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Protests in D.C.

By bmaust in News
Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 11:02:36 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Today and tomorrow the Mobilization for Global Justice is conducting some massive protests against controversial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the The World Bank.
These protests are intended as not simply an excuse to be antisocietal, but as a message to these institutions that informed members of society will not tolerate what they are doing to the Third World.

Why would anyone want to protest organizations that were established to eliminate such horrible things as global poverty and starvation?

Mainly because the policies are mainly in the form of loans for economic development. Many people raise issues with what these loans are actually used for, whether for ecological (such as deforestation or fossil fuels) or political reasons and the fact that interest payments on these loans can literally cripple a developing nation's economy.

Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) are a way in which creditor nations take advantage of indebted ones. These programs dictate specific measures that must be taken to "reform" a nation's economy before a loan will be issued. What this usually amounts to is drastic cuts in social spending on programs such as education and healthcare.

It is these issues that led celebreties such as Bono (of U2 fame) and others to join the Jubilee 2000 movement to eliminate by the end of this year the debt that cripples these nations' economies.

The movement has already been, to some extent, successful. The IMF and World Bank together formulated the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative in an attempt to focus on the effect these unpayable debts have on impoverished nations. So far, though, Uganda has been the only country to receive aid.


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Protests in D.C. | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I don't really understand the prote... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by evro on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 08:03:52 PM EST

evro voted 1 on this story.

I don't really understand the protests, but I agree with the idea of forgetting the interest on the loans. Why would America send all this "economic relief" to Russia, for example, and then expect some third-world country to pay back more than its GNP?
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

Re: I don't really understand the protests (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by bmaust on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 12:11:47 AM EST

I think a lot of people went down with different ideas. Overall, I the impression I got was that a lot of people wanted to interrupt the meetings and show the "global economic leaders" (a term the local news used) that the people they are supposed to stand for (these are appointed, not elected positions) do not unanimously support their actions.

What i would personally like to see happen is some sort of restructuring of the way that industrialized nations deal with developing ones, meaning that we don't just exploit them and use the justification that some income for them is better than none. I think a lot of what is at stake is whether or not corporate or human interests are going to win out in the end.
Hopefully everyone will realize that humans make up corporations...

From what I can tell about the areas that violence did happen, it was mainly people with prior issues to deal with in relation to the government. What often happens with events like this is that the media latches onto extremely vocal groups that do not necessarily speak (or act) for the organization as the whole. The way A16 is organized allows for individual groups to act (within guidelines) on their own, for better or for worse.

Why would America send all this "economic relief" to Russia, for example, and then expect some third-world country to pay back more than its GNP?

That's precisely the question that many people are in D.C. right now to demand of the World Bank/IMF. The answer usually comes down to economic interest. When corporations can produce goods for phenominally low prices in the third world and sell them at large markups in more developed countries, the government makes a substantial amount of money in corporate taxes as well as from capital gains taxes (if it is a publicly traded corporation).

What's interesting in the Fair Trade/Free Trade debate is to see who is on each side. Often the ones who cry the loudest for open, tariff free markets are the ones who would benefit the most from it (mainly large multinational corporations). Those who advocate Fair Trade are the ones who would be "stuck" with the bad end of free trade deals.
A recent development on that front is that Starbucks will begin offering fairly traded coffee at all of its locations by the end of this year.

[ Parent ]
Well, I went down this afternoon an... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 08:08:19 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Well, I went down this afternoon and wandered around downtown for several hours. It looked like the world's most attenuated Phish concert, but otherwise, I saw no demonstrations to speak of. There was a little dancing and drumming, and lots of people wandering around. I might go down early in the morning to the IMF meeting site (19th & F, around 5 AM if you're in town) to see if I can find anything to report on for you guys.

Not the real rusty

Re: Well, I went down this afternoon an... (none / 0) (#15)
by rongen on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 04:30:56 PM EST

I might go down early in the morning to the IMF meeting site (19th & F, around 5 AM if you're in town) to see if I can find anything to report on for you guys.

That would be very cool. I would appreciate a level-headed view of things from "street level". CNN coverage seems a little biased as does that of the indy-media (still way cooler than CNN, et al). I would like to know what it's like there... I can get an idea of the official policies of each faction from web sites and interviews, but what does the typical person on thier way to work (or whatever) have to say about this? Anything you could tell us will be appreciated by me and probably the rest of the k5 community...

BTW, the Canadian media seems to go out of thier way to show video of our Finance Minister laughing and joking around with other big-wigs, while a voice-over explains that he supports the protestors in spirit but feels they shouldn't disrupt the talks. Hmm.
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Indymedia (none / 0) (#20)
by techt on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 12:18:06 PM EST

I must say the Independant Media Center has a lot of interesting articles and bites.
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html
[ Parent ]
I find it amazing what great times ... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by skim123 on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 09:12:51 PM EST

skim123 voted 0 on this story.

I find it amazing what great times we live in. If the worst thing people can find to protest against is IMF... fuck, things are pretty good.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Definitely something big happening ... (none / 0) (#6)
by zforce on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 10:22:07 PM EST

zforce voted 1 on this story.

Definitely something big happening in our cultural right now. Should bring some interesting discussion. Afterall, isn't the the IMF was accused of creating the Asian economy crash?

No (none / 0) (#7)
by Dacta on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 11:58:39 PM EST

Afterall, isn't the the IMF was accused of creating the Asian economy crash?

No, I've never heard anyone accuse them of that before.

I've heard people accuse them of making the terms of the funding to help the crashed economies unnesecarily strict, but that's about all - and it seems to have worked fairly well, anyway.

[ Parent ]

Re: No (none / 0) (#16)
by rongen on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 04:39:16 PM EST

I am no expert but isn't much of the concern over a growing trend to "globalize" the economies of third-world nations? Officially this policy is one of inclusion---i.e. involving these countries in the lucrative trading environment enjoyed by the EU, NAFTA nations, etc... But the ugly side seems to be exploitation of cheap labour, first-world jobs with third-world pay and labour laws, and so on.

Most people want to see these nations prosper but not by railroading them into massive industrialization. Education, infrastructure, and medicine will help. Giving huge sums of money to corrupt leaders so that mega-corps can move in and make 3 dollar running shoes probably won't. I hope I don't sound too bitter!

I just want to stress again that I am no expert and am just passing on what I have heard from news media and a couple of undergrad economics courses.
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

yes (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 11:53:34 AM EST

Sorta... The neoliberalist policies that the IMF imposed on these countries created the Asian economy crash. Noam Chomsky has some good commentary about this.

[ Parent ]
Not tech related, not much in the w... (none / 0) (#5)
by pvg on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 10:39:16 PM EST

pvg voted -1 on this story.

Not tech related, not much in the way of news, light on non-trivial analysis. It's a worthy topic, potentially, but the post needs more meat.

go uganda! www.vim.org, :help ugan... (none / 0) (#2)
by ramses0 on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 10:49:40 PM EST

ramses0 voted 1 on this story.

go uganda! www.vim.org, :help uganda

My roommate did something with Jubilee, and if my favorite text editor's author's favorite country is helped by it, that makes me happy.

Thinking of the advantages which America has always makes me feel just a little guilty, a little sad. *sniff*.

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Load Relief (none / 0) (#8)
by Dacta on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 12:09:21 AM EST

I agree with the idea of load relief, and as far as I know both the World Bank & and the IMF don't have a problem with that.

It is the nations that loan money (mostly the US and EU countries) that want their money back.

Wouldn't it be more effective to write to your representitives to say you support the idea of loan relief?

The IMF/World Bank can't just forget the loads without permission from the donar nations.

Re: Protests in D.C. (3.20 / 4) (#10)
by FlinkDelDinky on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 01:42:03 AM EST

Basically I think this is a bunch of well intended BS. Anybody who thinks that third world countries are in their current straits because of the IMF/World Bank have cognative difficulties.

The reason people are starving is corruption. In point of fact there is a lot of money available for these countries in the form of free enterprise investment except the companies that would like to do this won't because of corruption.

Forgive the loans, we won't get it back anyway, just don't expect anything good to happen. I think the loans themselves were products of good intentions. Unfortunately the universe doesn't reward good intentions, in fact it seems to punish them.

Survival of the fittest remeber. That doesn't have to be a cruel statement. But it is one that must be lived with, one you must be cognisant of. The land of these countries is valuable, the people are willing to work (but they won't be worth much for a few generations), but the governments are unfit. Nothing pretty is in the future for these places.

You know where all the loan money goes? Just two places, the local military and Switzerland. So, by all means, forgive the loans. Just don't give those government any more money. And any aid granted should only be in the form of human expertise, meaning you go and give of yourself whatever you have to offer, or physical material which cannot be distributed by the corrupt government, rather it will have to be distributed directly by the givers.

In other words: Conquest (but it sounds prettier the way I said it, and we'll never do it because it costs to much to administer territories so far away).

PS. I apologize for sounding like an A-hole. But the future for these countries even if they do the right thing (free market capitalism) is pretty bleak

Re: Protests in D.C. (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 12:54:59 PM EST

You are right to point to the corruption in many of these indebted countries,
yet you seem to forget that much of the corruption was fostered by the
US/European countries. Take Indonesia as an example - a viscious regime that
invaded East Timor with the support of many Western nations, principally the US
and UK. We sold loads of arms to Indonesia/Suharto so as to further bolster
this regime. We leant a great deal of money and invested heavily in a regime
which everyone knew at the time was corrupt and amoral. Don't investors have
ANY responsibility for all this? Why is it that the Indonesian people (and
don't forget the East Timorese) should bear the brunt of all this, whilst the
Western govts/IMF/World Bank demand economic austerity measures that impact
most harshly on these people. Meanwhile, investors that funded a regime
responsible for torture and mass-murder are able to wash their hands of any
guilt and demand their money back. Best of all, it's still happening. The
foreign policies of European/US govts stink. They don't have any problems
supporting the most evil of regimes and facilitating the actions of these
regimes. I really could rant on and on, but I think you get the gist.


[ Parent ]
Re: Protests in D.C. (none / 0) (#23)
by FlinkDelDinky on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 04:21:13 PM EST

You're right. I admit I didn't point out the corruption on our side of things.

Just so you know, I agree with you about what you're saying. I tend toward Libertarian ideal and deeply distrust government spending programs. I also distrust corporations. What can I say, I guess I'm paranoid.

[ Parent ]

Re: Protests in D.C. (2.00 / 2) (#11)
by Cyanoacrylate on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 04:13:16 AM EST

The problem is that, if the IMF has to step in and bail someone out, its
already way too late.  The IMF typically steps in when federal debt in a
country reaches 100% of GDP - and when your debt is that big, then you have
something like 10% interest (because your nation's credit rating is bad) so 10%
of GDP goes out the window to service your debt.

The IMF / World Bank then have the rather awful job of trying to step in and
help these nations get back on their feet - but now you have to tell a nation
that a large chunk of its GDP has to go to making payments on its debt...  This
in turn causes increases in taxation, reduced government spending, and thus
reduced GDP for the nation.  Its a vicious cycle which is very difficult to
break.	The only way is to encourage economic development at a rapid rate
(hyperinflation out of the debt causes more problems than it solves (and much
of the debt is often held in foreign currency as the interest rates are lower,
thus inflation is highly damaging to a government (we paid 3% of the debt this
year, but because our inflation rate was 5% higher than the loaner's inflation
rate, we actually owe more now)))

And, for those of you who advocate debt-forgivness, I advocate TANSTAAFL (There
Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).  Subsidizing a nation only encourages
further debt acquisition and the requirement of more loan forgivness.	And,
these nations knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed on.

I suggest to the community that there are a lot of people at the protests that
know a lot more about following a crowd shouting 'injustice' than about


PS - just found this site...  Excellent.  S/N is very good here so far...

Re: Protests in D.C. (4.00 / 3) (#12)
by henrik on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 04:56:40 AM EST

There is no chance in a snowy hell that the lenders will get the money back from a nation deep in dept anyways, so they acctually gain by forgiving the depts. If the nations could develop a healthy economy, then everybody would prosper. As it is now, the rich countries are making sure the rich get even richer, and the poor stay poor.

A lot of the fighting devestating Africa now is a direct result of the colonization by European nations during the 18th to 20th century. The borders of the new nations were drawn with a ruler across a map with no respects to ethnic groups of the population. Later, when the Europeans got out of Africa and gave independance to the nations a lot of fighting erupted, mostly because there wasn't any polical structure and a lot of different groups were (are) competing for power. Remember, most of the current nations of Africa are very young, hardly any are much older than a century. I think it takes time for an area to mature and settle down. After the formation of the nation-states in Europe, wars were waged continually until the 20th century (w/ two notable exceptions: World War I and II).

Until the nations in Africa develop a stable society, i'm not sure what anyone can do for them. But sucking even more resources isn't helping one bit.


Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!

Re: Protests in D.C. (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by Teneo on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 01:24:48 PM EST

I just think it's a bit sad that none of the demonstrators--at least the none of those who got on television and spoke to the press--were able to articulate why the economic policies of IMF and the World Bank are bad, not only for developing nations, but for the United States and other industrialized nations as well. Nor could any make a coherent connection to the Seattle demonstrations and the potentially damaging role of the WTO--an enfant terrible which needs to be smothered in its crib.

Of course we ought to forgive the loans. As has been pointed out in all the posts here thus far, we are never going to see that money anyway. The point being, however, that major reforms are needed to ensure that such loans are not floated to these nations again. Loans go to governments and, as FinkDelDinky pointed out, these governments are not representative of the people and are--generally speaking--corrupt.

But let's remember, too, the high cost in jobs, lost wages and--more importantly--lost opportunities that the advocates of "free trade" and "globalization" have inflicted on the United States. Beginning with the Kennedy Round, America launched the modern international free trade movement with disastrous results for our nation and those struggling to develop.

A full treatment of the "bad" side of free trade and the economic, social and political ramifications is well-detailed in the excellent book, The Great Betrayal. It 's recommended reading!

I am not sure if the protestors knew what it was they wanted to accomplish. Or why. Or anything. And I think that's why they failed.


Debt Crisis (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 01:35:04 PM EST

The following is a (long) quote by Noam Chomsky, longtime political activist, writer and professor of linguistics at MIT. He was interviewed for The Nation in late February by David Barsamian, director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado (www.alternativeradio.org):

Barsamian: Why do you say the debt crisis is an ideological construction?

There is a debt, but who owes it and who's responsible for it is an ideological question, not an economic question. For example, there's a capitalist principle that nobody wants to pay any attention to, of course, which says that if I borrow money from you, it's my responsibility to pay it back, and if you're the lender, it's your risk if I don't pay it back. But nobody even conceives of that possibility. Suppose we were to follow that.

Take, say, Indonesia, for example. Right now its economy is crushed by the fact that the debt is something like 140 percent of GDP. You trace that debt back, it turns out that the borrowers were something like 100 to 200 people around the military dictatorship that we supported, and their cronies. The lenders were international banks. A lot of that debt has been by now socialized through the IMF, which means Northern taxpayers are responsible.

What happened to the money? They enriched themselves. There was some capital export and some development. But the people who borrowed the money aren't held responsible for it. It's the people of Indonesia who have to pay it off. And that means living under crushing austerity programs, severe poverty and suffering.

In fact, it's a hopeless task to pay off the debt that they didn't borrow. What about the lenders? The lenders are protected from risk. That's one of the main functions of the IMF, to provide free risk insurance to people who lend and invest in risky loans. That's why they get high yields, because there's a lot of risk. They don't have to take the risk, because it's socialized. It's transferred in various ways to Northern taxpayers through the IMF and other devices, like Brady bonds. The whole system is one in which the borrowers are released from the responsibility. That's transferred to the impoverished mass of the population in their own countries. And the lenders are protected from risk. These are ideological choices, not economic ones.

Re: Debt Crisis (none / 0) (#17)
by FlinkDelDinky on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 07:18:09 PM EST

This is what I'm talking about. In my previous post I wailed away on the corruption within the third world countries. Of course our Western Countries have dirty hands too. Basically for making (bad) loans to bad people.

So basically we're going to be paying these debts. I really think they're part of the price tage for waging the Cold War.

Still, the evil of a few fascist/authoratarian/totalatarian scumbags walking around with billions that I'm paying for gives my heartburn.

I don't know about God, but Satan is alive and kicking!!!

[ Parent ]

protesters understand little of the actual situati (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 01:11:57 PM EST

Hmmm... I don't know where these protester's come from, and I don't know where they have been, but they sure don't spend much time in developing countries. I have lived in Morocco, Indonesia, Canada and the USA, and have a pretty good perspective about how these countries operate. It's easy to point fingers from and ivory tower, or go out and protest because jerry is dead and there is nothing else to do, but I wish these people would do something productive with their protests ...

To refute the above:

Take, say, Indonesia, for example. Right now its economy is crushed by the fact that the debt is something like 140 percent of GDP. You trace that debt back, it turns out that the borrowers were something like 100 to 200 people around the military dictatorship that we supported, and their cronies. The lenders were international banks. A lot of that debt has been by now socialized through the IMF, which means Northern taxpayers are responsible.

The root of the problems is not the debt. The debt is most likely not going to be paid. The root of the problems is the political system and the lack of good business policies. The debt owed to local banks is comparable to that owned to foreign banks.

Now, how do we help the people of Indonesia? Do we send in the CIA and topple the government? No, it's not fashionable any more, and besides, the next installment of the government is not going to be much better.

We have 220 million people to put to work, 220 million mouths to feed. The vast majority of these people are farmers, with little or no technology to bring the crop in. This puts much of the agriculture at little more than a subsistence level.

Those who do not farm need something called money to feed their families. To get money, they need a job. A job requires a functioning economy. It is hard to have a functioning economy when 80% of the businesses are operating at bankruptcy levels.

This is where the IMF can and does help. Granted, they could put more focus on education and health care, but in Indonesia, both education and health care cost money, so parents have to have income to provide them for their children.

How does the IMF introduce the funds into the economy? There is only one way - through the existing government. No other organization in Indonesia has the logistics or infrastructure to coordinate such projects. Although the government in notorious for it's corruption, the only other choice is for the IMF to throw up it's arms and walk away. Remember, the largest charity foundations in Indonesia are own by the same corrupt officials who siphon IMF funds. The corrupt officials own stakes in almost every sizeable joint venture and mulitnational in the country. There is no way to start a significant business or non-profit venture in the country without involving them.

Remember, it takes money to make money. Most businesses are built on amortized costs and begin operation with a debt. It's a simple economic principle. Without IMF funds, Indonesia would be in a heap of trouble. People would be starving. The economy would be crushed. It would be much worse than it is now ...

-in jakarta

[ Parent ]
What we need to do (none / 0) (#18)
by error 404 on Tue Apr 18, 2000 at 10:25:22 AM EST

is to get the loan records transferred to a State Department laptop.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Protests in D.C. | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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