"We need to bring our troops home immediately," Sheehan told the
thousands of protesters taking part in the march that kicked off the
six-day Forum on Tuesday. "We need to hold someone responsible for all
the death and destruction in the world. We need to see George Bush and
the rest of them tried for crimes against humanity."

The overarching WSF theme "Another World Is Possible" and opposition to
"imperialism" and war are the common denominators among the broad range
of organisations and individuals gathered in Caracas this week, where
one of this year’s three Forums is taking place. The first phase was
held Jan. 19-23 in Bamako, Mali, and the third is scheduled for late
March in Karachi, Pakistan.

The wide variety of organisations and participants was expressed by the
multicoloured march, in which some 15,000 activists representing dozens
of local and visiting organisations took part starting on Tuesday
evening and stretching into the wee hours of the morning along two
avenues in the southern part of the capital.

Some 70,000 participants had registered for the WSF as of Wednesday, for
around 1,800 activities organised by just over 2,000 different civil
society groups.

The march gave an idea of the wide-ranging interests and causes coming
together at the Forum, in which leftist political leanings are the norm,
as well as sympathy and support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Chants like "Stop Bush", "No to War", "Peace for Colombia" and "Another
World, Another Americas, Are Possible", were heard alongside pro-Chávez
slogans in the demonstration.

Members of Venezuelan groups mixed comfortably with organisations from
foreign countries, the largest of which came from Brazil, Colombia and
the United States. There were big delegations from Brazil’s left-wing
Workers’ Party (PT), the Colombian group Christians for Peace and
Justice, the former guerrilla Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity
(URNG), and Grassroots Global Justice, a network of U.S. grassroots
organisations that represent working-class communities and communities
of colour.

Marching with Christians for Peace and Justice was Adriano de Jesús,
from the Colombian province of Antioquia. He was holding up a sign with
photos of victims of a massacre committed 10 years ago by right-wing
paramilitaries in Valle del Cauca.

"We came to demand peace in Colombia, and to struggle to bring it
de Jesús told IPS. "But we also came to learn and to find out if
what they say is true."

That goal - getting a firsthand view of what the Chávez administration
and its "Bolivarian social revolution" have been doing for the past six
years - is shared by almost all of the participants in this week’s

The wide range of social programmes carried out by the Chávez
administration, ranging from a campaign that basically eradicated adult
illiteracy, a chain of government shops selling subsidised staple items
to the poor, and a programme bringing health care to the slums, fit
nicely with WSF aims like fighting for a world without poverty and
marginalisation and combating neoliberal, free-market policies.

The left-leaning Chávez also frequently gives voice to other priorities
shared with the WSF, like opposition to the U.S. war and occupation in
Iraq and to the U.S.-promoted Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

In addition, the Venezuelan government has provided at least eight
million dollars in - mainly logistical - support to the WSF.

Chávez’s participation "does not form part of the regular Forum agenda,
and will be limited to an appearance in an amphitheatre at the
invitation of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and the
international organisation Vía Campesino,"
Julio Fermín, a member of the
Venezuelan WSF organising committee, told IPS.

And just before the WSF comes to an end next Sunday, Chávez will meet in
private with representatives from the Global People’s Assembly Network,
which has been among the leading organisers of the WSF since the first
edition was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001 as a counterpoint to
the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.

The first of the six thematic areas at this week’s WSF is "Power,
politics and struggles for social emancipation".
Most of the
conferences, seminars and workshops fall under this heading, "because
this is a political forum; the participating organisations take a
political approach to the world,"
Eduardo Liendo, another member of the
organising committee, told IPS

The other thematic areas are "Imperial strategies and popular
resistance",{} "Alternatives to the predatory model of civilisation",

"Diversity, identities and worldviews in the international social
"Work, exploitation and reproduction of life", and
"Communication, culture and democratising alternatives".

International Press Service