April 13, 2000

Castro Denounces Lenders at Meeting of Poor Nations

New York Times, April 13, 2000



HAVANA, April 12 -- President Fidel Castro attacked the world's capitalist system today, telling assembled leaders of the world's poorer nations that the economic order had caused suffering comparable to the Nazi Holocaust.


Mr. Castro, addressing at least 40 heads of state or government at the Group of 77 summit meeting, called for the elimination of the International Monetary Fund, accusing it of spreading world poverty.


"The images we see of mothers and children in whole regions of Africa under the lash of drought and other catastrophes remind us of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany," he said.


Referring to war crimes trials after World War II, Mr. Castro said, "We lack a Nuremberg to judge the economic order imposed upon us, where every three years more men, women and children die of hunger and preventable diseases than died in the Second World War."


Mr. Castro's complaints of inequality were shared by other speakers at the opening of the conference.


But the organization was likely to seek less radical solutions than his --which included a call for a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions to subsidize a global development fund.


Draft resolutions called for developed countries to forgive the debts of poorer states, to share technology and to give poorer nations a greater say in the use of international development funds. They also said the United Nations should take over some decision-making from groups controlled by rich nations, like the fund and the World Bank.


Since its 1964 founding, the Group of 77 has grown to include 133 developing nations, representing around 80 percent of the world's population.


"Never has the world witnessed such massive disparities in international social and economic activities," said President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, whose country is leading the meeting.


He warned that failure to reform international aid policies that have maintained the wealth gap constituted "a major threat to international peace and security."


The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, also called for debt relief and greater investment in poor countries and said they should work together to increase their own trade and cooperation.


"I believe governments need to work together to make change possible," he said, "but governments alone will not make change happen." He cited "the power of private investment" as well as nongovernmental and academic organizations.


Mr. Annan said the summit meeting would help the developing world forge a united front at the United Nations' Millennium Summit in September.


Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia took aim at a global system that he said allowed "rogue currency traders" to plunge his country and East Asia into financial crisis by undermining their currencies.


"Millions were thrown out of work and made destitute," he added. "The international economic institutions moved in ostensibly to help with loans but in reality to facilitate the takeover of the country's economy and even politics."  


He said rich countries should permit flee flows of labor as well as capital. "If money is capital for the rich, labor is the capital of the poor countries. They should be allowed to migrate to the rich countries to compete for the jobs there just as the powerful corporations of the rich must be allowed to compete with their tiny counterparts in the poor countries."