Frustration, concern over globalization voiced at summit

Saturday, February 2, 2002

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- Ask three different people from three different countries at the World Social Forum what globalization means. The answer, in all three cases, is some sort of loss.

Antonio Dias Abreu fears losing his job at a clothes shop in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia. Luis Candia believes his country, Chile, loses its natural resources.

Adelaide Gaggio Giuliani has already lost something she cannot replace: her son, Carlo, was killed by Italian police during a violent anti-globalization demonstration in Genoa last year.

It is these experiences that organizers say are the strength of the Social Forum that has drawn about 50,000 activists to this southern Brazilian city for a second summit, which opened Thursday. It coincides with the World Economic Forum, a gathering of business leaders, politicians and academics that is convening in New York for its 32nd summit.

Although the groups gathered here might not produce a final document or a coherent alternative platform to the free-market-oriented economics that currently dominate the globe, the five-day gathering allows individuals like Abreu, Giuliani and Candia to voice their frustrations about the present, and their hopes for the future.

'Never be safe and stable'

On Friday, discussion was dominated by a salvo of criticism against plans for a new round of world trade talks and a U.S.-sponsored common market stretching from Alaska to Argentina.

"With one hand they sign new free trade deals that increase inequality and injustice and with the other they give us programs against poverty which, of course, are of no use," Hector de la Cueva of Mexico's Continental Social Alliance told a packed debate on world trade.

"A world in which the rich countries become richer ... and the poor nations are left behind will never be safe and stable," de la Cueva said.

In Latin America alone, de la Cueva said, 220 million people live in abject misery and, according to World Bank data, the ratio of income between the world's richest and poorest nations was 30-1 in 1960, compared to 74-1 today.

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