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7733: Seeking Approval at Summit, Aristide Slapped Instead (fwd)

From: amedard@gte.net

Seeking Approval at Summit, Aristide Slapped Instead
Massive Protests Buffet Meeting of Hemisphere's Heads of State
by Kim Ives & Greg Dunkel

Clearly, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had hoped that his participation in the
Third "Summit of the Americas" in Quebec City, Canada from April 20 - 22 would
provide "consecration" of his legitimacy, in the words of his Justice Minister Gary

Instead, the U.S. and Canadian orchestrators of the Summit used the occasion to
pillory Aristide and wring more concessions from him.

"Democracy in certain countries is still fragile," said Canadian Prime Minister Jean
Chrétien, who played the heavy for Washington. "We are particularly concerned about
the case of Haiti. We note the problems which continue to limit the democratic,
political, economic and social development of this country."

Chrétien also pressured Aristide "to take rapid action on all of the commitments made
in December," reference to a sovereignty-and-democracy-trampling list of eight
conditions which Washington wants Aristide to implement (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18
No. 51, 4/7/2001).

The mainstream press took their cue and wasted no time in lambasting the Haitian
president. Aristide was "an embarrassment to some leaders," said the Associated press
and BBC. "Diplomats said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure
that Aristide can't use his presence at the summit... to claim he has international
support," the Apr. 23 New York Post reported. Reuters said that "the Summit decided
to comment on Haiti because leaders did not want Aristide to return home in triumph."

Haitians supporting Aristide organized 8 buses from Montreal and one from New York to
hold a demonstration of about 600 in support of Aristide outside the Summit, but this
seems not to have had much effect on Chrétien and others scolding the Haitian

Though billed as an economic summit to launch by 2005 a Free Trade Agreement for the
Americas (FTAA), a Western Hemisphere free trade zone, the meeting mostly focused on
how to politically control a continent which is seething with discontent. Despite the
official mythology that neoliberalism promotes higher living standards, more Latin
Americans now live in poverty than in 1980, about 36% according to the Chile-based
Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), and the divide between rich and poor
has been widening.

Economic hardship and disparities will grow even more if the FTAA becomes a reality.
By removing the tariff barriers, U.S. capital will steamroll Latin America's much
smaller and weaker economies, destroying farmers and entire industries with unfair
competition. Furthermore multinationals will have a much freer hand to destroy the
environment, sue governments, and repatriate profits tax-free.

"The hegemonic superpower is trying to dictate the conditions for the surrender of
the Latin American governments," quipped Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has been
barred from all the Summits since the first one in Miami in 1994.

In the "Declaration of Quebec City," the 34 heads of state, with the exception of
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, pledged to "direct our Ministers to ensure that negotiations
of the FTAA Agreement are concluded no later than January 2005 and to seek its entry
into force as soon as possible thereafter, but in any case, no later than December
2005." But the pledge was largely meaningless, since most of the leaders face
citizens and legislatures which may well deny them the authority to enter into such
an agreement, including U.S. President George Bush.

Only Chavez was honest about this reality. "I cannot commit myself to the date of
2005, as that depends on assemblies, congresses and, in the case of Venezuela, a
referendum," he said.

Unable to build any real economic consensus other than some vague generalities, the
meeting sought to declare "representative democracy," that is bourgeois democracy, as
the only legitimate form of government for the hemisphere. Once again, Chavez
expressed his reservations, pointing out that "participative democracy," as is found
in Cuba, offers another viable model.

The Declaration, which was drafted mainly by Washington, also sought to outlaw and
preemptively isolate any future revolutionary upheavals in the hemisphere by
stipulating that "any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic
order" would disqualify a state from FTAA participation and make it a pariah, like
Cuba. Haiti was threatened with such disqualification if it doesn't comply more
stringently with Washington's dictates. The Summit asked for yet another delegation
of "mediators" to be dispatched to Haiti to pressure Aristide to share power with
Washington's pre-fab "opposition front," the Democratic Convergence.

To enforce this arrogant agenda, the Summit proposed to give the Organization of
American States (OAS), what Cuba calls "Washington's ministry for colonial affairs,"
some teeth. "To enhance our ability to respond to [] threats, we instruct our Foreign
Ministers to prepare, in the framework of the next General Assembly of the OAS, an
Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments for the active defense
of representative democracy," reads a key clause in the declaration, which Venezuela
again did not endorse. This is a clear proposal to launch an OAS version of the
Security Council, the United Nations branch empowered to carry out military actions.
In the same vein, the Declaration proposes to strenghten the OAS's ability "to better
implement our Summit mandates."

Of course, the big story coming out of the Summit of was not the meeting itself but
the huge demonstrations against it. Quebec City, chosen precisely because it is North
America's only walled city, was surrounded by 4.6 kilometers of 10-foot high
chain-link fence.

The citizens of Quebec City called this fence the "wall of shame," an obstacle to
daily routines which marred their beautiful, historic town.

The Canadian government spent $100 million (CAN) on security measures including the
fence, 6,500 police officers, and tear-gas.

The youth of Quebec, students and workers together, began organizing as soon as they
heard about the Summit and the Wall. They passed the word to the youth of North
America through the internet, phone calls, trips, conferences, and leaflets. Their
message and their target were clear: capitalist globalization would mean the end of
sovereignty, independence, and would be a victory of capital and profit over human
needs. The free flow of capital but not the free flow of workers would drive wages
down throughout the hemisphere.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), instituted in 1994, has already
destroyed Mexican agriculture and nearly wiped out the Canadian auto industry. The
FTAA would finish off Canadian auto industry and decimate agriculture throughout the
hemisphere. Farmers growing anything produced on the factory farms of U.S.
agribusiness -- corn, wheat, cotton, beans, rice -- can't compete.

Canada, and Quebec, would loose the right to control their own water, education and
health care would be privatized.

But it just wasn't students who were protesting. Farmers in Canada face growing
competition from the U.S. agribusiness' use of genetically engineered crops and
called on the French farm union leader José Bové to come to Quebec and help with the

Hundreds if not thousands of anti-neoliberal demonstrators were prevented from
entering Canada by border agents.

The union movement with help from the Council of Canadians put together an umbrella
organization called Operation Springtime Quebec 2001 (OPQ2001). The coalition got a
grant of $300,00 from the government of Quebec, which was excluded from participating
in the Summit. The slogan of the nationalist movement in Quebec was "chez nous, sans
nous, inacceptable!" (In our home, without us, unacceptable.) OPQ2001 organized a
Peoples Summit, which brought together intellectuals, academics and students,
especially from Latin America and the Carribean, to analyze the political, social and
economic consequences of the FTAA. The Peoples Summit made a point of inviting a
delegation from Cuba.

OPQ2001 found housing for 9,000 people the night of Thursday, Apr. 19, mostly
students, mostly floor space, but indoors which is necessary for Quebec with its cold
springs. That night the Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles (CLAC) and Welcoming
Committee to the Summit of the Americas (CASA) held a torchlight march from the
University of Laval to the Grand Theatre, which was warmly greeted by people in
downtown-working class districts and avoided confronting the police.

The next day CLAC/CASA and the Group Opposed to the Globalization of Markets (GOMM )
joined forces at the University of Laval and then marched out separately, with the
CLAC/CASA march heading towards the Grande Theatre and GOMM heading for the Plains of

Once both groups reached the perimeter fence -- guarded by 6,500 cops, backed up by
1,200 soldiers -- some elements began to take the fence down. Sections fell with
surprising ease. Five to ten large individuals would jump up and pull it part way
down, then hooks and a line would be attached to each end of the section. Then 10 to
15 people would pull the fence down with the ropes.

When the cops brought up two mobile water cannons, people smashed their windshields,
forcing them to retreat. So the cops brought out their tear gas, and the pattern for
the next two days was set. The people -- mainly the youth from all over Canada, the
Yukon, British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario as well as Quebec and the Maritimes --
tried to take the fence down. The cops responded with tear gas and more tear gas and
more powerful tear gas, but they could not drive the youth away from the wall for any
length of time. They kept coming back, morning, noon and night, braving water canons,
tear gas, pepper spray and the threat of arrest.

The demonstrators cheered when the start of the Summit was delayed for over an hour;
when certain parts were closed on Saturday to clear buildings of tear gas, and when a
section of the fence came down. Almost every head of state who spoke at the Summit
was forced to acknowledge the demonstrations in addressing to the gathering.

The support from the neighborhoods where this struggle took place was intense. People
ran hoses out the windows or in their yards and let protesters rinse out their eyes
from the tear gas and fill their water bottles. Older women gave protesters fresh
baked muffins; store owners in boarded- up shops opened up when they heard people
gagging or crying from the tear gas, and let them buy water or juice and use their
toilets. All the Québequois wanted the "wall of shame" down and gone. More than once
they said to protesters from the U.S. or other parts of Canada: "We are so glad you
came to help us struggle."

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW/TCA) local from Kitchner, Ontario got off their buses
wearing bandanas and swimming goggles to protect their eyes against tear gas.

Both the CAW and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/Ontario) had announced that
they were considering a breakaway from the march route that the big Quebec union
leaders had picked, since it headed straight away from the Summit and the wall of
shame that surrounded it.

The CAW has been decimated by the NAFTA."The FTAA would abolish us," one member said.
"Cars could be made anywhere." CUPE members face the threat of privatization and
layoffs as cities consolidate and provinces cut back.

CAW brought 5,000 to 7,000 members to Quebec on April 21. CUPE, which does not
organize in Quebec, had 2,000 to 3,000.

The Metalos/Steelworkers, who feel that the FTAA would destroy most of their work,
rented a train from Hamilton, Ontario and filled it. The demonstration visibly
swelled when they marched in off that train. They probably had a presence just
slightly smaller than CAW's. Some of Metalos' handmade signs raised the idea of a
hemisphere-wide general strike against the FTAA. There was a contingent of the
Steelworkers District 4 from Buffalo, New York. It appeared to be the only U.S. labor
contingent that came to Quebec City.

The banners that the International Action Center, a U.S. group, brought calling for
liberty for Mumia Abu-Jamal in English, French and Spanish were widely carried.

It was obvious that everyone knew what had happened on Apr. 20, the turbulent first
day. One Metalos was overheard telling another: "You've got to compare those kids
yesterday to the Palestinian kids taking on the Israelis. They should be an
inspiration to us." The other Metalos agreed.

Still there wasn't a cop in sight, except for a few directing traffic as the buses
pulled in full and out empty. Security and order was being provided by 1,000 members
of the Federation of Quebecois Workers (FTQ) the confederation that includes most of
the unions in Quebec affiliated with generally large, well-established international

The other large contingents were from two other labor confederations: the CSN
(Confederation of National Unions), which contains most of the smaller unions and is
closer to the Quebec nationalist movement and the CSQ (Confederation of Unions of
Québec), which contains almost all of the teachers. Most of the CSQ slogans raised

The CSQ even turned out its affiliate in the Gaspesie (Gaspe peninsula) and the Iles
de la Madeleine, areas 18-hours drive to the east of Quebec City, and the North
Shore, on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence, about 8 hours drive northeast.

As for the size of this march,. the front of the march reached the rally spot two
hours before the last groups, an environmental contingent from Greenpeace and CLAC's
anti- imperialist contingent, stepped off. The cops estimate that there were 25,000
people in the march; organizers say a figure closer to 60,000 is accurate. Whatever
the number is, everyone seems to agree that it was the largest march ever in Quebec.

When the march reached a street called Couronne, where the march was supposed to turn
right but turning left would have brought it up the hill towards the wall surrounding
the Summit of the Americas, a series of scuffles between the FTQ security and
union-members and others who wanted to split from the march broke out.

The FTQ was able to keep any major breakaway from happening, but a few fairly small
groups from the CAW, CUPE and the Metalos left a bit later and worked their way up
the hill and into the thick of the action and tear-gas at the Grand Theatre on
Boulevard Rene-Levesque, where repeated attempts to take down the fence were made. It
was quite a sight to see union-banners flying in the midst of clouds of tear gas. The
CUPE contingent even had gas masks.

There were other sizable marches that took place on Saturday, Apr. 21. The
Confederation of Canadian Students led about 4,000 students, according to some
reports, from the University of Laval about 2 kilometers to the Plains of Abraham,
where they met a gathering of public service unions and marched a few blocks away
from the perimeter along its length to join the main union march.

Five to ten buses from Montreal pulled into Laval too late for the student march so
the people on them just formed up and marched down Boulevard Rene-Levesque to the
action at the Grand Theatre. All the 6,500 cops and 1,200 soldiers deployed in Quebec
City were inside the perimeter keeping the 34 heads of state and their staffs safe.

After Seattle, Porto Alegre, Prague, and Davos, the struggle against capitalist-led
globalization took a major step forward in Quebec the weekend of April 20-April 22,