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Free-trade protests rock South American capital

Free-trade protests rock South American capital city

The Free Trade protests that brought Equador's capital city Quito to a standstill this weekend is a portent of things to come, warns one of New Zealand's leading anti-globalization experts.

Professor Jane Kelsey, and a member of Action Research and Education Network of Aotearoa, recently returned from the APEC Leader's meeting in Mexico, says the headlong rush to open the world’s markets to transnational companies and investors, irrespective of the damage to local people and local industry, is meeting increasingly strong resistance everywhere.

Tens of thousands of students and workers and ordinary citizens fought pitched battles with Equador's army as they tried to present a petition opposing the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) to the 34 western-hemisphere Trade Ministers meeting to negotiate a free-trade deal at a top hotel in Quito. The media was excluded from the meeting.

Mass marches, described as "looking and feeling like Seattle" (referring to the 1999 protests against the WTO) resulted in a number of injuries and total isolation of the trade ministers meeting. Joining the local protesters were groups of women and indigenous peoples from across the Americas.

The protests were aimed at American fast-food interests, cheap imported products and other visible symbols that are driving local people and businesses out of work, according to Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First (Institute for Food and Development.

"People throughout Latin and South America are rebelling against the poverty and powerlessness that accompanies globalization," says Jane Kelsey. "This is likely to translate into major protests during the WTO meeting next year in Mexico."

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