Argentina: Violence Erupts at FTAA Meeting

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Anti-free trade protesters bombarded police with Molotov cocktails and rocks on Friday outside a hotel where
Argentine President Fernando de la Rua and Western hemisphere trade ministers were meeting with business leaders. Dressed in riot gear, police fired rubber bullets and shot tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesters gathered at a major road intersection near the hotel.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Anti-free trade protesters bombarded police with Molotov cocktails and rocks on Friday outside a hotel where
Argentine President Fernando de la Rua and Western hemisphere trade ministers were meeting with business leaders. Dressed in riot gear, police fired rubber bullets and shot tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesters gathered at a major road intersection near the hotel.

Evoking memories of violent clashes that overshadowed a world trade meeting in 1999 in Seattle, opponents of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) pact also smashed bank windows and spray-painted anti-trade slogans on buildings at an earlier thousands-strong march through Buenos Aires.

"Political leaders, don’t come to us with this FTAA, because the FTAA is designed to exploit our people even more," said Hugo Moyano, an official with the Argentine umbrella union General Labor Confederation (CGT), before the march.

The violence contrasted with otherwise peaceful protests this week as trade officials have worked on a blueprint for a next phase of talks to create
the world’s largest free-trade zone stretching from Canada to Chile.

The meeting is in part in preparation for an April 20-22 gathering of the hemisphere’s leaders in Quebec City, where the local mayor has urged the
summit be canceled for fear of violent Seattle-like demonstrations.

The Americas trade deal, that could be sealed by 2005, would create a free-trade zone linking more than 783 million people who produced $11.4
trillion in goods and services in 1999.

But social activists and nongovernmental groups say the accord would help line the pockets of corporate giants while exacerbating poverty for
millions of Latin Americans.

Author: Doug Palmer/Gilbert Le Gras

News Service: Reuters

URL: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010406/wl/americas_trade_dc_1.html