Skip to comments.Castro, Chavez Decry Inequalities, Condemn IMF
Posted on 03/22/2002 5:56:47 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
MONTERREY, Mexico, Mar 21 (IPS) - Presidents Hugo Chávez, of Venezuela, and Fidel Castro, of Cuba, urged the international community Thursday to straighten out the path of the global economy and harshly criticized multilateral financial organizations in speeches addressing more than 50 heads of state and government gathered in this northern Mexican city.
"The current world order constitutes a system of plunder and exploitation like never before in history. The people believe less and less in declarations and promises. The prestige of the international financial institutions has fallen below zero," said Castro.
The heads of state and government are meeting Thursday and Friday, the last two days of the five-day International Conference on Financing for Development, convened by the United Nations (news - web sites).
Also in attendance are executives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank World Trade Organisation, and leaders of pro-development non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with many of the latter supporting the arguments of Castro and Chávez.
The world is living "a true genocide" and one cannot blame "this strategy on the poor countries. They are not the ones who conquered and pillaged entire continents over the centuries, nor did they establish colonialism, implant slavery, or create modern- day imperialism," said the Cuban leader in a speech that won enthusiastic applause from NGO delegates at the conference.
According to his colleague Chávez, the world "is not only twisted," but it is "backwards," and the leaders of the world must straighten it out, he said in his address on behalf of the Group of 77, a bloc of 133 developing countries, plus China.
"In name of all the poor of the planet," the Venezuelan president called upon governments "to act, and not just speak," and urged them to save the world, which, he said, suffers a grave "social crisis."
He also demanded that the role of the IMF be revised, because its "recipes" for development have been "venom" for poor countries.
According to Castro, the final document to be signed by the government officials Friday in Monterrey is "a project of consensus that has been imposed upon us by the masters of the world...in which we resign ourselves to humiliating, conditional, and interventionist handouts."
"It is time for calm reflection among politicians and national leaders. The belief that an economic and social order that has proven to be unsustainable can be imposed by force is a crazy idea," he said.
The discourse laid out by Castro and Chávez was among the only ones that the NGO leaders said they supported.
"Finally someone stated the truth to the powerful," commented one activist.
The "Monterrey Consensus", the final document to be signed by the official delegates, will not alleviate the problems related to poverty as it proposes to do, because it prescribes the same free- market strategy that created them, according to the NGO delegates.
The Cuban president commented that "the world economy today is a gigantic casino," and, like Chávez, said he is in favor of creating a tax on speculative international transactions in order to create a fund for development assistance (known as the 'Tobin Tax', proposed by U.S. Nobel Economist, James Tobin).
But Castro stressed that the fund must be managed by UN agencies "and not by ruinous institutions like the IMF."
The tone and direction of Castro's and Chávez's speeches contrasted with those made by most of the other national leaders who participated in the conference Thursday.
For Mexico's President Vicente Fox, the meeting "marks the beginning of a new kind of development," a notion echoing the statements of many of his colleagues.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that developing countries have come to Monterrey not to seek handouts, but to be heard.
The contributions made by wealthy nations for financing development, some 50 billion dollars annually, must at least be doubled in order to attend to the needs of the world's poor, said Annan.
The UN official defended the content of the Monterrey Consensus. It is not weak, as some claim, he said, but it will be if it is not implemented.
The heads of the IMF and the World Bank also addressed the conference, defending the market strategies as they are included in the conference's final document, but they did not recognize errors, nor did they make reference to the criticisms they have received.
IMF managing director Horst Köhler maintained that trade is the most important path for self-help and creates a situation in which everyone wins, rich and poor.
James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, agreed, adding that developing countries "don't need charity, but opportunities."
Chavez's foes accuse him of trying to imitate Castro and Cuba's Revolution by trying to install a leftist authoritarian regime in Venezuela, the world's No. 4 oil exporter. The Venezuelan president, who won elections in 1998 six years after trying to seize power in a botched military coup, says his nationalist "revolution' is inspired by 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar and seeks to close the wide gap between rich and poor in his oil-rich country.
Castro and Chavez hailed their nations' strong political and economic ties, which have been criticized by the United States. Washington is the biggest single client for Venezuela's oil exports but keeps long-running trade sanctions on Cuba.
"However much they attack us, we are creating a new model of integration," the Venezuelan president said. Castro, who described himself as "an expert in putting up with attacks", urged Chavez to stand firm against criticism from his political enemies. "We've been under attack for 43 years and today the Revolution is stronger than ever," Castro said, referring to U.S. hostility against Havana since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The two leaders ended their on-air chat with the revolutionary slogan "Always onwards until victory". [End Excerpt]
Bush to Be Tough on U.S. Aid During LatAm Trip-[Excerpt] During his talks with world leaders at the conference, Bush will promote his initiative to help poor nations that respect human rights, root out corruption, open their markets, and have education and health care systems.
"I'm going to be tough about it," Bush told a group of regional reporters Tuesday in a preview of his trip. "I'm not interested in funding corruption."
Bush separately had some tough talk about Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. The image of the world's No. 4 oil exporter has taken a beating in recent months as opponents of the maverick left-wing president have stepped up protests against his three-year rule, raising fears that political confrontation may worsen and even turn to violence.
"We are concerned about Venezuela," Bush said, citing the long-term U.S. relationship with the country, particularly in the oil business.
"We are concerned any time there is unrest in our neighborhood. We are watching the situation carefully. This man was elected by the people. We respect democracy in our country, and we hope he respects the democratic institutions within his country," the president said. [End Excerpt]
It would be hell on earth.