Dear sisters and brothers,

Thirty years ago, Latin America was taking its first steps out of the military dictatorships that had oppressed our countries for decades, while the world system was undergoing a great transformation. On the one hand, the end of real socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and, on the other, the rise of a new economic doctrine of accumulation of capital – neoliberalism.

We had suffered a couple of political setbacks, with the presidential elections in Nicaragua and Brazil. Notwithstanding the Workers Party’s good electoral results, in Brazil the winner was an advocate of neoliberalism.

Talking with Fidel at the time, we both agreed on the importance of analyzing the new setting and its impacts on Latin America and the Caribbean, and we decided that the PT would convene a meeting with political parties and movements of our region to discuss the issue and the initiatives we should adopt. To us that was an opportune time, since the PT had just closed its 7th National Meeting, during which the party formulated its position on the model of socialism we would defend, one that should be radically democratic, otherwise it would not be socialist.

However, at first we could not imagine this meeting of parties and movements would get where it got to, becoming a permanent forum and even a beacon for leftist and progressive parties all over the world, besides contributing to promote changes in governments and policies on the continent starting in 1998.

The success of the São Paulo Forum can be credited to the dedication of countless sisters and brothers, but I would like to pay a special homage to my brother Marco Aurélio Garcia, who is no longer with us. MAG [as we called him] was an important Latin American left policymaker, in addition to having been our party’s international relations secretary and the executive secretary of the Forum, a role he played with great competence and dynamism.

Thirty years on, the Forum is faced with new challenges posed by the growth of the far right on the continent, the coronavirus pandemic, and the state of neglect our people are in because of the effects of radical, neoliberal adjustments to the economy and social policies. More than ever, this is the moment to stand up and reclaim democracy in our countries, and to call for a State whose role is to defend the people, not the market, as is the case now. It is incumbent upon the Forum of São Paulo to debate this strategic issue.

Sisters and brothers, congratulations on the Forum’s thirtieth anniversary! Long live the São Paulo Forum and its members!