Guillermo Pablo Whpei is an Argentine social entrepreneur who is a pioneer in his country in the fight against contemporary slavery and in promoting a culture of peace. These two challenges are basic pillars of his social action and the basis of the activity of the Foundation for International Democracy and the International Federation of Museums and Human Rights that he represents. Atalayar talks with him to talk about his activist struggle and the defense of human and workers’ rights, which now has an important black spot, such as the Qatar World Cup and the existing complaints about the poor working conditions of immigrant workers in Qatari territory.
What is the Foundation for International Democracy?
It is a non-profit NGO where we try every day to build a better democracy, a participatory democracy where the community intervenes. Democracy is built collectively, attempts are made to make a plural proposal, it is free together with the community. The aggregates know that democracy is a utopia, always walking for a new right, for a new goal of struggle and hope. The truth is that we are very happy with the International Museum for Democracy because we try to address the most complex and sensitive issues in a very respectful way and in conjunction with the community.
What actions does the Foundation implement in this regard?
Our objective is the fight to make visible the problem of high-impact issues such as forced migration, war, ethnic, political, environmental issues, the issue of contemporary slavery, which is our “core”, and the truth is that we have been pioneers in many of the denunciations of this scourge that affects more than 50 million people in the world, and talk about diversity, the environment, the right to water, to food; the issue of hunger, which is one of the biggest scourges and pandemics in the world. We talk about uncomfortable topics.
Difficult issues to address.
Too complex. But as we always say: knowledge does not return. When one knows that there are 120 million children who have child labor or that in Latin America one million children die due to child malnutrition or derivatives of it, if we remain silent we become accomplices, as in the matter of slavery. contemporary. In this sense, the alert arrives before the World Cup in Qatar, which is the last major complaint made more than five years ago.
One of the key points of the Foundation for International Democracy is the fight against contemporary slavery and fighting for the fundamental rights of workers. How is the general situation of those rights at a global level and at a particular level in Qatar, which is in the spotlight for the World Cup and the conditions of immigrant workers there? The Foundation presented a report denouncing the poor working conditions in the Qatari country.
The pandemic did not help. It dumped 10 million more slaves, according to the latest report. The one in Qatar is the World Cup of shame, where nobody wins. The World Cup is born corrupt, from its bases and designation. Let’s not forget that Joseph Blatter had to resign, that Michel Platini had to resign, the CONMEBOL president ended up in jail and it was all absolute corruption. Not satisfied with that, Blatter says today that Qatar was a mistake and that he feels responsible. This is how this designation of the World Cup headquarters was born and that was the beginning. My mom used to tell me that “when something starts badly ends badly”, there is very little chance that it will end well. We never imagined this social impact that Qatar would have on the lives of immigrants. We have been denouncing many years ago, before the World Cup in Russia; Together with Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Lech Walesa, I went to Madrid, to Casa de América, to make the complaint public and published a report entitled “Behind the Passion.” There will be more than 100 workers killed per party. I took this report to the Holy See and Pope Francis sent a letter to Gianni Infantino to call a meeting between the FIFA president, the Holy Father and myself to understand the situation in Qatar in depth and try to find a way forward and never we had an answer. FIFA is just as responsible as Qatar and they have taken advantage of immigrants, who have worked in unsanitary conditions. More than 6,500 deaths and I wonder how many more deaths there must be for the balloon to stop.
The ball is not going to stop at least for this World Cup event.
But already, for example, Dua Lipa said that she is not going to the opening party, Rod Stewart said that she is not going either, and neither is Shakira. FIFA prohibited Denmark from wearing a black shirt without advertising due to the issue of human rights, France is not going to broadcast spaces from Qatar on public channels, etc… The world is waking up little by little, was it what we wanted? No. Did we dream of something different? Yes. Wasn’t it what we expected? It is true. But also revolutions and big dreams are achieved with small steps. Something has been achieved that is much more than what can be achieved in the system, it is difficult.
There are problems with the workers in Qatar, who have suffered unsanitary conditions, deaths, problems with their documents, as reported in the Foundation’s report. Qatar wanted to take a step towards change, but those problems are there.
Structurally, everything is still there, such as the sponsorship system and labor regulations. There is more, we know that Qatar has problems with gender, with women, with free expression… It was not a place to hold a World Cup, it was not a place for the world to celebrate. The World Cup is a meeting between brothers, this is not going to happen, it is not going to be like that. The question we must ask ourselves is: why? Soccer cannot die. FIFA tries to make football die in the sense that it was; football was a festive match, of dreams, and it is being changed for a scenario of prohibition, death and farce, this is the truth.
So it has not been a consensus destination to celebrate a World Cup.
We must not forget how this was born. You take it for granted that you are born well, but you are not born well, you are born as a network of absolute corruption. This is designated by money and this reminds me of the 78 World Cup in Argentina, where we knew that there was perhaps the harshest and darkest repression that we had to experience, which left 30,000 disappeared, exiled, political prohibitions; and within this framework, FIFA decided to hold a World Cup. It is not the first time that this has happened, but now the information is globalized. We cannot say that we do not know. It is very paradoxical, because two years after the World Cup in Argentina, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for denouncing torture and forced disappearance of people. You have to have memory.
Qatar will surely continue dragging the controversy once the World Cup has been held.
Imagine that a week after the World Cup ends, a country that is not a soccer fan has gigantic stadiums all empty, they are going to be real cemeteries. It is not like our countries that the next day have soccer matches.
What does Qatar gain by organizing the World Cup?
Qatar has been trying to get into football life for a long time. Just look at the cases of the Barcelona shirt or the acquisition of Paris Saint Germain. But I think it is a strategic question, although it is mainly a whim of the rich, who wanted to do it at all costs. They alone invested more than 200 million dollars in spying on FIFA officials. The entire FIFA staff was spied on by Qatar. For me it is a whim, let’s not look for a strategic logic. It’s a whim, they wanted to have a World Cup.
It can be a show of power or ostentation.
Indeed, ostentatious, even with its neighbors. Qatar until recently had its airspace banned. Qatar suffered a blockade by its neighbors due to allegations of support for terrorism.
We will continue to hear voices against the World Cup for sure.
The fight continues after the World Cup because the system is not repealed. We are human rights activists, our role is to go all the way.
Returning to his activity. Can you tell us more about the International Museum for Democracy initiative?
I am president of the International Federation for Museums and Human Rights worldwide. We nucleate many museums in the world. Our museum has been open for years, it is a museum that has a very important citizen participation. Show the most uncomfortable topics with great respect and we are building citizenship. This concept of the culture of peace that the people so much need, especially in Latin America, which suffers from problems such as poverty or drug trafficking. Very violent cities need a space for reflection and build a culture of peace. The museum fulfills a very important social role and I believe that museums, along with universities, are the last reservoirs of knowledge and respect. Even the most fascist of fascists speaks quietly in a museum. That respect was earned over many years.
How is the work of the Foundation for International Democracy and the International Federation of Museums and Human Rights with public administrations and politicians to fight for the rights that you defend?
Our foundations, especially that of Democracy, is crossed by that. But let’s not forget that it is a private Foundation, that it does not depend on the State and that by statute is prohibited from receiving money from municipal, provincial or national organizations. This is the first point that gives us absolute independence from power, in order to address the most uncomfortable issues freely. Not all museums have the possibility of this. This Museum of Democracy is the first private museum in the world because most of the museums of democracy depend on organizations or governments and that does make them more subjective because they depend on official budgets, especially in Latin America where there is a habit of meddling in places of culture to insert ideology. We have this freedom, which is not minor, which is relevant and which allows us to make visible certain problems that are very difficult today. With respect to the Federation, this is the great fight, that of the freedom of the museums, that they can say what they think, freely and without receiving pressure from the state organisms. This is the great challenge we have.
One last message to launch?
Simply tell the fans to enjoy the World Cup, that football is not guilty of this, football is a beautiful, magical sport. It serves to have fun and celebrate, it gives joy, knowledge of other cultures. Enjoy. The culprits are responsible for organizing sporting events where you can not.
Taking a phrase that Diego Armando Maradona said in his day in his retirement: “The ball does not stain.”
Indeed, the ball does not stain.
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Guillermo Whpei: “The one in Qatar is the World Cup of shame, where nobody wins”