January 24, 2003

Peace March, Debt Forgiveness at World Social Forum

By Lucimara Nunes and Érica Junghan

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The opening of the third World Social Forum was marked by speeches, ceremonies, and demonstrations against the International Monetary Fund, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and a presumed U.S. war against Iraq.

One of the most well-received speeches was by Kenyan delegate Njoki Njehu, who called for total forgiveness of developing nations’ debt to the IMF.

“We believe in globalization, but a globalization of solidarity and cooperation,” she said.

Luiz Dulci, secretary-general for Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said the government was aware of all the issues on the table at the forum, and open to suggestions.

“[The president] will hear all of society’s concerns,” he said. Besides Dulci, several other ministers and federal government officials were present at the ceremony.

City officials estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 people took part in a “March For Peace against Militarization and War.” No injuries were reported by the police.

Participants, including Japanese postal workers and peasants from the Dominican Republic, carried their respective flags in a show of support for peaceful solutions for conflicts in Latin America and the Middle East.

More than 1,000 Americans were in attendance, as well as a large group representing the first Latin American Garbage Collectors Congress.

A half-dozen men dressed in Palestinian scarves rode a truck and carried four-colored flags. Midway through the parade, some 50 Brazilian Jewish youth waved Israeli flags, sang and played drums.

Demonstrators supporting besieged Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and members of Attac — a French organization that helped organize the march and that advocates debt forgiveness and new taxes on international capital transactions — were among the most visible factions in a crowd that included anarchists, punks, gays and lesbians, blacks seeking slavery reparations, capoeira fighters and theater companies.

 

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