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MEXICO: World Economic Forum, Anti-Globalization Protestors Gather in Cancun

Agence France Presse
February 26th, 2001

Anti-globalization activists were set Monday to stage a series of protests against the World Economic Forum gathered here for a two-day meeting, but also said they hoped to meet their opponents in debate.

"We are currently negotiating the format of such a debate," said Alberto Arroyo, of the Continental Social Alliance.

The World Economic Forum had earlier extended an invitation to anti-globalization militants to hold such discussions, rather than engage in the type of violent protests that had marred previous meetings, notably in Davos, Switzerland, last month, and in Prague and Seattle earlier.

Organizers of the main event say that just like globalization opponents, they too seek a better world. The World Economic Forum was founded three decades ago as a platform for debate of the main challenges that affect the global society.

The two-day meeting is to address ways to reduce the gap that divides industrialized and developing nations.

"After Davos, we decided to meet with those who oppose globalization because we have common ground with them; we want a better distribution of income," said Costa Rican former president Jose Maria Figueres, who chairs the meeting in this Mexican tourist resort.

Arroyo said the invitation reflected the growing influence of international anti-globalization forces. "The World Economic Forum is changing its discourse because of us," he told AFP.

"We have come to protest, but we also have proposals," globalization opponents said in a declaration adopted Sunday night.

"We are not here because we have a phobia of a united, global world. On the contrary, we are for a globalization of justice; global distribution of wealth," they said.

Organizers of the alternative forum said they would also hold their own discussions on globalization, and would stage a series of protests, which they insisted would be non-violent.

"We could not be thinking of a better world and acting like those who ... bombed a civilian city just for routine's sake," they said, in a reference to the recent bombing of targets in Iraq by British and US forces.

But organizers admitted they had no control over ultra left-wing students, who traveled to the Caribbean resort from Mexico City, to protest the gathering of bankers, industrialists and economists.

Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear lined main avenues, much to the dismay of foreign tourists, who packed the white sand beaches.

Sunday, a planning meeting of the alternative forum was disrupted when the students engaged in a shouting match with the organizers.

There was also some chaos at the main forum, where a number of journalists were denied access to the hotel hosting the event after organizers lost their accreditation forms.

Mexican President Vicente Fox was due to address the meeting on Tuesday. The 470 invited participants also included World Bank Vice President for Latin America David de Feranti and Nestle Vice President Carlos Represas.

Organizers of the protests, for their part, said they registered 600 participants, including representatives of the Continental Social Alliance that groups dozens of social, human rights and other groups from across the Americas.

As participants in the main meeting sat down for talks, the globalization foes were to visit what they call "the other Cancun" -- the poorer neighborhoods just a few kilometers away from the luxurious beachside hotel hosting the World Economic Forum.

Mexico, where 40 percent of the 100 million population live in poverty, "is an example of the social disaster caused by the policies defended by the (World Economic) Forum, that favors the few and excludes the great majority," said Hector Cueva, of the Continental Social Alliance.





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