Developing Nations Support Protests

Developing Nations Support Protests


By The Associated Press


 HAVANA (AP) -- After a summit pushing for a bigger share in the world's wealth, developing nations threw their support Saturday behind protesters massing in Washington to demand reform in the world financial system.


The so-called Group of 77 summit of developing nations closed in Havana ahead of opening sessions Sunday of the International Monetary Fund and  World Bank in Washington that a loose coalition of protesters have vowed to disrupt.


Nigeria's Arthur Mbanefo, G-77 president, said the gathering's leaders ``give their full backing and solidarity with the demonstrators.''


 The protesters, operating under the umbrella group Mobilization for Global Justice, say the world financial system has which they say has left millions destitute in developing countries. Last December, mass protests in Seattle resulted in the cancellation of the opening session of the World Trade Organization.


Washington police tried to prevent a replay of the violence Saturday, staging an early morning raid on the old warehouse the demonstrators had been using as their headquarters.


The G-77, founded in 1964 as a U.N. lobbying group, has expanded to include 133 nations. The leaders used their first summit to transform the group into what could become a significant international voice for the developing world, creating a structure to pressure richer countries to consider the interests of the poor.


During the three-day Havana summit, which ended Friday, the G-77 leaders also insisted on equal footing at the IMF, World Bank and the U.N. Security Council. They urged the United Nations to take a stronger economic role and use the group to negotiate with wealthy countries.


``Many countries have rejected the results of the policy initiatives of the World Bank and the IMF,'' said Mbanefo, arguing that their insistence on austerity and privatization programs in poor nations had damaged the ``economies they were supposed to correct.''


 ``I personally support whatever demonstrations that make the IMF and the World Bank think positively about our problems,'' he added.


Resolutions adopted at the summit demanded relief of the Third World's crushing debt, increased aid and more exports to developed countries.


Even before the G-77 summit ended Friday, officials of the World Bank, IMF and the Clinton administration defended free trade as an anti-poverty strategy.


Globalization is ``the only way we are going to raise people around the world to the same level as people in industrialized countries,'' IMF acting director Stanley Fischer said last week.


Yet the World Bank on Thursday reported that as rich countries advance, the gap between rich and poor is not improving. Some 1.2 billion people tried to exist on less than $1 a day in 1998 -- a figure essentially unchanged over the past decade.