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Demonstrations against lending agency are peaceful

Monday, April 14, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of activists peacefully demonstrated Sunday against alleged abuses of large American corporations and international lending agencies, saying their policies are harmful to poor people in Latin America and elsewhere.

The protest, aimed especially against the World Bank and the 184-nation International Monetary Fund, was much smaller than similar ones in recent years and were without the violent clashes with police that have marked other such protests.

No incidents or arrests were reported.

The marchers carried signs denouncing the IMF and World Bank. Others carried banners protesting the war in Iraq and what some characterized as U.S. imperialism.

"Mobilize for Global Justice," read a banner leading the marchers as the protest snaked through downtown Washington, ending up at a small park near the World Bank and IMF headquarters. Police cordoned off the park, preventing demonstrators from getting closer. Somewhere around 1,000 people started the march. By the time the marchers reached the park, their numbers had dwindled to a few hundred.

Many of the protests seemed to be holdovers from similarly small anti-war marches on Saturday.

"No More Empire," read a placard held high by one marcher. Another wore a mask depicting President Bush and carried a sign, "International Terrorist."

But the heart of the protests were aimed against what many of the demonstrators decried as a global hegemony of large international corporations and the IMF and World Bank, two organizations that provide loans for many of their projects.

These policies too often harm the poor and benefit the wealthy, the demonstrators proclaimed.

"For the last 50 years we've been attacked by the International Monetary Fund" because its lending policies funnel money away from social programs in Argentina, said Grociela Monteagudo, a member of the Argentina Autonomist Project that she said works toward solidarity between people in Argentina and the United States on social issues.

March organizers said the protest was scaled back because of the focus on the Iraq war, which they said in a statement has "naturally limited the energy and attention" of activists involved in the antiglobalization movement.

The demonstrators, some clad in all black with kerchiefs covering their faces, followed a parade route designated in a permit. Police cordoned off streets and closely controlled the direction of the marchers. Six-foot-high metal fences kept marchers from getting into Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Katherine Hoyt, a representative of the Nicaraguan Network, one of dozens of groups represented at the rally, said the protest was to change World Bank and IMF lending policies so that benefits go to "the people, rather than the elite and the corporate interests of the international companies."

World Bank and IMF officials maintain their policies strive to help poverty-stricken nations by fostering development.


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