In the small hours of the night of the 30th of June of 2005, a group of poets gathered in the bar of the Gran Hotel of Medellín talked about the events of the day, the fifth of the festival that is organized in that city since 1991.
The multitudinous International Poetry Festival of Medellín is the result of the doggedness, the determination and the hard work of just a few poets who under the direction of Fernando Rendón one day decided that instead of the sound of gunfire and the explosions of bombs, the music of words should be heard in the streets of their city.
That night it was difficult for the poets sitting at the table to hear their own voices. In the neighboring hall the younger members of the staff were drinking beer and laughing and shouting loud. They only fell silent when some member of that large and boisterous party started singing. That night I was moved when I heard an Argentine popular song Canción para Carito and also a chamamé (northern Argentine popular form of music) by Antonio Tarrago Ros. I forget the nameof the chamamé but the lyrics go: " When the rain hushes / its murmur on the roofs / the fragrance of the jasmine / is renewed in the patio..." Someone mentioned the Summit of the Americas, the meeting of the presidents that will take place next November in the city of Mar del Plata, Argentina, and we all called it a day.
The following night, after another day full of poetry lectures and after a good dinner in which many still commented on Juan Calzadilla's (Venezuela) and Juan Manuel Roca's (Colombia) reading at the maximum security prison of Itagüi, we met in the hall of the hotel.
The poets there were Sam Hamill, founder and director of Poets Against War, who gave an account of how this organization got started; William Osuna (Venezuela); Breyten Breytenbach (who served a seven year sentence in South African jails for opposing Apartheid); Adhely Rivero (Venezuela) and Sergio Badilla (Chile) among others.
The idea of making a statement to be presented at the Summit of the Americas floated in the air, so everyone thought it necessary and useful for the poets to write a letter to the presidents of the continent. Many thoughts and opinions were exchanged that night. I came back to Buenos Aires with lots of notes and a draft letter and proceeded to do the final editing with Jorge Rivelli and Alejandra Mendé. After that the letter started to circulate through the web. Over one hundred poets signed it the first week, and signatures continue to flow in.
We want to thank all the poets who gave us their support right from the start: Lawrence Ferlinghetti (poet, artist, San Francisco, EEUU); Sam Hamill (poet, translator; director of Poets Against War , Port Townsend, Wa., EEUU); Juan Calzadilla (poet, essayist, artist, Caracas, Venezuela); Fernando Rendón (poet, director of the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín , Medellín, Colombia); Breyten Breytenbach (poet, writer, artist, South Africa, member of the Gorée Institute, Dakar, Senegal); Juan Manuel Roca (poet, novelist, journalist, Bogotá, Colombia); Casimiro de Brito (poet, writer and essayist Portugal); John F. Deane (poet, translator, editor; Dublin, Ireland); Ide Hintze (poet, performance artist, director of the Vienna Poetry Academy ; Vienna, Austria); Adhely Rivero (Poet, director of Poesía, the magazine of the Universidad de Carabobo and coordinator of the ENCUENTRO INTERNACIONAL POESIA UNIVERSIDAD DE CARABOBO , VENEZUELA), Hans van de Waarsenburg (poet, director of the The Maastricht International Poetry Nights , Holand; Luuk Gruwez (poet, Hasselt, Belgium); Kornelijus Platelis (poet and organizer of the Poetry Festival of Drunskininkai , Vilnius, Lithuania); Sergio Badilla Castillo (poet, Santiago de Chile); Osvaldo Picardo (poet, director of La Pecera poetry magazine, Mar del Plata, Argentina); Craig Czury (poet, performer, PA.; EEUU); Allison Hedge Coke , (poet, Huron/Cherokee Nations, Michigan, EEUU); Hayden Carruth (poet, essayist, critic, novelist, NY, EEUU); Ron Riddell (poet, director of the International Poetry Festival of Wellington , Wellington, New Zealand); José Manuel Maldonado Beltrán (poet, editor of El cuervo poetry magazine, Puerto Rico) and Horacio Verzi (novelist, Maldonado, Uruguay), among others.
The letter, also a defense of poetry, " requests that the presidents gathered at this summit meeting redouble their efforts to achieve peace in the continent and in the whole world, and that, assisted by history and human understanding, they build links of brotherhood and genuine and effective cooperation between the peoples of the continent. Cooperation is essential for development and essential for peace."
The letter " pleads with you, on behalf of the peoples of the Americas, to reject any military enterprise and any request for immunity or differential status from any government in the world for the members of their armed forces."
While the letter was circulating worldwide, in August-September the government of the Republic of Paraguay granted immunity to American troops which were deployed there and are installing the first military base in South America.
While the countries of the continent are condemned by "monstrous national debts" that push them into the past and do not allow them to build a future, we cannot forget that these national debts were acquired mostly during military dictatorships, who got to power with the support of the military and economic interests of the US A.
The international credit institutions systematically elude the debate of the moral legitimacy of a great part of these "national debts".
The Argentine case is a good example. A great part of its "national debt" was acquired during the last military dictatorship by private companies who took innumerable loans in the international market. These private debts were later nationalized by the most brutal of all the dictatorships we had to suffer, one who murdered thousands of citizens. We must also remember that the money from these loans was not invested in our country and is deposited in the same international banking system. But still the people must pay for them.
Extreme poverty, a high rate of infant mortality, unemployment, illiteracy, and human degradation for a great majority of the inhabitants of the continent are the consequences of the policies of the international credit institutions.
In this context the government of the USA only thinks of obtaining immunity for its military and creating bases in Latin America. What for? Just guess.
The inhabitants of the continent know what that "immunity" means. We have not forgotten the military and security advisors who supported the reign of terror and corruption of military dictatorships in many of our countries.
That is why we ask for the support of the brother poets of the U.S. of America to stop this new process which will help no one, either here or there.
We also ask you to help us to establish Poets Against War in Argentina.
Esteban Moore- Jorge Rivelli,
Buenos Aires, Argentina,