World Social Forum Opens in Brazil
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Thursday January 31, 5:29 pm Eastern Time
World Social Forum Opens in Brazil
World Social Forum Opens in Brazil As Counterweight to
Economic Summit in New York
By TONY SMITH, AP Business Writer
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) -- Dancing, waving banners and
chanting against globalization, thousands of activists
paraded Thursday as the second World Social Forum opened
with a broadside at U.S. plans for a free trade area
stretching from Alaska to Argentina.
The crowd, estimated by police at as many as 50,000, marched
along Porto Alegre's tree-lined boulevards in a party mood
despite heavy rain. As clowns twirled and released balloons,
other activists banged drums and blew whistles. Some waved
banners reading "Disarm the world! Feed the people!" and "No
to imperialist war!"
The five-day Social Forum bills itself as a counter to the
rich and powerful meeting at the World Economic Forum in New
York. Even before the formal opening, two of its scheduled
speakers harshly criticized the proposed Free Trade Area of
the Americas, or FTAA, that President Bush wants in place by
Supporters of the idea, first floated by the Clinton
administration, say it would generate trade that would boost
poor economies in the Western Hemisphere. Opponents call it
a ploy to give businesses in the rich, industrialized North
unfettered access to more markets.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil's left-wing Workers'
Party and a favorite in the country's presidential election
later this year, said the free-trade zone would amount to
"annexation of Latin America by the United States."
"As a Brazilian, I am going to fight hard so the FTAA will
not be put in place, unless the interests of all
participants are respected," Silva said at a news
At another news conference, MIT linguistics professor Noam
Chomsky, a leading social activist, also criticized the
trade zone, saying it would "concentrate power on one side
and the general population on the other."
Chomsky accused Washington of "wanting to ram that plan
through in secrecy," but said it failed because activists
inspired by last year's Social Forum protested at the later
Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.
While many of the participants at the Social Forum strongly
attack the globalization of the world economy, Chomsky said
the conference should be "scrupulously careful not to
describe itself as an anti-globalization forum."
"We want globalization in the interests of the world
population," he said. "They want globalization to be their
particular form of corporate globalization."
The Social Forum draws activists seeking to right what they
see as the ills of capitalism -- foreign debt, global trade
that favors industrialized nations and powerful
multinational corporations. About 40,000 people from around
the world are expected at this year's meeting, more than
double last year.
"I came because I wanted to fight for justice," said Manuela
Gualdon, who arrived Thursday from Rome.
Mario Costa Silva, who led a group of union activists from
Concecpcion in northern Chile, said: "I'm against the FTAA
because it represents the unfair exploitation of Latin
America's natural resources."
Activities were peaceful Thursday, although the forum's
organizers worried about violence by anarchists, some of
whom have criticized the Porto Alegre gathering as
"economically reformist, politically traditionalist and
More than 1,100 police officers and 600 reserves patrolled
the city, but none were in riot gear and the mood was more
festive than threatening.
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