31/12/2002

Acceptance speech – Martín Almada

Impunity generates more repression and more corruption. Thus we must fight for justice, because life lies on the road to justice.

Mr Speaker, Dear Friends,

As a defender of Human Rights and a survivor of the State Terrorism practiced by the countries that took part in Operation Condor during the seventies, I am thrilled and grateful to come to the generous country of Sweden to receive this award.

I accept it as a show of support from the international community, to the survivors of the crimes committed in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay by Operation Condor, a genocide plan that was carried out in accordance with the ideology of a doctrine that claimed to preserve “National Security”.

I am aware that by granting me this award, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation continues to stimulate the Defence and Protection of Human Rights around the world, so that their work will continue to be the cornerstone for all actions carried out by members of the United Nations.

I’ve lived with this ambition through most of my life in my country, Paraguay – located in the heart of South America. I was born there and I grew up on the streets. The hard life on the streets convinced me that education was definitely the way towards a better world.

First during my studies to become a teacher, with my martyr wife, Celestina Almada, at the Juan Bautista Auberdi Institute, with a mission based on the motto “The school as an ante-chamber to democracy”. Later on a union fight for better professional and life conditions. Out of this idea was born the “Teachers’ Village”, a residential project achieved with the co-operation of teachers.

Then at the University of La Plata in Argentina. With my doctoral thesis “Paraguay: education and dependence”, I brought a denunciation and a proposal. An educational and political proposal organised from my increasing consciousness of the integral nature of the Human Rights. The result was persecution and imprisonment, in other words: my “Combative Survival”.

After that came the exile, and my fight got a bigger dimension with many colleagues from Europe joining the cause against the tyranny of Operation Condor.

In 1989, with the fall of the Stroessner regime, I reaffirmed my option for justice and not revenge. I started the juridical enquiry and all the projects to consolidate democracy from convergent perspectives: development of rural communities, fight against poverty and protection of the environment. I also took part in experiences of “Alternative Rights” like the Ethical Tribunal against impunity, the law of compensation for the victims and a proposition for a National Commission of Truth and Justice.

Moreover, I denounced grave violations of Human Rights to global juridical institutions, where the oppressors can be properly judged. I also thought about education: the enlightening dialogues with young people in any little village’s school or university forum.

This award gives me and all those who share my fight, a motivating impulse to take care of an urgent task that cannot be postponed: the protection of the “Forbidden Memory”. I am referring to the Secret Archives of the Political Police during the military dictatorship in Paraguay, which lasted 35 years. These archives contain documents related to Operation Condor. With this purpose, we have applied for and took steps to have these documents declared “cultural patrimony” so that they can become part of the World Memory promoted by UNESCO.

I have been given the honour of discovering these “Forbidden Memories”, also known as the Archives of Terror in Asuncion on the 22nd of December, 1992. Tons of documents that give access to detailed history, registered day by day, are now accessible to juridical authorities.

All the inhumane prose of the ideologists, the oppressors, all this information is there to be studied. A space for analysis and meditation – a laboratory that shows the origin and strategy of daily violence throughout the continent.

Ladies and gentlemen, after 30 years, this international recognition represents to me the responsibility to claim the deep sense of Ethics and to face the powers that intend to impose on humanity the logics of war, of environmental destruction and the empire of grand transactional capital.

We believe that the answer will not come from the big powers of the world, but from the active population. The actions of an organised civilian society who will force the governments and the financial international organizations to put an end to what causes the perpetration of poverty in each one of our third world countries.

This reality leads us to state, with deep conviction, the urge of promoting a global awareness of Human Rights. It is clear for us that no people, nation, international organisation or political leader has the right to assume the role of “Saviour of humanity and benefactor” because this takes us back to times in history in which the preponderance of a “unique thought” led to death, war and destruction of greater values.

Defending Human Rights implies giving power to social groups that are excluded from society, both on national and international levels. Generate multiple forms of dialogue and negotiation to re-create a field democracy that is not only representative but also promotes participation of the people. This participation should be done from everyday life in the local neighbourhood to the parliament, from the local councils to the TV news and digital networks.

Hope is made of FAITH and WORK. For this reason, in the SOUTH, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, different movements and NGOs from different countries converged a few years ago at the World Social Forum. They defend a deep conviction: ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE.

The course of international politics and the impact of recent events with countries that are broken by their external debts, and the growth of the weapon industries has led me to call for a large mobilisation in favour of Human Rights. For this purpose, I bring with me a piece of an article taken from the constitution of UNESCO. It says the following:

Having said that wars are born in the minds of men, it is in the same way from their minds that the structures for peace shall come.

I speak from this privileged position in this privileged occasion, to point out and warn as a survivor and protector of Human Rights against State terrorism.

The fragility of our democracies causes in many Paraguayans a nostalgia of the so called “times of order, peace, progress and security…”; these were the same times in which Operation Condor eliminated millions of people in front of the passive and accomplice silence of the neighbours.

There is in my country a search for “saviour messiahs” that impose their own recipe for “an organised, efficient and successful world.”

Every social conflict that emerges is a call for attention. This is why I reiterate the need to fortify the State of Common Good and the Civil Society to control the excesses of both the political powers and the market through local participation, so that our dream of going from a PATERNALISTIC STATE to a PROTAGONIST SOCIETY and from a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY to a PARTICIPATIVE DEMOCRACY may come true.

In this society the young people from the cities and from the countryside, professionals or not, often unemployed, have all means to join and reinforce our efforts to raise the brave torch of Human Rights that illuminates the way in which the future of us all is decided.

Thank you very much.




Mart’n Almada
Avda Carlos Antonio Lopez 2273
Asuncion
PARAGUAY
http://www.martinalmada.org/attivita/celestina.html