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Jane Kelsey: Round One To The Anti-WTO Activists

Round One To The Anti-WTO Activists

From Jane Kelsey in Cancun - Bulletin #4
10 September 2003

Today's opening of the fifth World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Cancun was upstaged by about 30 anti-WTO activists just one minute into the opening speech by General Secretary Supachai Panitchpakdi.

The group of accredited NGOs stood in the centre block of the main auditorium, silently holding up paper placards with such slogans as "WTO - Obsolete" and "WTO - Undemocratic".

Some had their black tape on their mouths to symbolise the silencing of thousands of ordinary Mexicans and international comrades who are now blocked from entry into the Hotel Zone. According to Maude Barlow, from the Council of Canadians, "the people of Mexico can't get past the barricades. We are the only voice the people have in this place. We have a responsibility to them to make sure their message is heard."

Media attention remained fixed on the group as they moved into the centre aisle, displaying their placards to all within the room. Just as Panitchpakdi proclaimed that "the hopes of the people around the world for a bright future" rested on the WTO and "we must not fail them" the group began to chant "SHAME, SHAME". Half the group left, followed by a bevy of media; the remainder stayed, chanting, for another five minutes then joined the others outside.

There was no visible reaction from the conference organizers. Those involved were still circulating in press area after the meeting, talking to journalists. Many were still holding their placards. Whether retribution will follow remains to be seen.

The first salvo in the 'inside/outside' battle of Cancun has been fired. The anti-WTO activists can claim victory in getting their message in front of the world's media and stealing the limelight from the leadership of the WTO.


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