• 01/04/2006

Nicolás Castellanos

What do you think about the 5th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities against Poverty being held here in Valencia? I think the Forum is necessary and urgent, as poverty is nowadays humanity´s most pressing problem. The fact that it is being held in Valencia seems fair as this city is the capital of solidarity. We have a very important project in Bolivia, called "New Men", which is making excellent progress thanks to the Valencia Regional Government. Each city should have its own support projects to help meet the real needs of poor countries. For instance, there was not a single drama school in the whole of Bolivia and now we have one of the best in Latin America thanks to a grant from the Valencia Regional Government. This constitutes a way to reduce poverty levels, since poverty problems disappear as cultural levels rise. These projects also have an impact on the fund-providing countries, as they make us feel the need for solidarity to do away with the differences between north and south so that human dignity prevails every where.

Is the gap between rich and poor wider despite the existence of more and more poverty eradication projects? This is a consequence of the neo-liberal structure of globalisation, a fact of which those of us who live in poor countries are becoming increasingly aware. Where I Iive, 60% of the population are poor and 40% live in utter misery. One million people live in these inhuman, unjust and cruel conditions in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Can many things be done on modest resources? Yes. In Bolivia, thanks again to the Valencia Regional Government, we have built a sports centre which is transforming the area where it is located. These are the actions which help poor countries open up to development and the future.

Do meetings like this promote awareness of poverty world wide? Yes, because they bring us into the heart of the city with its acceptable standard of living, and help us understand the existence of other realities and work together to reduce poverty.

Were you pleased with the awarding of the 1998 Príncipe de Asturias Prize for Concord? Yes, I was very pleased and also encouraged. It is also a way to show appreciation of the work done by those who contribute to a noble cause such as providing hospitals, schools and a decent life for people.

Does the subject need a higher degree of awareness? Certainly. Nowadays everybody says extreme poverty can be reduced. I am persuaded that if all citizens and, of course, all institutions, gave 1% of our budgets, and provided those funds were properly managed (bearing in mind that corruption is a great problem in those countries), poverty levels would be considerably reduced. We have built over 30 schools for more than 35,000 students; that reduces poverty. We have also worked on Plan 3000 for the construction of several sports schools and have even got an orchestra which has very successfully toured Spain. Besides, all those people do not wish to leave their country; they want to stay since they are aware of the possibility of earning a living and receiving an education. Another project we have worked on, with the support of the Alicante City Council, is the setting up of a hall of residence for students from inland provinces; those who are unable to pay the modest fare are allowed to do it through work. These programmes constitute a direct contribution towards eradicating world poverty.