Activists Keep Up Pressure on IMF, WB as Meet Continues; Seek Debt Relief, End to Globalization

Manila Bulletin, September 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Activists Keep Up Pressure on IMF, WB as Meet Continues; Seek Debt Relief, End to Globalization


PRAGUE, Czech Republic (Reuters) - Activists prepared to keep up pressure on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) on Wednesday at their annual meeting here following violent protests that rocked the city one day earlier.

On Tuesday, thousands of activists, many masked and wearing protective padding or carrying clubs, hurled cobblestones and petrol bombs and repeatedly rushed police cordons stretching around the Prague Conference Center.

More than 65 people, including one Japanese and one Russian delegate to the conference, were injured in the clashes, which police estimate involved some 10,000 to 12,000 demonstrators.

Protest organizers said the actual numbers were higher.

Inside the conference center, the IMF and World Bank discussions went ahead as scheduled and ministers delivered set speeches to the session, which they plan to continue yesterday.

IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler and WB President James Wolfensohn have engaged critics in talks on cancellng debt to very poor countries and other reforms, but still support their institutions' efforts to eliminate world poverty.

Protest organizers hailed Tuesday's blockade as a success and said those who clashed with police had been a small minority of the throng massed against the IMF and WB, which they accuse of doing more harm than good through their lending practices to the world's poorest nations.

"I personally thought it was going to be significantly worse," Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik told reporters.

Demonstrators said they would start yesterday's marches early in the morning, but acknowledged their numbers might fall from those on Tuesday. They added that they could not predict whether the protests would be as violent as Tuesday's.

The police, whom Czech and IMF officials hailed for showing restraint in pushing back waves of angry protesters, said they would try to avoid direct confrontations and rather isolate individual activists seen breaking laws yesterday.

The protesters carried banners on Tuesday with a range of slogans demanding an end to capitalism and globalization, succeeded for a short time to block delegates in the congress center. …

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