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USA: Activists Target IMF Meeting

by John MadeleyThe Observer (London)
April 9th, 2000

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Activists who took part in the massive protests at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle last year are arriving in the US capital this weekend for a fresh wave of demonstrations.

Their target in Washington is the spring meetings of the Bank and International Monetary Fund, which begin next Sunday. The protest campaign against the sister institutions begins tomorrow with the launch an international campaign to persuade corporate investors not to buy World Bank bonds.

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets as the week unfolds.

Although the official organisers have promised non-violent protests, fringe groups marshalling their forces over the Internet are preparing for violence.

The city police force has bought $1 million of riot gear, and 1,500 officers have watched videos showing how their colleagues lost control of the 'Battle of Seattle'. There, more than 580 people were arrested and $10 million worth of property was destroyed as armoured cars were deployed.

The arriving activists will head for a Jubilee 2000 rally today to press the case for immediate debt relief for the world's poorest countries. Other rallies will take place during the week, with the biggest planned for Sunday.

The World Bank receives 80 per cent of its money from publicly-traded bonds, claims the US Transnational Resource and Action Center, a group backing the campaign. It blames the bank's policies for 'the greater impoverishment of the poor and the destruction of the environment across the globe', said spokesperson Julie Light.

The price of IMF and World Bank help for developing countries is reduced government spending on services such as health and education, trade liberalisation and privatisation. Critics say such policies benefit multi- national companies and corrupt officials rather than the poor. And they hold the bank and the fund responsible for the slow pace of debt relief.

Even before its launch, the 'Boycott the Bank' campaign says several US investors, including Trillium Asset Management and the city of Berkeley, California, not to buy the bonds.

'The World Bank tells developing countries they can't have money unless they agree to make changes. We'd like investors to say the same thing to the bank,' said one campaigner. The boycott follows criticism of the IMF and the bank by the US Congressional International Financial Institution Advisory Commission. Most members called for vast cuts in both institutions.

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