its heyday, the “investors’” attack was repelled, at least for now. And the link between news on a European collapse and large U.S. media and financial groups was apparent, although the good economists and financial commentators did not give this the publicity it warranted.

Then it was Ireland’s turn, a country that until just a few months ago (check the periodicals library!) was cited as an “example” of neo-liberal development by those same economists, business schools and rating agencies, international banking institutions... and political parties and leaders obsessed with globalization. They are now looking the other way –something that many politicians are lately doing quite blatantly- and, once again, much effort was needed to rescue that formerly exemplary and now wayward country.

If the European Union is not capable of putting its foot down, it may soon be Portugal’s, and then Spain’s turn. The triumph of the ultra-Republicans in the U.S. certainly doesn’t bode well for that capacity for reaction. Contrary to the situation just a few years ago (!), Portugal, along with Greece and Spain, is the last stronghold of social-democratic government. The famous Scandinavians and the large Central European countries are now all in the hands of rightist parties, which frequently lean toward alarming extremes.

The pursuit is relentless, accentuated even more by the long arm of the "Tea Party". If Portugal is the third to go... using the medical term favored by news commentators, the “contagion” will reach our country, which was unable to timely contain the immense real estate bubble, although we must admit that in calm waters it’s hard to predict a storm. I remember in 2000 the boundless enthusiasm with which a member of the government at that time proclaimed that Spain had “more buildings under construction than all of the countries in Europe put together”. And now we logically have more unemployment than all of the countries in the EU.

I continue to place my hope in the democrat Obama. And for the good of Europe –which has allowed so many excesses from “globalizers”, has distanced itself from the United Nations, outsourced so much of its production to the East, and continues to tolerate dependence in defense and the existence of tax havens...- I trust that citizens, who cannot continue as passive observers, will promote a courageous "democratic (r)evolution" in the European Union, being aware of the extraordinary role that they must play at this time.

Otherwise, the





will all fall, one after the other... But it won’t stop there. Then will come I... (Italy), and then Belgium... and...

And what is worse, the Union will dis-unite, the dominant classes in each country will seize the reins to energetically take over a situation for which they are to a great extent responsible... and the dream of a united Europe, as a guiding light for others, will slowly fade...