Today the conference began. Unfortunately it was marked by a registration process that seemed to have been designed by the love child of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Franz Kafka. Let’s just say that by around 5pm we finally had our entry passes and programs to add to our frazzled nerves and tested patience, but had missed most of the day’s proceedings.
Rewinding to a more innocent time at the beginning of the day, the bus ride to the Universidad del Valle allowed us to see Cochabamba in daylight for the first time. Cochabamba is a significant city in the recent history of Bolivia. Ten years ago this month, it was the scene of the Water Wars, a mass uprising against the privatization of the water supply, which resulted in the water being put back into public hands and the strengthening of anti-capitalist sentiment across the whole country.
Cochabamba is also the location of the headquarters of the Union of Coca Growers. It is via the leadership of this union that Evo Morales, the current socialist president of Bolivia came to prominence, and he first entered parliament as a representative of Cochabamba.
We will be seeing President Morales tomorrow back in his old stomping ground when he officially opens the conference.
In between standing in queues, we met briefly with the other Australians at the conference (although not the mysterious Rudd Government representative, who remains elusive). Groups represented include Beyond Zero Emissions, Rising Tide, Socialist Alliance, Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia and inner city climate action groups Yarra Climate Action Now and Climate Action Newtown. Most of us are hoping to use the conference as a learning and networking experience, and to bring these experiences back to strengthen the climate movement in Australia.
All in all a fairly uneventful day, but we promise tomorrow will be full of fiery latino speeches and high rhetoric.
For some news coverage of the conference so far, click here