Do you have to pay the debt?

Do you have to pay the debt?

By Esther Vivas

Debt is today a central issue on the social and political agenda. But who benefits from debt? Who got it? What has it served? Who should pay for it? Those questions are seeking an answer to those who, within the indignant movement, propose a citizen audit of it.

In the decade of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, we saw the impact of the foreign debt on the peoples of the South, through the systematic application of structural adjustment programs and social cuts, which were said to be necessary to meet their payment. Since 2010, with the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis, it has become a key issue in the countries of the European Union, and especially in those of its periphery where the contradictions of the contemporary crisis are condensed.

The external debt has been an instrument of control and domination of the political and economic elites of the North over the South, and a powerful mechanism for the transfer of financial resources in the opposite direction. Now, the same core-periphery logic of subjugation occurs again, although, in this case, within Europe and the mantra is repeated that it is necessary to pay the debt and that to do so it is essential to apply these adjustment measures.

But the repudiation of the debt has been a constant throughout history. The doctrine of odious debt, which in international law is used to repudiate a debt taken by a government and used against its people, has been wielded and applied to avoid paying debts contracted throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. .

For years, social organizations in the countries of the South have promoted campaigns to denounce the illegitimacy of the debt and consequently its non-payment. And audits have been one of the main instruments used to this end. The most relevant experience was that carried out in Ecuador where, in 2007, the Comprehensive Audit Committee of the Internal and External Public Debt was launched, made up of representatives of the administration and of Ecuadorian social organizations and of other countries, and which culminated, in 2008, refusing to pay part of the debt by declaring it illegitimate.

The audit process makes it possible to investigate why the debts were contracted, what they were for, who they benefited, and expose the irregularities present in their hiring, reveal the complicity of their creditors and obtain the legal grounds for their repudiation. It is a deeply pedagogical instrument that allows us to discuss the functioning of the State, the market economy, institutional relations and inject a ray of light into the dark corridors behind the scenes of power.

With the arrival of the debt crisis in Europe, organizations and movements that in previous decades worked in campaigns to repudiate the foreign debt of the countries of the South, and together with the indignant and occupier movement, have begun to promote denunciation actions on the payment of the debt and to explain the implications that this has in the cuts, the privatizations and the increase of the precariousness.

With the aim of promoting public debate and popular participation in decision-making on debt and breaking with the hegemonic discourse of the “inevitability” of its payment, the audit processes have become one of its main tools. Its celebration should allow, together with a great social mobilization, to cancel the illegitimate part of the debt and significantly reduce the rest. In countries such as Greece, Portugal, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and the Spanish State, citizen campaigns are underway to audit it.

In this way, faced with the hegemonic discourse of "saving the banks", "rescuing finances", "paying the debt", another discourse begins to emerge: that of "saving families", "rescuing the poor". "Not pay the debt." What is the sense of massively injecting public money into financial entities like Bankia if not maintaining the privileges of a few at the expense of the rights and needs of the great majority? As Occupy Wall Street points out, it sacrifices the 99% to save the 1%.

The absolute truths for dealing with the crisis are beginning to crumble. Another collective conscience emerges from below and begins by asking itself: Should the debt be paid? The answer is clear.

Esther alive, co-author of ‘Planeta Indignado. Occupying the future. ' Article published in The Huffington Post, 07/14/2012. Esther Vivas' blog at The Huffington Post.

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