Letter to mayors of the cities of the world

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Dear Mayors and audience,


Today in each metropolis two cities coexist ... but do not live together. One city crushes the other. The expelled from the countryside, the discarded from the labor market, the evicted from their home, the landless, the homeless and the jobless, we are thrown into the peripheries as human waste, at the mercy of the worst forms of precariousness and exploitation.


In this context of high vulnerability that affects 2 billion (2.000 million) people, modern slavery is expanded in scandalous forms. This is a business where the dead and the exploited are put by us, the poor, but the money accumulates in banks of the north.


The response given by the different States is mainly reductionist. Sometimes the migrants are ruthlessly persecuted even with the pretext of protecting them. The wall between the US and Mexico, the Mediterranean shipwreck migrants or the violence against informal workers are fair examples of criminal hypocrisy that must cease.


Modern slavery is not a police problem but merely the consequence of an excluding system. To stop this abhorrent crime there is no need of spending more in patrolling cars neither on biometric systems. Often, police and power are part of the criminal. We do not need to give them more power.


To change these destructive realities -as well as punishing the big fishes and their accomplices- you must listen to the people who are organizing themselves and fighting for their dignity. You must empower the poor. Slavery and exclusion are two sides of the same coin. There are slaves because there are excluded!


From the Organizing Committee of the World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM,) that few days ago brought thousands of organizations from 40 countries together with the Pope, we ask you to consider 10 proposals to build cities without slaves and excluded:


1. Power and participation for the people. Political power must listen to the cry of the poor who, despite being the majority, almost never access to public office. Officials, as the Pope says, "live and think from the comfort of a development and a quality of life that are beyond the reach of the majority." Thus, our democracies are often merely formal. Participation of the popular organizations is critical to revitalize democracies. We propose to establish permanent consultation mechanisms and participatory budgeting, popular councils for each sector (housing, employment, childhood, security, etc.) and forms of direct democracy recourse in major decisions. The protest is a popular expression that must be recognized as a right and never suppressed. The Pope recognizes that the future of humanity is largely in the hands of the organized poor. It is time that States do the same.


2. Prioritize the peripheries. The Pope indicates that beyond the speeches, the excluded "at the time of the concrete action, are often left at the bottom". This is particularly evident when municipal budgets are analyzed. Inclusion should be a political and budgetary priority. In that sense, it is urgent to invest in the peripheries, especially informal settlements (slums) where now lives a third of mankind. The Pope says "nor eradication or marginalization: We must continue along the lines of urban integration" In that sense, we make his proposal ours, that is "all neighborhoods have adequate infrastructure" and "security of tenure". Denying basic services and in particular drinking water is a crime regardless of the legal status of the settlement. We propose that States ensure their regularization and that States promote million jobs through neighbors cooperatives in the framework of participatory urban planning for the development of social infrastructure, street and roads opening, installation of lighting, sewers, drains, water supply, housing improvement, maintenance of green spaces, stream´s and construction of community spaces.


3. House for everyone. It is a scandal that there are homeless families when there are so many homes without families. To guarantee the right to housing you must curb property speculation that creates profits but not households. Tenants must be protected and rentals must be regulated to prevent abusive profiteering. Evicted families cannot be allowed, a lot less without providing a housing alternative. When the worker has no house, he finds himself exposed to the exploiters who offer him a bed in the same workplace/ workshop. We propose the creation of millions of jobs through self-construction programs, the provision of "sites and services" and communally owned land and reuse of abandoned housing buildings. This can be financed with tax idle properties. Not a family homeless!


4. Hospitality to migrants and refugees. Pretending to combat human trafficking and adopting a policy of contempt for migrants is a contradiction and a huge hypocrisy. Human traffickers are largely nurtured by institutional xenophobia of some States. The cities that seek to eradicate slave labor should hospitably welcome migrants and refugees, provide them with documentation and give them job opportunities and full rights. We propose migrant regularization for everyone. No person is illegal. Being a migrant is not a crime. Criminals are the reasons that forced them to migrate.


5. Dignified and ecological public transport. The individualistic car use destroys the living together and the environment. The public alternative is often a real torture. We propose the use of bike paths, heavy investments in metro, trains and other forms of collective transportation, integrating the informal transport. We ask for no charge tickets or differentiated social rates. Urban mobility is important to ensure freedom of movement since isolation breeds slavery.


6. Dignify the informal sector. Persecution of street vendors, street markets, artisans, transport workers, recyclers or waste pickers, etc. is robbing the poor´s bread. Today the popular economy employs 1,500 million excluded. The public space is their main means of production: taking it away from them is throwing them off to despair and that breeds violence. The banning of these activities only favors criminal organizations because they end up monopolizing them in connivance with the police. We propose to institutionalize the popular economy. To create with popular participation, inclusive regulations for the public space that guarantees a harmonic living together and dignified work for our colleagues, to promote “recovered businesses/ factories” and popular productive centers as alternatives against slave labor for our popular workers. Assets seized in lawsuits must be reused in creating jobs. Public procurement should prioritize popular economy production and not “friend- capitalism”.


7. Integral and popular ecology. The cartoneros (waste pickers) are the top recyclers in the whole world but in many cities are persecuted because of their work. In a few of them, however, their struggle accomplished mixed recycling programs that dignified their labor conditions. We propose to multiply and deepen these recycling policies with social inclusion. The waste management must not be an "eco-business" but an opportunity to include recyclers and create millions of “green co-ops”. Without cartoneros, there is no Zero Waste! They prove that "a true ecological perspective always becomes a social perspective".


8. Urban- rural integration. In rural municipalities, peasant, indigenous and agro- ecological production should be promoted. Let us remember how the Pope recognized that land reform is "a moral obligation". City problems will never be solved if the peasants´ exclusion is still a fact. Human trafficking also feeds on rural uprooting. In each uprooted there is a new urban poor and possibly a new exploited. The food we produce can contribute to a healthy diet for children in cities, malnourished by scarcity or junk food. We propose distribution networks and public procurement to ensure incomes for farmers and lead without intermediaries’ quality food to urban peripheries.


9. Popular ecological culture. We must curb consumerism, sexism and objectification of women promoted in the mainstream media inciting human trafficking. Popular culture is the best antidote. We propose: support popular media: radio, television, community periodicals expressing a culture of solidarity. Include in the contents ecological schools and that each has organic garden. Protect cultural self-managed spaces that develop in abandoned buildings and are at risk of eviction. Closing downtown streets for popular art spaces (Sundays and holidays).


10. The only privileged to be children and seniors. As the Pope said about "homeless children" it is a criminal euphemism: they are abandoned children! The young and poor rather than loved, are seen as dangerous and fall victims of the police´s "easy trigger". The elderly are left to die. We propose to guarantee community spaces aimed to ensure containment and to create millions of jobs in care for our children and the elderly. Also, create nurseries in urban peripheries as demanded by the working mothers. No child without a childhood, no youth without opportunities, no old man without a venerable old age!


Dear Mayors, Beyond these proposals that we hope you discuss, we ask vocation of service, courage and budgetary commitment to the excluded. Remember: Without exclusion there is no human trafficking! We urge you to read our Santa Cruz Letter and the Pope's speech addressed to the popular movements.


Thank You.




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