OT Protestors gather for World Bank meetings

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Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Protesters gather for World Bank meetings

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER -- Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Protesters with grievances against global capitalism are turning their attacks on one of the top priorities of the Clinton administration, granting China permanent normal trade relations.

The AFL-CIO, which is leading the charge against the China legislation, was hoping to attract 10,000 demonstrators to the U.S. Capitol today for a rally aimed at showing labor's strong opposition to the measure.

"We will tell members of Congress: 'No blank check for China,' a country that has violated every trade agreement it has signed with the United States in the past 10 years and continues its repudiation of human rights in China," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

However, business groups lobbying heavily in support of permanent trade relations, were mounting a counteroffensive with newspaper and radio ads hoping to sway lawmakers to their view that the United States will benefit from greatly increased access to China's huge market if Congress scraps its annual review of China's trade privileges.

"Our ads point out the truth about trade with China. Free trade will bring greater opportunity for American workers and farmers," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.

Pat Buchanan, who is seeking the Reform Party's presidential nomination, said he would join a group of protesters put together by Teamsters President James Hoffa.

"I believe their jobs are being sold down the river for the benefit of transnational corporations in this China trade deal," Buchanan said today on ABC's "Good Morning America." "China today is threatening our country and Taiwan, and a Republican Congress should not take this occasion to give them the greatest benefit that they've been demanding for 10 years."

The China protest was one of a weeklong series of events anti-globalization forces are staging around the spring meetings of the 182-nation International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Demonstrators have pledged to strike unexpectedly throughout the week to try to make their points against global capitalism. Today, one of the targets was The Washington Post.

At selected newspaper boxes, people got something extra with their daily paper, a one-page parody called The Washington Lost that was wrapped around the regular newspaper. It featured a photo of former IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus getting hit with a pie in the face and headlines such as "Besieged IMF Plans Meaningless Cosmetic Changes; Ad Campaign, Jingle Unveiled."

The IMF preliminary sessions were to get under way today with release of the institution's updated world economic outlook.

Acting IMF Managing Director Stanley Fischer told reporters last week that the outlook would depict a world economy that looks "much stronger than we would have dared predict" a year ago, as many countries were struggling to pull out of the 1997-98 global currency crisis.

Fischer said IMF would predict in its new forecast that global output will rise by more than 4 percent this year.

The protest activities are being coordinated by a coalition called the Mobilization for Global Justice, composed of many of the same groups that successfully disrupted meetings last December of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency and call out the National Guard.

The protest groups are hoping to use human chains and other tactics employed in Seattle to block intersections on Sunday and keep finance ministers from attending the opening IMF sessions.

But District of Columbia Police, backed up by federal authorities, have studied tapes of the Seattle demonstrations and hope to avoid the mistakes of authorities there.

Police on Tuesday kept a watchful eye as several dozen demonstrators marched from the U.S. Capitol to the World Bank in an "Economic Way of Cross" to demand debt relief for the world's poorest countries.

The demonstrators carried white crosses with the names of countries and the amounts of their foreign debt burden.

Both the IMF and World Bank, under pressure from the United States and other rich donor countries, have instituted programs to forgive a greater portion of the debt of the world's 40 poorest nations, but the demonstrators contend that the effort has so far provided too little in the way of debt relief.

A separate small band of protesters marched from the residence of the Colombian ambassador to the United States to a local office of the giant mutual fund company Fidelity Investments to protest international support for Colombia as the country's president, Andres Pastrana, arrived in Washington for an official visit.

The protesters targeted Fidelity because of its ownership of stock in Occidental Petroleum, which is locked in a standoff with a native Indian tribe in Colombia over oil drilling rights.

Police said there were no arrests made at either protest. Seven demonstrators had been arrested on Monday outside of the World Bank building. Police said five were blocking traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue and two others were arrested trying to scale the building to drape a protest banner.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), April 12, 2000


If the Cuban-Americans, who have blocked highways and tied up traffic to the airports, and mobbed the streets by the thousands, had been treated like the protesters in Seattle, the Elian fiasco would have been over months ago.

-- gilda (jess@listbot.com), April 12, 2000.

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