PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - Thousands of activists marched against possible war in Iraq and the planned Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), closing the World Social Forum with an anti-globalization bang.
Police said Monday some 20,000 marchers waved banners, chanting "No to an attack on Iraq" at the end of the forum gathering which has emerged as the counterweight to the market-minded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Tens of thousands wave flags demonstrating in a march against a possible U.S.-led war in Iraq and a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA in the last major event of the III World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil on Monday, Jan. 27, 2003.(AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)
One enormous banner cried "against the FTAA and war," referring to opposition to potential US-led action against Iraq, and the free trade area that is due to stretch from Canada down to Chile, with the enormous US ecomomy as its center of gravity. Opponents argue the United States is only looking out for its interests with the deal; supporters insist it will boost exports.
"Our struggle is every day; we are women, not merchandise," groups of marchers at the rally chanted.
A myriad of anti-war demonstrations and conferences was organized to coincide with the delivery to the UN Security Council of a key report on work by weapons inspectors checking on Iraq's compliance with disarmament orders.
"If the United Nations wants to have a role in the future, it cannot support the United States in war," said European Social Forum representative, Vittorio Agnoletto.
"I believe the UN must hear the voice of the world's citizens who don't want war," he said.
"The only motive for war is the control of oil, and that links Iraq and Venezuela," said the Italian activist, in reference to general-strike hit Venezuela.
Radical social movements invited civil society to join them in their "call" against war and military buildup, set out in a statement from international peasants' movement Via Campesina, social movements from India, and from France's Committee to Annul Third World Debt.
"We oppose the project of war on Iraq, against the attacks against the Palestinian, Chechen and Kurdish peoples, and against the wars in Afghanistan, Colombia, Africa and against the growing threats of war in North Korea," the statement said.
In a letter to the Forum, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN Security Council was facing "one of the greatest tests in its history," amid US and allied troop build-up in the Gulf.
UN under-secretary general for economic and social affairs, Nitin Desai, the UN envoy to the Forum, said Annan was conscious of the strength of the voice of those at the Forum, and believed their message should be heard.
"You meet against the backdrop of great anxiety about the possibility of war in Iraq, about nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula, about escalating violence in the Middle East," said Annan in the letter, delivered by Desai.
"World conferences and summits of recent years have won from states commitments at the highest political level to open markets to developing country products, give debt relief, increase aid, protect the environment and place development at the center of policymaking," Annan said.
"Neither we nor the government acting on our own will succeed without your involvement, you the dynamic forces."
US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky in a conference broadcast on screens at the forum, said: "There is almost no one else in the world, including the populations in the countries, US and Britain, who wants this war, and the opposition is enormous all over the world.
Hans Blix, head of the UN disarmament agency, said Monday there were signs Iraq still has anthrax stocks, and dismissed a 12,000 page declaration made by Baghdad to the United Nations on its weapons programmes.
Social organizations here have called a protests around the world on February 15 to demand no war against Iraq or North Korea and to speak for peace in the Middle East.
Copyright © 2002 AFP