Fidel hosts G77, foments rebellion of Seattle

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Apr 11 09:30:19 PDT 2000

Reuters - Monday April 10, 7:47 pm Eastern Time

UPDATE 2-Cuba enrolls Third World in "rebellion of Seattle" (Adds G77 call for more aid, grafs 11-13)

By Jason Webb

HAVANA, April 10 (Reuters) - Third World leaders at a summit in Havana will continue the ``rebellion of Seattle'' against rich countries' attempts to hijack the World Trade Organization for their own interests, host nation Cuba said on Monday.

About 60 leaders from the 133 member nations of the Group of 77 -- so-called because of the group's 1964 founding with 77 members -- were expected in Havana to attend the five-day ``South Summit'' sponsored by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Host country Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said representatives of 80 percent of the world's population were forging a unified voice to carry the struggle for their rights on from last year's chaotic WTO meeting in Seattle.

``This is coming after the rebellion of Seattle. I don't mean just the rebellion in the streets but also the rebellion inside the conference center against attempts to carry out an event that was not transparent and favored the interests of the few and not the majority,'' Perez told a news conference.

The Havana meeting, chaired by Nigeria, will be the first full presidential summit in the G77's history, reflecting the importance given to findinga joint position from which to stand up to the rich on trade issues.

``We need a North-South dialogue in which the North listens to our opinions,'' said Perez, who added that the richest 20 percent of the world's population earned 82 times more than the poorest 80 percent -- up from 30 times more in 1964.


In Seattle, U.S. activists caused havoc on the streets as they called for trade agreements to insist on environmental and labor standards.

Many of the activists, who were often supported by U.S. labor unions worried about competition from low-wage countries, said they spoke for Third World workers. But poor-country delegates argued fiercely that they could not afford developed-world wages or pollution standards.

``We firmly oppose any linkage between trade and labor standards. We are also against the use of environmental standards as a new form of protectionism,'' read a draft declaration that will be debated by South Summit leaders.

The document, seen by lower-ranking officials on Monday, will be discussed by foreign ministers starting on Tuesday and then by heads of state for the summit's final three days.

The draft declaration also called for a ``durable solution'' to the external-debt problems of poorer nations and made special mention of the dire economic situation in Africa.

It called for rich countries to honor their commitment to devote 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to official aid.

``You cannot force somebody to keep his promise because you don't know what problems they have had. But as far as North-South dialogue is concerned, we have to keep the door wide open because we are not living in an isolated world,'' said Nigeria's Chief Arthur Mbanefo, current head of the G77.


The document rejected the ``humanitarian intervention'' invoked by the United States and other Western nations when they forced Serbia out of Kosovo in 1999. It called for Israel to withdraw from ``Occupied Palestinian Territory'' and for international sanctions against Libya to be ended.

The document urged rich countries to share the explosive growth in information technology. Ironically, in Cuba, access to the Internet requires government permission.

Most of the top names billed at the summit, like Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and South African President Thabo Mbeki, were due later in the week.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was expected to fly into Havana on Monday night. Some presidents, including those of Vietnam and Nigeria, had already arrived.

Mbeki in particular will have more on his mind than the G77. He has planned a private meeting with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, in which he is expected to express concern over the occupation of white-owned farms in South Africa's smaller neighbor.

Although the summit is taking place in Cuba, it is largely being downplayed by major Latin American countries, most of which are sending low-ranking delegations. Brazil and Argentina are G77 members but in recent years have preferred to concentrate their energies on their free-trade bloc, Mercosur.

An exception is Venezuela, which will be represented by President Hugo Chavez, an admirer and sometime baseball opponent of Castro.

Cuba's veteran communist leader, 73, always generates huge media attention at international events. He was hosting his third major internationalevent in as many years.

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