Call to Action

We are all Creditors!

8 March 2005 by Jubilee South


II RegionalAssembly - Jubilee South/Americas
Porto Alegre, January 23 - 25, 2005

On the eve of the V World Social Forum, representatives of diverse social movements, organizations and networks from 17 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean met for Jubilee South/Americas’ II Regional Assembly, in order to debate proposals and a common agenda of action to confront the serious problem of indebtedness that affects the peoples of this region and of the South as a whole.

We see today what we have been seeing since the birth of Jubilee South in South Africa in 1999: throughout our continent, debt servicing is still collected and the governments of our countries continue to pay an illegitimate, illegal, and odious debt. We also see that the supposed financial debt continues to grow in spite of all that has been paid, and at the same time, the great social, ecological, and historical debt owed to us by the international financial institutions, the governments of the countries in the North, the big transnational corporations, and their accomplices in our countries, increases day by day.

Faced with this reality, we demand the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the external debt, the punishment of those responsible for its fraudulent growth, and the restoration of and reparations for all that has been plundered over more than 500 years.

The so-called creditors, including the International Financial Institutions (IFI) such as the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
, the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

, and the IDB, have not spared strategies to collect what they say we owe them. They advance their policies for the submission of our countries to the laws of the market, with structural adjustments, privatizations, and multiple forms of blackmail.

In particular, they have reinforced their use of the processes of indebtedness as an instrument of extortion in order to obtain approval of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that the USA seeks to implement, at this moment in particular with Central America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Andean Region. These impositions are accompanied also by a growing militarization of the region, including the Colombia Plan, the Puebla-Panama Plan, and the recent military intervention in Haiti, an action that we repudiate and which involves the support and sending of troops by the governments of many countries of the region, among them Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

These elements are all part of the same plan of imperialist domination. The External Debt thus constitutes a determining factor in the subjecting of our peoples to the interests of big economic groups and of the most concentrated forms of capital.

But we also see the struggle of our peoples, from Rio Grande in Mexico to the Patagonia in Argentina, with a Cuba in solidarity that has been resisting a criminal blockade for more than 40 years, an occupied Haiti that does not lose its dignity, a Central America mobilized against the FTA, a Brazil that struggles for an agrarian reform, a Venezuela that defends its sovereignty, and with the people of Colombia united against the militarization and the growing presence of US troops, among others. Peoples united fraternally in the same struggle for life, dignity, and the hope of building that other world that is possible.

Nothing new can be built, however, if we continue to pay an external debt that the more we pay, the more we owe, at the cost of the lives of millions of persons.

In truth it is we who are the creditors of a large historical, social, ecological, and cultural debt. Together with their accomplices in our countries, it is the institutions, governments, and financial corporations of the North who owe us, the peoples of the South. This is the only debt that must be settled. We must recognize ourselves as the creditors and break through the hegemonic discourse that would subject us as “debtors”. In addition to its illegitimacy, we have already paid many times that which they call “external debt”. It is time rather to settle the real debt that is owed to the girls and boys who are malnourished, the elderly who have no means of subsistence, youth without jobs, farmers and original peoples expelled from their lands, the thousands and thousands who suffer hunger in the face of the indignant opulence of a very few.

For these reasons we call on all the diverse popular movements and social organizations to join in the struggle for the immediate and unconditional repudiation and cancellation of the external debt, against militarization, war, and the free trade agreements, and in favor of full respect for the life and self determination of peoples.

We make a special call to unite in our continent, together with fellow organizations in Africa and Asia, in order to advance the following lines of agreement:


- Denounce the illegitimacy of the so-called External Debt of the countries of the South and advance toward its non-payment.
- Visualize the problem of the debt and its relation to the flow of riches from the South to the North, the FTAA and other FTAs, militarization, the privatization of basic services, the impoverishment of our peoples, and the destruction of nature.
- Show that the external debt has already been paid many times, at the cost of the lives of millions of persons.
- Recognize ourselves as the creditors of a large historical, social, and ecological debt for which we must demand restitution, restoration, and reparations, as well as the punishment of those responsible.

Lines of action

- Demand the total and unconditional repudiation and cancellation of the so-called external debt.
- Promote integral Audits of the financial, social, ecological, and historical debt, so as to demonstrate who owes whom and so demand that what was looted be restored and that reparations be made for the crimes committed.
- Denounce supposed debt-relief initiatives such as HIPC Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
In 1996 the IMF and the World Bank launched an initiative aimed at reducing the debt burden for some 41 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC), whose total debts amount to about 10% of the Third World Debt. The list includes 33 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The idea at the back of the initiative is as follows: a country on the HIPC list can start an SAP programme of twice three years. At the end of the first stage (first three years) IMF experts assess the ’sustainability’ of the country’s debt (from medium term projections of the country’s balance of payments and of the net present value (NPV) of debt to exports ratio.
If the country’s debt is considered “unsustainable”, it is eligible for a second stage of reforms at the end of which its debt is made ’sustainable’ (that it it is given the financial means necessary to pay back the amounts due). Three years after the beginning of the initiative, only four countries had been deemed eligible for a very slight debt relief (Uganda, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique). Confronted with such poor results and with the Jubilee 2000 campaign (which brought in a petition with over 17 million signatures to the G7 meeting in Cologne in June 1999), the G7 (group of 7 most industrialised countries) and international financial institutions launched an enhanced initiative: “sustainability” criteria have been revised (for instance the value of the debt must only amount to 150% of export revenues instead of 200-250% as was the case before), the second stage in the reforms is not fixed any more: an assiduous pupil can anticipate and be granted debt relief earlier, and thirdly some interim relief can be granted after the first three years of reform.

Simultaneously the IMF and the World Bank change their vocabulary : their loans, which so far had been called, “enhanced structural adjustment facilities” (ESAF), are now called “Growth and Poverty Reduction Facilities” (GPRF) while “Structural Adjustment Policies” are now called “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper”. This paper is drafted by the country requesting assistance with the help of the IMF and the World Bank and the participation of representatives from the civil society.
This enhanced initiative has been largely publicised: the international media announced a 90%, even a 100% cancellation after the Euro-African summit in Cairo (April 2000). Yet on closer examination the HIPC initiative turns out to be yet another delusive manoeuvre which suggests but in no way implements a cancellation of the debt.

List of the 42 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoro Islands, Congo, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia.
/PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
Set up by the World Bank and the IMF in 1999, the PRSP was officially designed to fight poverty. In fact, it turns out to be an even more virulent version of the structural adjustment policies in disguise, to try and win the approval and legitimation of the social participants.
and projects such as the Puebla-Panama Plan and IIRSA, which only increase the financial, social, and ecological debt.
- Oppose the swapping of debt for education or nature, denouncing it as a mechanism for the expropriation of and intromission in our knowledge, culture, and natural resources.
- Stop the environmental destruction that increases the financial, social, and ecological debt, strengthening popular resistance and demanding the punishment of those responsible, the restoration of the ecosystems, and the return of what was looted and reparations to the affected peoples.
- Solidarity in particular with the people of Haiti, implementing a coordinated campaign of repudiation of the military intervention and demanding the cancellation and reparation of the external debt.


- Strengthen articulation among the movements of the region together with the entire South, for the repudiation, non-payment and total cancellation of the external debt.
- Promote popular education as a tool for raising awareness with respect to the many ways in which the problem of the debt affects our everyday lives and that it is really we, the peoples of the South, who are the creditors.
- Carry out research into the situation, prospects, consequences and alternatives to debt repayment.
- Use alternative and popular communications media to counteract the influence of the hegemonic media.
- Recognize ourselves as the real creditors and promote the realization of Tribunals and Assemblies of Creditor Peoples of the social, historical, and ecological debt.
- Promote popular mobilization in each country and in the region to demand the auditing and cancellation of the external debt.
- Use national and international legal and human rights principles, mechanisms, and instruments to confront the illegality of the external debt and the genocide it causes.
- Strengthen popular resistance to increases in the financial, social, or ecological debt.

Regional Calendar 2005

April 3 - 9 Fact-finding and solidarity mission to Haiti
April 10 -17 Global Week of Action against Poverty
April 15 - 16 National and global demonstrations against the IMF, WB, and G7 Finance
Ministers meetings
April Regionally coordinated protests on occasion of the 7th. Hemispheric
Conference of Defense Ministers (Nicaragua)
April 27 - 30 IV Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle against FTAA, Havana
June/July II Social Forum on the Triple Border (Ciudad del Este, Paraguay)
July 6 - 7 National and global action before the G-7 Summit meeting
July 19 - 22 II Jubilee South Global Assembly, Havana
July 23 - 25 International Conference on Alternatives to Debt, Havana
October 12 - 17 Hemispheric Week of Action against exclusion, free trade, debt and
Early November Summit of the Peoples of America, Mar del Plata, Argentina
November 7 - 12 I Caribbean Social Forum, Martinique
December National and global action against the WTO WTO
World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

(Hong Kong Ministerial)

For a millennium free of debt and domination, we invite everyone to join in the struggle for the non-payment of the external debt and restoration and reparation of the ecological, social, and historical debt.

We don’t owe, we won’t pay!
We are creditors, not debtors!

Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 25, 2005

Jubilee South/Americas
Argentina - Brazil - Colombia - Cuba - Dominican Republic - Ecuador - El Salvador - Haiti - Honduras - Nicaragua - Panama - Paraguay - Peru - Puerto Rico - Santa Lucia - Trinidad and Tobago - Uruguay

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