Forum in Brazil Calls for World Based on New Economic Rules

By MacEOIN, Gary | National Catholic Reporter, February 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Forum in Brazil Calls for World Based on New Economic Rules


MacEOIN, Gary, National Catholic Reporter


Thirteen months after the violent demonstrations in the streets of Seattle, anti-globalization forces from around the world continued their protests in a far more sophisticated form at the World Social Forum at the Catholic University of Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan. 25-30.

The dates were chosen to coincide with World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of government leaders, financiers and executives of the world's 1,000 largest transnational corporations to promote globalization of markets.

Participants in the Brazil forum came from all over the world: 4,000 participants from 122 countries, plus 1,700 journalists. Celebrities included Danielle Mitterand, first lady of France; liberation theologians Frei Betto and Leonardo Boff; Ahmed Ben Bella, former president of Algeria and leader of the Algerian liberation movement in France, as well as Mexican political leader Cuautemoc Cardenas; U.S. professor-dissident Noam Chomsky; Uruguayan poet Eduardo Galeano, and Xavier Cifuentes, a leader of the Colombian FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces).

The mood of Seattle was not entirely absent in Brazil. Jose Bove, the French farmer known internationally for bulldozing a McDonald's, led 300 of the 4,000 delegates to a Monsanto experimental farm at Nao-Me-Toques, 250 miles northwest of Porto Alegre. There they destroyed five acres of what they described as "illegal genetically modified soy."

Meanwhile, at the Davos meeting, George Soros engaged in a TV discussion with Hebe de Bona Fini, a founder of Argentina's Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. It turned into a shouting match.

Bove's companions in the visit to the Monsanto farm were members of Movimento sem Term, a major Brazilian organization of landless peasants who invade and occupy arable land held idle by its owners. The police kept a low profile, made no arrests, but later the federal government issued an expulsion order against Bove.

The focus of the meeting, however, was broader than an attack on the globalization agenda. Francois Houtart and others offered an alternative vision: to use technology not simply to increase profits "but as a means to improve the living conditions of all people everywhere. …

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