Lula' speech at the opening of the “20th meeting …

“My dear brother and sister delegates to the São Paulo Forum, dear guests and participants at this twentieth meeting of the São Paulo Forum, which is held in La Paz, the capital city of our dear Bolivia.
Unfortunately, I can’t be there to personally give each of you a hug, but I wish to transmit my affectionate and special greetings to brother Evo Morales and to my MAS brothers and sisters. I also congratulate you on the great political, economic, and social transformations you have promoted in Bolivia.
I am sure the Bolivian people recognize these breakthroughs and will defend their continuity on October 12th, voting once again in Evo for president and in the MAS candidates to the Senate and the Chamber.
Over the next months, we will also have a very important election here in Brazil, which we also expect to win. But I follow with great joy the progress of our São Paulo Forum and I would like to send a special greeting to my dear sister Mônica Valente, of the Workers’ Party (PT), for her work at the head of the Executive Secretariat of the São Paulo Forum.
Since our first meeting, held in the city of São Paulo, the Forum has grown and Latin America and the Caribbean have gone through extraordinary transformations.
Unfortunately, some of those responsible for these transformations, like our brother President Hugo Chávez and our brother Kirchner, are no longer with us, but what’s important is that the legacies they left us are still flourishing.
We have many problems ahead of us, beginning with the world economic crisis, which was engendered in the rich countries, yet ends up harming all nations. Besides that, we have cruel and unacceptable wars in other regions of the world.
And here on our continent, an increasingly more rabid and antipopular right wing that is opposed to any social and democratic advance.
It is most important that we take advantage of moments like our Forum’s meeting to debate, both freely and fraternally, how to continue evolving and broadening our conquests.
I am convinced that an important road toward ensuring our sovereignty, our development, and our peoples’ progress is primarily premised on the integration of Latin America. We have won many victories over the last years, notably the recovery of the Mercosur and the construction of new integration mechanisms such as the UNASUR and CELAC.
But we need to do much more. Creating our regional production chains, integrating our infrastructure, aligning our social policies, and promoting the political and cultural integration of our peoples. When we achieve that, we will be in much better conditions to ensure the full emancipation of our peoples and the proper place of Latin America and the Caribbean in the world.
And we will be able to more effectively contribute to overcome the poverty that still affects great part of humanity.
I hope that this São Paulo Forum meeting may further the debate on integration just as, in the 1990s, it was decisive for the defeat of the neoliberal governments.
I wish you an excellent collective reflection and I am absolutely confident in the outcome of this twentieth meeting.
A hug and a good meeting to all of you!”